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Ukraine war – live: Russia calls anti-Putin ‘saboteur’ operations a distraction from Bakhmut

The Kremlin has described reports of an incursion into Russia’s Belgorod city by pro-Ukrainian “saboteurs” as a deliberate attempt to distract attention from the battle for Bakhmut, which Moscow claims to have won.

Anti-Kremlin militia launched a cross-border raid in the Russian city from Ukrainian territory, according to Ukrainian media reports and videos shared online, overrunning one Russian village and pushing on into others on Monday.

Two self-described Russian partisan groups carried out the attack, one of the largest such incursions since Russia invaded Ukraine, intelligence officials in Kyiv said.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Vladimir Putin has been informed about the territorial conflict in Belgorod, and that work was under way to drive out the “saboteurs”, the state-run RIA Novosti news agency reported.

Reports suggest there is some residual fighting still going on in the outskirts of Bakhmut even after Russia claims it captured the city on Sunday, but that the Ukrainian forces have lost control of the last streets of multi-story buildings inside city limits.

Key Points

  • Kremlin says Belgorod situation created to distract from Bakhmut loss

  • Russia is not in control of Bakhmut, Volodymyr Zelensky insists

  • Ukraine's strikes on Crimea are attacks on Russia, Moscow says

  • Russia says F-16s to Ukraine would raise question of NATO involvement

  • Eight hurt in overnight attacks on Ukraine’s Dnipro, according to reports

  • Kyiv says Ukrainian troops advancing around Bakhmut as Russia brings in more forces

Kremlin says Belgorod situation created to distract from Bakhmut loss

05:00 , Arpan Rai

The Kremlin has blamed the incursion in Belgorod as a move aimed to distract attention from the eastern Ukrainian town of Bakhmut.

Russian forces claim to have captured Bakhmut in its entirety after more than nine months of attritional fighting, while reports suggest there is some residual fighting seen in the outskirts of the city, but that the Ukrainian forces have lost control of the last streets of multi-story buildings inside city limits.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said president Vladimir Putin had been informed about the territorial conflict in Belgorod, and that work was under way to drive out the “saboteurs”, the state-run RIA Novosti news agency reported.

“We understand perfectly well the goal of such a diversion — to divert attention from the Bakhmut direction and minimise the political effect of Bakhmut’s loss for the Ukrainian side,” Peskov was quoted as saying.

Ukrainian military intelligence spokesperson Andriy Yusov said the Belgorod operation would create a “security zone” to protect Ukrainians from attacks by Russia, reported the country’s outlet Hromadske.

Ukraine-based militia 'working in Russia's Belgorod to overthrow Putin regime'

04:45 , Arpan Rai

A group calling itself the Liberty of Russia Legion – a Ukraine-based militia led by Russian opposition figure Ilya Ponomarev – says it is now working inside Russia to overthrow Putin.

The group took to Twitter and said it had “completely liberated” the border town of Kozinka. It said forward units had reached the district centre of Graivoron, further east.

“Moving on. Russia will be free!” it wrote.

The group also released a video showing five heavily armed fighters.

“We are Russians, like you. We are people like you. We want our children to grow up in peace,” one said, facing the camera. “It is time to put an end to the dictatorship of the Kremlin.”

In Kyiv, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted: “Ukraine is watching the events in the Belgorod region of Russia with interest and studying the situation, but has nothing to do with it.

Wagner Group looking to bring military equipment from Mali to Ukraine, says US

04:26 , Arpan Rai

Russia’s Wagner Group is trying to obscure its efforts to acquire military equipment for use in Ukraine, the US State Department said.

Washington has been informed the mercenary force is seeking to move those acquisitions through Mali to aid Russia in its war and is willing to use false paperwork for such transactions, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said at a news briefing yesterday.

“There are indications that Wagner has been attempting to purchase military systems from foreign suppliers and route these weapons through Mali as a third party,” Mr Miller said.

“We have not seen as of yet any indications that these acquisitions have been finalised or executed, but we are monitoring the situation closely.”

Mr Miller said Washington has imposed sanctions on a number of people and entities that support Wagner’s military operations, and said the United States would have more to share soon.

Videos from inside Belgorod show fighting, inspection of captured vehicles

03:58 , Arpan Rai

A video posted late last night from Belgorod showed a fighter inspecting a captured armoured vehicle and another video showed what it said were fighters operating an armoured vehicle on a country road.

The video was posted by one of the two armed Russian opposition groups, the Russian Volunteer Corps (RVC), carrying out the operations inside Moscow’s territory. Another group, the Liberty of Russia Legion, is also involved in attacking Russian forces in Belgorod, according to the Ukrainian outlet Hromadske which cited Ukrainian military intelligence.

Other videos posted on Russian and Ukrainian social media channels showed pictures and video of what were described as captured Russian servicemen and their identity documents.

The Telegram channel Baza, which has links to Russia’s security services, had earlier published aerial footage apparently showing a Ukrainian armoured vehicle advancing on the Graivoron border checkpoint.

There were indications of fighting in three settlements along the main road leading into Russia, according to Baza.

The Liberty of Russia Legion released a video showing five armed fighters.

“We are Russians, like you. We are people like you. We want our children to grow up in peace,” one said, facing the camera. “It is time to put an end to the dictatorship of the Kremlin.”

Wagner chief says he will pull fighters out of Bakhmut after ‘capturing city’

03:00 , Joe Middleton

The leader of a Russian mercenary group has said he will pull its fighters from Bakhmut after claiming to have captured the Ukrainian city.

Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin said Bakhmut, in the eastern Donetsk-Oblast region, had been captured by his private army on Saturday afternoon - a claim Ukraine continues to dispute.

Volodymyr Zelensky’s deputy defence minister Hanna Maliar instead claimed Ukrainian forces have partly encircled the besieged eastern city along the flanks and still control a part of the city.

Wagner chief says he will pull fighters out of Bakhmut after ‘capturing city’

ICYMI: Biden pledges ‘shared and unwavering commitment’ to stand with Ukraine at G7 summit

02:00 , Joe Middleton

World summits' 'family photos' show Putin's isolation

01:00 , Joe Middleton

They’re known as “family photos,” the images of world leaders posed in faux relaxation during global summits.

And like portraits of a family that has isolated a dysfunctional member, recent “family photos” from the G7 and G8 — the world’s most industrialized nations — show how Russian President Vladimir Putin has been outcast.

The Russian president has faced unprecedented international isolation since his nation invaded Ukraine in February 2022. An International Criminal Court arrest warrant hangs over his head and clouds his prospects of traveling to many destinations, including those viewed as Moscow’s allies.

World summits' 'family photos' show Putin's isolation

Rare earths, Ukraine top agenda on French President Macron's historic visit to Mongolia

Monday 22 May 2023 23:59 , Joe Middleton

Access to rare earth minerals and Russia’s war against Ukraine topped the agenda on French President Emmanuel Macron’s historic visit to Mongolia.

Macron met with his Mongolian counterpart Ukhnaagiin Khurelsukh on Sunday in the capital Ulaanbaatar and pledged cooperation on the extraction and trade of minerals used in satellites, cell phones and other key technologies.

The visit was the first by a French head of state to Mongolia, a landlocked democracy of 3 million people twice the size of Texas sandwiched between Russia and China.

Rare earths, Ukraine top agenda on French President Macron's historic visit to Mongolia

Who are the Wagner Group and why are they so involved in Ukraine?

Monday 22 May 2023 23:00 , Joe Middleton

Vladimir Putin has leant on military contractors to claim victories in Ukraine but their leader’s frank dispatches have increasingly rattled the Moscow establishment, writes Liam James.

All we know about shadowy Wagner group mercenaries helping Putin wage war on Ukraine

Head of Russia’s Wagner group claims to have captured Bakhmut

Monday 22 May 2023 22:30 , Joe Middleton

South Korea, EU agree to boost pressure on Russia, condemn North Korean missile tests

Monday 22 May 2023 21:45 , Joe Middleton

Leaders of South Korea and the European Union agreed Monday to increase pressure on Russia over its war against Ukraine and condemn North Korea’s ballistic missile tests.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol met with European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in Seoul after attending the weekend summit of the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations in Hiroshima, Japan.

“We agree to maintain and increase the collective pressure on Russia, particularly through effective implementation of the respective restrictive measures,” they said in a joint statement. “We are committed to support Ukraine’s recovery and reconstruction and remain resolved to support Ukraine for as long as it takes.”

South Korea, EU agree to boost pressure on Russia, condemn North Korean missile tests

Ukraine’s cultural counteroffensive: The rush to erase Russia’s monuments

Monday 22 May 2023 21:00 , Joe Middleton

The erasure of the past has prompted a debate not unlike one in the UK and US: how to contend with the physical monuments to a fraught history? Ruby Mellen, Zoeann Murphy, Kostiantyn Khudov and Kasia Strek report.

Ukraine’s cultural counteroffensive: The rush to erase Russia’s imprint

Fears after Ukraine nuclear plant left without power after Russian shelling

Monday 22 May 2023 20:00 , Joe Middleton

Ukraine‘s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant was left without power today after a barrage of Russian shelling, the UN nuclear watchdog has said.

Rafael Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), made an appeal for the protection of the plant after warning the situation is “extremely vulnerable”.

He said the plant was forced to switch to emergency diesel generators after losing its external power supply for the seventh time since Vladimir Putin launched his invasion.

Fears after Ukraine nuclear plant left without power after Russian shelling

Putin has blown Bakhmut to smithereens. Why does he want it this badly?

Monday 22 May 2023 19:15 , Joe Middleton

Even if Russia and its mercenary Wagner Group have finally captured the town, its loss will not be the moral nor strategic victory that Russia desperately needs, writes Kit Macdonald.

Opinion: Putin has blown Bakhmut to smithereens. Why does he want it this badly?

Attempts to freeze the conflict in Ukraine where it is are wrong, says Sunak

Monday 22 May 2023 18:29 , Joe Middleton

Attempts to “freeze” the conflict in Ukraine where it is are “absolutely wrong” and should be “called out”, the Prime Minister has said.

Rishi Sunak was answering former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who made the case for a ceasefire.

The PM said he could not disagree more with Mr Corbyn, an independent MP, and said a temporary suspension of fighting would not be a “just and lasting peace” for Ukraine.

Attempts to freeze the conflict in Ukraine where it is are wrong, says Sunak

Monday 22 May 2023 17:44 , Laura Sharman

The flag of the Russian Freedom Legion was filmed flying over Moscow on Monday, carried by blue and white balloons.

The silk, a symbol of opposition to the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, has been used by Russian anti-war protesters.

Ukraine and Poland: More on historic mass murders

Monday 22 May 2023 17:37 , Laura Sharman

The massacre of Poles by Ukranians remains a sore spot between the two nations, despite their strong relations in the face of Putin’s war.

The World War II mass murders brought death to some 100,000 Poles while an estimated 15,000 Ukrainians died in retaliation.

Entire villages were burned down and all their inhabitants killed by Ukrainian nationalists and their helpers seeking to establish an independent Ukraine state.

Warsaw and Kyiv now have convergent views on regional security and Poland is among the strongest supporters of Ukraine in its fight against Russia‘s military aggression.The spat between Ukraine and its staunch ally began last week when Poland’s foreign ministry spokesperson Lukasz Jasina referred to the 80th anniversary.

He said Poland was expecting an apology from Ukraine and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for the 1943 to 1944 massacres.

Ukraine‘s ambassador to Poland, Vasyl Zvarych, reacted by saying that any suggestions of what Kyiv or Zelenskyy should do were “unacceptable and unfortunate” but later toned down his message by saying Ukraine was “open to dialogue” about history.

Ukraine and Poland spar over painful past that includes mass murder

Monday 22 May 2023 17:25 , Laura Sharman

Officials from the strategic partners unexpectedly exchanged bitter remarks in relation to their harrowing mutual past.

This year marks the 80th anniversary of the massacres of tens of thousands of Poles by Ukrainians that Poland calls genocide.

In 1943 to 1944, Ukrainian nationalists and others massacred some 100,000 Polish people in Volhynia and other regions.

Then part of eastern Poland, under Nazi German occupation, they are now part of Ukraine.Seeking to calm emotions, an aide to Poland’s President Andrzej Duda said on Monday that the Poles only wanted the truth and respect for the tens of thousands of Polish victims.

“We are only expecting the truth and respect for the victims and we will be... working on this theme in order to have a full clarification of the subject and respect paid to possibly all the victims,” Deputy Minister Marcin Przydacz told Polish state TVP1.

Tory MP says we have “failed to suffocate the financial war machine” in Putin’s war

Monday 22 May 2023 17:13 , Laura Sharman

Alicia Kearns has called for a military-style “economic Ramstein” on Ukraine to “make a meaningful different and end this war sooner”.

Ramstein is a US military base in Germany, where members of the Defence Contact Group have met on numerous occasions to discuss arms and supplies for the Ukrainian military.

The Conservative MP, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee, added: “Can I urge the creation of an economic Ramstein on Ukraine that mirrors that of the military because we have failed to suffocate the financial war machine that is allowing Putin to continue with this war.”

Russia’s violent resistance is emerging from underground, says senior aide

Monday 22 May 2023 16:46 , Laura Sharman

Zelensky’s senior aide said Kyiv had nothing to do with the incursion in Russia‘s Belgorod region, putting it down to Russia’s “violent resistance movement”.

Russia announced on Monday that it is battling a cross-border incursion by saboteurs who burst through the frontier from Ukraine.

The incident appears to be one of the biggest attacks of its kind since the war began last year.

But Ukraine‘s military intelligence service attributed the operation to “opposition-minded Russian citizens”, Ukrainian media outlet Hromadske said.

In a written statement, senior Zelenskiy aide Mykhailo Podolyak echoed Ukrainian military intelligence.

“The violent Russian resistance movement, whose architects are exclusively citizens of Russia itself, is gradually coming out of the underground. They are independent in their decisions, have certain experience, and are free from fear.”

Rishi Sunak says the UK will stand with Ukraine “for as long as it takes”

Monday 22 May 2023 16:21 , Laura Sharman

The Prime Minister has today said the UK and its western allies will stand with Ukraine “for as long as it takes’’.

Rishi Sunak referred to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s appearance at the G7 summit during Wednesday’s PMQs at the Commons.

He told MPs: “Russia‘s military is failing on the battlefield, their economy is failing at home as we tighten the stranglehold of sanctions...

“The image of the G7 leaders standing shoulder to shoulder with President Zelensky in Hiroshima sent a powerful message to the world: we will stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes.”

Rishi Sunak during PMQs in January (Reuters)
Rishi Sunak during PMQs in January (Reuters)

Zelensky aide says Ukraine has nothing to do with Belgorod events

Monday 22 May 2023 15:14 , Martha Mchardy

A senior aide to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said Kyiv had nothing to do with an armed operation in Russia’s Belgorod region on Monday.

“Ukraine is watching the events in the Belgorod region of Russia with interest and studying the situation, but it has nothing to do with it,” presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted.

“As you know, tanks are sold at any Russian military store, and underground guerrilla groups are composed of Russian citizens.”

In a written statement to Reuters, Podolyak said Ukraine’s military operates only on Ukrainian territory and echoed Ukrainian military intelligence in blaming Russian partisans for the incursion.

“The Russian liberation movement can become something that will contribute to the correct end of the war in Ukraine and significantly speed up the beginning of transformational events in the Russian political elite,” he said.

“The Russian violent resistance movement, whose architects are exclusively citizens of Russia itself, is gradually coming out of the underground. They are independent in their decisions, have certain experience, and are free from fear.”

Podolyak said Russia’s war on Ukraine was “gradually returning to Russia itself.”

“The authorities are losing control over the regions and the situation in general. And this is a window of opportunity for any internal protest movements,” he said.

Governor of Russia’s Belgorod says three people injured in cross-border attack

Monday 22 May 2023 15:13 , Martha Mchardy

The governor of Russia’s Belgorod region said on Monday that at least three people had been injured and three houses and a local administrative building damaged during a cross-border attack from Ukraine.

Denmark offers to host Ukraine peace talks, wants India, China, Brazil to attend

Monday 22 May 2023 13:55 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Denmark would like to host a summit in July aimed at finding peace between Ukraine and Russia, but such a meeting would need engagement from India, China and Brazil, Danish Foreign Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said Monday.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday sought global support at the G7 meeting in Japan for Kyiv’s plan to end Russia‘s war in Ukraine and proposed to hold a global summit in July.

“If Ukraine finds that the time has come to have such a meeting, that would be fantastic. And then Denmark would obviously like to host the meeting,” Lokke Rasmussen told reporters on the sidelines of the EU Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels.

A proposal in December by Ukraine to hold a peace summit in February this year never materialized.

“For starters, we need to put some effort into creating a global commitment to organise such a meeting,” Lokke Rasmussen said, adding that a summit should not just be attended by Ukraine‘s allies.

“It is necessary to build interest and involvement from countries like India, Brazil and China,” he said. “It is hard for me to see” Russia taking part, he added.

Zelensky last year proposed a 10-point peace plan, which calls on Russia to withdraw all its troops from Ukraine and to respect Ukraine‘s territorial integrity.

The details of its implementation should be discussed at the proposed peace summit, Zelenskiy’s administration said in a statement on Sunday.

Lokke Rasmussen said he welcomed a decision by Washington to support joint allied training programmes for Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets.

“It makes sense to begin training of Ukrainian pilots as soon as possible,” Lokke Rasmussen said, adding it was too early to say if Denmark would supply F-16s to Ukraine.

Putin informed of attacks in Russia's Belgorod region - RIA cites Kremlin

Monday 22 May 2023 13:42 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been informed of attacks by a “Ukrainian sabotage group” in Russia‘s southern Belgorod region, the RIA news agency cited Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov as saying on Monday.

Peskov was cited as saying that Russian forces were working to eject and eliminate the group, RIA reported.

Russia claims eastern city of Bakhmut, but Ukrainian military leaders say battle isn't over

Monday 22 May 2023 13:23 , Martha Mchardy

Although Russia claims it has won control of Ukraine‘s eastern city of Bakhmut after a grinding nine-month conflict in which tens of thousands of fighters have died, top Ukrainian military leaders say the battle is not over.

Ukrainian officials acknowledge they now control only a small part of Bakhmut. Deputy defense minister Hanna Maliar said Monday that Ukrainian troops hold some areas in its southwestern outskirts, while fighting continues for the strategic heights in the northern and southern parts of the suburbs.“

The offensive potential of the enemy has been significantly reduced. Huge losses have been inflicted on the enemy. We have gained time for certain actions, which will be revealed later,” Maliar said.

Ukraine says their fighters’ presence has played a key role in their strategy of exhausting Russian forces. And they say their current positions surrounding Bakhmut will let them strike back inside the 400-year-old city.

“Despite the fact that we now control a small part of Bakhmut, the importance of its defence does not lose its relevance,” said Col.-Gen. Oleksandr Syrskyi, who commands Ukraine‘s ground forces. “This gives us the opportunity to enter the city in case of a change in the situation. And it will definitely happen.

”The fog of war made it impossible to confirm the situation inside Bakhmut. Russia‘s Defense Ministry said fighters of the Wagner private military contractor, backed by Russian troops, had seized the city. Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky said the city was not being fully occupied.

In a video posted on Telegram, Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin claimed the city came under complete Russian control about midday Saturday. Holding a Russian flag before a group of at least nine masked fighters in body armour with heavy weapons, Prigozhin proclaimed: “This afternoon at 12:00, Bakhmut was completely taken.”

Who are the Wagner Group and why are they so involved in Ukraine?

Monday 22 May 2023 13:08 , Martha Mchardy

Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine have been supported on the battlefield by tens of thousands of mercenaries from a shadowy group led by a businessman and longtime affiliate of president Vladimir Putin.

The Wagner Group is a private military company under the control of Yevgeny Prigozhin that cut its teeth in deployments to Crimea and eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region in 2014 and has since dispatched troops to several conflicts in the Middle East and Africa, including the Syrian Civil War.

In Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Wagner has proved indispensable, but an apparent power struggle between the Kremlin and the outspoken Mr Prigozhin has led to the group having its wings clipped by Moscow.

Liam James reports:

All we know about shadowy Wagner group mercenaries helping Putin wage war on Ukraine

Governor of Russia’s Belgorod says Ukrainian ‘sabotage group’ crossed border

Monday 22 May 2023 12:38 , Martha Mchardy

The governor of Russia’s Belgorod region said on Monday that a Ukrainian army ‘sabotage group’ had entered Russian territory in the Graivoron district, which borders Ukraine.

In a statement on Telegram, Vyacheslav Gladkov said that the Russian army and security forces were taking measures to repel the incursion.

Earlier, the Telegram channel Baza, which is linked to Russia’s security services, had published footage apparently showing a Ukrainian tank attacking a Russian border post.

The reports have not been independently verified.

In pictures: Destruction in Dnipro after overnight Russian air strikes

Monday 22 May 2023 11:28 , Martha Mchardy

People walk outside an apartment building destroyed by a Russian military strike (REUTERS)
People walk outside an apartment building destroyed by a Russian military strike (REUTERS)
Apartment buildings destroyed by a Russian military strike (REUTERS)
Apartment buildings destroyed by a Russian military strike (REUTERS)
Workers stand next to a damaged residential building following a Russian strike in a small town in Dnipropetrovsk (AFP via Getty Images)
Workers stand next to a damaged residential building following a Russian strike in a small town in Dnipropetrovsk (AFP via Getty Images)

Two women hospitalised after shelling in Ukrainian city Kupiansk - Suspline

Monday 22 May 2023 11:03 , Martha Mchardy

Two women have been hospitalised after shelling in the Ukrainian city Kupiansk in Kharkiv Oblast, Ukraine’s state broadcaster Suspline is reporting, citing Kharkiv’s regional governor Oleh Synyehubov.

Private houses and civil infrastructure were damaged by shelling, according to reports.

Power restored to Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

Monday 22 May 2023 10:54 , Martha Mchardy

Ukraine reconnected the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant to its external power supply on Monday after a brief outage that had left it reliant on emergency generators.

Back-up diesel generators had earlier kicked in at the plant in southern Ukraine to ensure nuclear fuel was kept cool and prevent a potential disaster.

Each side blamed the other for the power outage. A Russia-installed local official said Ukraine had disconnected a power line and Ukrainian state nuclear energy company Energoatom said the problem was caused by Russian shelling.

Announcing that repair work had been carried out, Ukrainian national grid operator Ukrenergo said: “The station is switching (back) to power supply from the Ukrainian power system.”

A Russian serviceman guards in an area of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in territory under Russian military control (AP)
A Russian serviceman guards in an area of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in territory under Russian military control (AP)

The incident had alarmed Rafael Grossi, the head of the United Nations nuclear energy watchdog, who said the nuclear safety situation at the plant was “extremely vulnerable” and underlined the need for international protection.

Even though the six reactors are shut down at the plant, they still need a constant supply of electricity to keep the nuclear fuel inside cool and prevent a possible meltdown.

The plant, which lies in an area of Russian-occupied southern Ukraine near front lines along the Dnipro River, is Europe’s biggest nuclear power station and the area has been repeatedly hit by shelling.

Energoatom said it was the seventh time power had been cut to the plant since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Ukraine said the latest Russian attacks had cut off electricity to nearly 250,000 consumers in the Zaporizhzhia region but that power had been restored to most of them.

Ukrenergo said power was also being restored to consumers in the Dnipropetrovsk region after overnight Russian air strikes.

Monday 22 May 2023 10:30 , Martha Mchardy

Denmark would like to host a summit in July about how to find peace between Ukraine and Russia, the Ritzau news agency reported foreign minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen saying on Monday.

Watch: Head of Russia’s Wagner group claims to have captured Bakhmut

Monday 22 May 2023 10:29 , Martha Mchardy

Bakhmut a ‘mousetrap’ for Russian forces, claims Ukrainian MP

Monday 22 May 2023 10:03 , Martha Mchardy

The eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut is a “mousetrap” for Russian forces, a Ukrainian MP has said.

Andrii Osadchuk, MP for the Golos party, told Sky News that Kyiv has done well to prevent Moscow’s forces from going “deeper” into Ukrainian territory.

Mr Osadchuk said that Ukrainian forces did not let Russian forces “go deeper” into Ukrainian territory to other cities such as Kramatorsk.

He said: “From the very beginning of the war the Kremlin was desperately needing victories, they don’t have victories at all, they only had losses. They created this myth about Bakhmut like it’s something extremely important for them.

“From the very beginning we understood that on a technical point Bakhmut is a regular city which is not a big one.

“At the end of the day, Bakhmut is a mouse trap for Russian forces in Ukraine’s southeast and definitely Ukraine’s military will continue its operation because our target is very simple - we need to liquidate their forces as much possible.”

Kyiv says Ukrainian troops advancing around Bakhmut as Russia brings in more forces

Monday 22 May 2023 09:45 , Martha Mchardy

Ukrainian troops are still advancing on the flanks of the devastated city of Bakhmut, although the “intensity” of their movement has decreased and Russia is bringing in more forces, Ukrainian deputy defence minister Hanna Maliar said on Monday.

In televised comments, she said Ukraine had a small foothold inside the city itself, again denying Russia’s assertion that it has established full control over Bakhmut.

Liberation of Crimea by ‘military force’ only way to stop ‘Russian aggression,’ says Ukrainian presidential advisor

Monday 22 May 2023 09:38 , Martha Mchardy

The liberation of Crimea by “military force” is the only way to stop “Russian aggression,” a Ukrainian presidential advisor has said as the Russia’s ambassador to the United States warns against a Ukrainian attack on Crimea.

Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, said any Ukrainian strike on the Crimea region would be considered a strike on Russia.

“It is important that the United States be fully aware of the Russian response,” Antonov said in a post on Telegram.

Ukraine has intensified its strikes on Russian-held targets especially on the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to the head of the office of president of Ukraine appeared to hit back at this claim.

In a tweet he said: “Crimea is an indisputable and inseparable part of Ukraine. It was, it is and it will be. The liberation of Crimea using any military force and means is the only rational way to stop “Russian aggressions” and bring the world back to international law. It is Ukraine’s direct obligation and necessity today...”

Antonov also warned that the transfer of F-16 jets to Ukraine by the US would raise the question of NATO’s role in the conflict.

U.S. president Joe Biden on Friday endorsed training programs for Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy assured Biden that the aircraft would not be used to go into Russian territory.

“There is no infrastructure for the operation of the F-16 in Ukraine and the needed number of pilots and maintenance personnel is not there either,” Antonov said.

“What will happen if the American fighters take off from NATO airfields, controlled by foreign ‘volunteers’?”

Wagner group claims to have taken Bakhmut

Monday 22 May 2023 09:20 , Martha Mchardy

The head of the Russian mercenary Wagner group Yevgeny Prigozhin claimed yesterday his forces had taken the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut after nine months of fighting.

Prigozhin said his forces would leave Bakhmut on May 25th.

“Wagner has made no advances. Wagner today captured no territory. We have captured all the territory we promised to capture, right up to the last centimetre,” Prigozhin said on Sunday in an audio message on the Telegram messaging app.

“As we stated yesterday. We are handing over our positions to (Russia’s) Defence Ministry and on the 25th (of May) we are leaving the conflict zone.”

It came after Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said Bakhmut is no longer occupied by the Russian Federation as of Sunday, during the G7 summit in Japan yesterday.

“Bakhmut is not occupied by Russian Federation as of today. There are no two or three interpretations of those words,” he said.

In pictures: Destruction Bakhmut

Monday 22 May 2023 09:13 , Martha Mchardy

Pictures show destruction in the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut.

Russia claims to have occupied the city, but yesterday, at the G7 summit in Japan, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said: “Bakhmut is not occupied by Russian Federation as of today. There are no two or three interpretations of those words.”

An apartment block on fire in the city of Bakhmut, Donetsk region (Armed Forces of Ukraine/AFP via)
An apartment block on fire in the city of Bakhmut, Donetsk region (Armed Forces of Ukraine/AFP via)
Destruction in the city of Bakhmut (Armed Forces of Ukraine/AFP via)
Destruction in the city of Bakhmut (Armed Forces of Ukraine/AFP via)
An apartment block on fire in Bakhmut (Armed Forces of Ukraine/AFP via)
An apartment block on fire in Bakhmut (Armed Forces of Ukraine/AFP via)

ICYMI: ‘Putin will not break our resolve,’ Joe Biden tells G7

Monday 22 May 2023 09:00 , Sravasti Dasgupta

Joe Biden has insisted Russian president Vladimir Putin “will not break our resolve” as he vowed America would show “unwavering” commitment to Ukraine in a speech at the G7 summit.

Speaking on the last day of the summit in Japan, the US president called for “peace that respects Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

Martha McHardy reports:

‘Putin will not break our resolve,’ Joe Biden tells G7

Ukraine shells Russian village in Bryansk, regional governor claims

Monday 22 May 2023 08:58 , Martha Mchardy

Ukraine shelled a Russian village in Bryansk, the region’s governor has claimed.

Governor AlexanderBogomaz said Ukrainian forces shelled the village of Khoromnoe in the Klimovsky district. No casualties were reported, but one household and an outbuilding caught fire, he claimed.

In a message posted on Telegram, governor Bogomazsaid: “The armed forces of Ukraine fired mortars at the village of Khoromnoe in the Klimovsky district. There were no casualties. As a result of the shelling, one household and an outbuilding caught fire. Operational and emergency services are on site.”

The claims have not been independently verified.

Situation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant ‘cannot continue,’ says IAEA director general

Monday 22 May 2023 08:52 , Martha Mchardy

The situation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant “cannot continue,” the director general of International Atomic Energy Agency said in a tweet.

Ukraine’s state-owned power generating company Energoatom said on Monday that the outage at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant was due to Russian shelling of an external power line.

Wagner founder Prigozhin says his forces will leave Bakhmut from May 25 to June 1

Monday 22 May 2023 08:47 , Martha Mchardy

The founder of Russia’s Wagner Group Yevgeny Prigozhin said on Monday that Wagner forces will leave Bakhmut, the Ukrainian city that it successfully took on Saturday after a months-long battle, from May 25 until June 1.

In pictures: destruction in Dnipro after overnight attacks

Monday 22 May 2023 08:44 , Martha Mchardy

A vehicle destroyed by a Russian missile strike is seen at a compound of a fire depot of the State Emergency Service, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Dnipro (via REUTERS)
A vehicle destroyed by a Russian missile strike is seen at a compound of a fire depot of the State Emergency Service, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Dnipro (via REUTERS)
Rescuers walk along of destroyed vehicles at a compound of a fire depot of the State Emergency Service heavily damaged by a Russian missile strike (via REUTERS)
Rescuers walk along of destroyed vehicles at a compound of a fire depot of the State Emergency Service heavily damaged by a Russian missile strike (via REUTERS)
A vehicle destroyed by a Russian missile strike is seen at a compound of a fire depot of the State Emergency Service (via REUTERS)
A vehicle destroyed by a Russian missile strike is seen at a compound of a fire depot of the State Emergency Service (via REUTERS)
A vehicle destroyed by a Russian missile strike in Dnipro (via REUTERS)
A vehicle destroyed by a Russian missile strike in Dnipro (via REUTERS)

EU won't restore SWIFT link for Russian bank till after Ukraine conflict ends

Monday 22 May 2023 08:30 , Sravasti Dasgupta

The European Union (EU) may restore access to the SWIFT payment system for a Russian state agricultural bank only after the conflict in Ukraine ends, according to a report in the Russian newspaper Izvestia.

The paper quoted EU foreign affairs spokesperson Peter Stano as saying on Monday that the payment mode for Rosselkhozbank may only be restored after Russia’s war in Ukraine ends.

The statement comes as the Black Sea grain deal to allow safe passage of Ukrainian farm produce was extended for two more months last week.

But Moscow says it wants to see more progress on implementing parts of the package affecting Russia, including re-admitting Rosselkhozbank to SWIFT.

FILE - Cargo ships anchor at the Black Sea wait to cross the Bosporus strait in Istanbul, Turkey, on Nov. 17, 2022. (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
FILE - Cargo ships anchor at the Black Sea wait to cross the Bosporus strait in Istanbul, Turkey, on Nov. 17, 2022. (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Why Ukraine has fought Russia for every inch of Bakhmut, despite high cost

Monday 22 May 2023 08:00 , Sravasti Dasgupta

The nine-month battle for Bakhmut has destroyed the 400-year-old city in eastern Ukraine and killed tens of thousands of people in a mutually devastating demonstration of Ukraine’s strategy of exhausting the Russian military.

While Russia claims to have captured the city, Ukraine has said it has not been occupied.

Ukrainian military leaders say their months-long resistance has been worth it because it limited Russia’s capabilities elsewhere and allowed for Ukrainian advances.

Read more in this report by the Associated Press about why the battle for Bakhmut remains important:

'Exhaust them': Why Ukraine has fought Russia for every inch of Bakhmut, despite high cost

Outage at Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant due to Russian shelling of power line, says Ukraine’s Energoatom

Monday 22 May 2023 07:36 , Martha Mchardy

Ukraine’s state-owned power generating company Energoatom said on Monday that the outage at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant was due to Russian shelling of an external power line.

The Dniprovska power line in Ukraine, which supplies power for the now Moscow-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, was disconnected after overnight Russian shelling, Energoatom said on the Telegram messaging app.

Eight hurt in overnight attacks on Ukraine’s Dnipro, according to reports

Monday 22 May 2023 07:35 , Martha Mchardy

At least eight people were wounded and scores of buildings were damaged in a Russian air attack overnight on the Dnipropetrovsk region, Ukraine said on Monday, adding that air defence systems destroyed 20 drones and four cruise missiles.

Seven people were injured in an attack on Synelnykivskyi district of the Dnipropetrovsk region and at least one man was wounded in the attack on Dnipro city, the governor, Serhiy Lysak, said on Telegram.

With a Ukrainian counteroffensive looming, Russia has intensified its missile and drone strikes this month after a lull of nearly two months. Waves of attacks now come several times a week, the heaviest of the war.

“The Russian invaders attacked military and infrastructure facilities of the eastern outpost of Ukraine - the city of Dnipro,” Ukraine’s air force said on the Telegram messaging service.

“The attack was carried out by 16 different types of missiles and 20 Shahed-136/131 strike drones,” the air force said, adding that air defences brought down 20 Russian drones and four cruise missiles.

Scores of buildings, including private homes, apartment blocks and administrative infrastructure were damaged or destroyed, he said.

The reports have not been independently verified.

Russia creating new ‘elite’ aviation attack group, says MoD

Monday 22 May 2023 07:30 , Sravasti Dasgupta

The British Ministry of Defence says Russia is “highly likely creating a new ‘elite’ attack aviation group” to join its operations over Ukraine.

The new group is codenamed “Shtorm” and consists of at least one squadron of Su-24 Fencer and Su-34 Fullback fighter-bombers, and a squadron of attack helicopters, the MoD said in its latest intelligence update.

“The mix of aircraft types suggests the group will have a primary role of ground attack missions,” the MoD said.

It also said that the creation of the group highlights how Russia assesses its regular air force squadrons have “severely underperformed in their core function of conducting airstrikes on Ukrainian lines”.

Russia says F-16s to Ukraine would raise question of NATO involvement

Monday 22 May 2023 07:28 , Martha Mchardy

The transfer of F-16 jets to Ukraine would raise the question of NATO’s role in the conflict, a senior Russian diplomat said on Monday, while accusing the U.S. of subordinating the Group of Seven (G7) to its policy of inflicting “strategic defeat” on Russia.

U.S. president Joe Biden on Friday endorsed training programs for Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy assured Biden that the aircraft would not be used to go into Russian territory.

“There is no infrastructure for the operation of the F-16 in Ukraine and the needed number of pilots and maintenance personnel is not there either,” Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, said in remarks published on the embassy’s Telegram messaging channel.

“What will happen if the American fighters take off from NATO airfields, controlled by foreign ‘volunteers’?”

Antonov said that any Ukrainian strike on the Crimea region would be considered a strike on Russia.

“It is important that the United States be fully aware of the Russian response,” Antonov said.

Ukraine has intensified its strikes on Russian-held targets especially on the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

Antonov also reiterated a Russian accusation against the United States of subjecting Western countries to its agenda.

“Washington completely subordinated the G7 members to its own policy regarding the conflict in Ukraine,” Antonov said, adding that the United States wanted a “strategic defeat” for Russia.

During their summit on the weekend in Japan, the G7 countries signalled long-term support for Ukraine. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who also attended the gathering, said he was confident that Ukraine would receive supplies of the F-16.

Russia, which invaded Ukraine in February last year, has increasingly portrayed what it calls its “special military operation” as a campaign against the West.

Ukraine and its Western allies call Russia’s action an unprovoked war to grab land.

Ukraine’s Energoatom says power outage at Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant

Monday 22 May 2023 07:25 , Martha Mchardy

Ukraine’s state-owned power generating company Energoatom said on Monday that there was a power outage at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant after a Russia-installed official said the plant was switched to standby and emergency power supply.

“Yes, we have the seventh blackout since the start of the (Russian) occupation,” Energoatom told Reuters.

Yuriy Malashko, governor of the Zaporizhzhia region in Ukraine said that there was a fire at one of the facilities in Zaporizhzhia city due to an overload in the power system.

“Problems with electricity supply that arose in the city of Zaporizhzhia are not related to shelling,” Malashko said on the Telegram messaging app.

Estonia and Latvia to jointly purchase German air defence systems

Monday 22 May 2023 07:01 , Andy Gregory

Estonia and Latvia have announced a plan to jointly acquire German air defence systems for the protection of the two Nato nations’ airspace.

According to the provisional deal, deliveries of the medium-range IRIS-T SLM air defence system could begin next year and the systems could be operational in 2025.

Estonian defence minister Hanno Pevkur described the deal as “a joint project of historical proportions for our defence co-operation, the largest one to date” between Tallinn and Riga.

“Presuming that negotiations are successful, we hope to reach contract and, subsequently, announce the official winning bidder this summer,” Mr Pevkur said in a statement.

The German air defence system, consisting of truck-mounted launchers, missiles and a separate command vehicle, is designed to protect cities, armies and civilian populations from air attacks and to be effective at neutralising planes and helicopters.

Russia launches overnight air attack on Ukraine's Dnipro

Monday 22 May 2023 06:30 , Sravasti Dasgupta

Russia launched an overnight air attack on the southeastern Ukrainian city of Dnipro, according to officials.

Serhiy Lysak, governor of the Dnipropetrovsk region of which Dnipro is the administrative centre, said on Telegram that the region “withstood the attack”, referring to Russian forces as “terrorists”.

“Thanks to the defence forces, we withstood the attack. Details will come in due time.”

The RBC-Ukraine news agency reported that around 15 blasts were heard in Dnipro during more than 90 minutes of air raid alerts.

The Kyiv Independent reported that explosions were heard in Dnipro at 2.54am.

It was not immediately known whether the blasts were air defence systems destroying their targets or Russian missiles or drones hitting their targets.

FILE-A police officer is seen at the site of a residential area hit by a Russian military strike, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine’s Dnipropetrovsk region (REUTERS)
FILE-A police officer is seen at the site of a residential area hit by a Russian military strike, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine’s Dnipropetrovsk region (REUTERS)

Zelensky draws parallels between Bakhmut and Hiroshima

Monday 22 May 2023 06:01 , Andy Gregory

Speaking at the G7 summit in Japan on Sunday, Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelensky drew a parallel between the destruction of Bakhmut and the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

“I’ll tell you openly: Photographs of ruined Hiroshima absolutely remind me of Bakhmut and other similar settlements,” Mr Zelensky told reporters after laying flowers at the cenotaph to victims of the 1945 atrocity.

“Nothing left alive, all the buildings ruined.”

 (AP /Eugene Hoshiko)
(AP /Eugene Hoshiko)

Brazil's Lula says meeting fell through because Zelensky was late

Monday 22 May 2023 05:30 , Sravasti Dasgupta

Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has said that a scheduled meeting with Volodymyr Zelensky fell through on the sidelines of the Group of Seven (G7) summit in Japan because the Ukrainian president was late.

“I had an interview, a bilateral one with Ukraine here in this room at 3.15pm. We waited and received the information that he was late,” Mr Lula was quoted as saying by Reuters.

He added that Mr Zelensky “did not show up ... Clearly he had appointments and he couldn’t come.”

Earlier Zelensky had earlier played down the fact he did not meet with Lula.

On the sidelines of the summit Mr Lula also said that the Russia-Ukraine war should be discussed at the UN and not at the G7 meeting.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva speaks during a news conference after attending the Group of Seven nations summit (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva speaks during a news conference after attending the Group of Seven nations summit (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Modi promises ‘whatever is possible’ to find solution on Ukraine to Zelensky at G7

Monday 22 May 2023 05:02 , Andy Gregory

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi has assured Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky of “whatever is possible” to find a solution to bring an end to the continuing war amid Russia’s full-scale invasion as the two leaders met in Hiroshima along the sidelines of the G7 summit, my colleague Arpan Rai reports.

“Over the past one-and-a-half years, we have spoken on the phone but… after a long time, we have an opportunity to meet. The war in Ukraine is a very big issue for the whole world. It has had many different impacts on the whole world,” Mr Modi told the Ukrainian president as the two leaders sat down for their first face-to-face talks with their delegation on Saturday.

Mr Modi added: “But I don’t see this as a political or economic issue, for me this is an issue of humanity, an issue of human values.”

Modi promises ‘whatever is possible’ to find solution on Ukraine to Zelensky at G7

Russia says F16 transfer to Ukraine would raise questions of Nato's involvement

Monday 22 May 2023 04:30 , Sravasti Dasgupta

Russia has warned of a response and said that the transfer of F16 fighter jets to Ukraine would raise the question of Nato’s involvement in the conflict.

In remarks published early on Monday, Russia’s ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov said on the embassy’s Telegram messaging channel: “There is no infrastructure for the operation of the F16 in Ukraine and the needed number of pilots and maintenance personnel is not there either.

“What will happen if the American fighters take off from Nato airfields, controlled by foreign ‘volunteers’?”

He added: “It is important that the United States be fully aware of the Russian response.”

The remarks come days after US president Joe Biden on Friday endorsed training programmes for Ukrainian pilots on F16 fighter jets.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky assured Mr Biden that the aircraft would not be used to go into Russian territory.

 (Ukrainian Armed Forces/Reuters)
(Ukrainian Armed Forces/Reuters)

Watch: Ukrainian president Zelensky arrives in Japan for G7 summit

Monday 22 May 2023 04:05 , Andy Gregory

Russia indicts ICC prosecutor and judge who issued Putin arrest warrant

Monday 22 May 2023 03:02 , Andy Gregory

Russia has announced indictments in absentia for a judge and prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) who issued a war crimes warrant for president Vladimir Putin.

A statement from Russia’s national Investigative Committee said the judge, Rosario Salvatore Aitala, and prosecutor Khan Karim Asad Ahmad are both charged with “preparing to attack a representative of a foreign country enjoying international protection in order to complicate international relations”.

The committee also said other ICC officials are being investigated.

The March warrant against Mr Putin accuses him of personal responsibility for the abductions of children from Ukraine, and the court also charged Maria Lvova-Belova, the Russian presidential commissioner for children’s rights.

Russian victory in Bakhmut opens door to more hard-fought battles nearby, says analyst

Monday 22 May 2023 02:02 , Andy Gregory

Russia’s claimed victory in Bakhmut would open the the door to more grinding battles nearby, an analyst has said.

These would take place in the direction of Sloviansk or Kostiantynivka, 12 miles away from Bakhmut, Kateryna Stepanenko of the US-based Institute for the Study of War think-tank, told the Associated Press.

Gains around Bakhmut make it easier to deliver supplies, says Ukrainian commander

Monday 22 May 2023 01:00 , AP

The flanks regained by Ukraine around Bakhmut in recent days are located near two highways that lead to Chasiv Yar, a town 6 miles from the city that serves as a key logistics supply route, one dubbed the “road of life.”

Ukrainian forces passing this road often came under fire from Russians positioned along nearby strategic heights. Armoured vehicles and pickup trucks driving toward the city to replenish Ukrainian troops were frequently destroyed. With the high plains now under Ukrainian control, its forces have more breathing room.

“This will help us design new logistic chains to deliver ammunition in and evacuate the injured or killed boys,” said Taras Deiak, a commander of a special unit of a volunteer battalion, speaking from inside the city on Thursday, two days before Russia claimed it controlled the city.

“Now it is easier to deliver supplies, rotate troops, [carry out] evacuations.”

Ukraine ‘may have taken advantage of weak Russian lines’ outside Bakhmut

Sunday 21 May 2023 23:59 , Andy Gregory

Some analysts have said that Ukraine’s tactical gains in the rural area outside urban Bakhmut could be more significant than they seem.

“It was almost like the Ukrainians just took advantage of the fact that, actually, the Russian lines were weak,” said Phillips O’Brien, a professor of strategic studies at the University of St. Andrews.

“The Russian army has suffered such high losses and is so worn out around Bakhmut that ... it cannot go forward anymore.”

Watch: Biden pledges 'unwavering commitment’ to stand with Ukraine at G7 summit

Sunday 21 May 2023 23:02 , Andy Gregory

Prigozhin claims ‘practically no one’ from Russian army involved in Bakhmut ‘capture'

Sunday 21 May 2023 22:01 , Andy Gregory

Claiming the capture of Bakhmut, the founder of the Wagner mercenary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, insisted that “practically no one from the [Russian] army helped us”.

In a braven display of insouciance towards the Kremlin, the mercenary chief has repeatedly attacked Russia’s military leaders over their logistical ineptitude and lack of support in Bakhmut, which Western analysts have suggested reflects Vladimir Putin’s weakening grip on power in Moscow.

In remarks on Sunday, Mr Prigozhin said his forces would hand its territory in Bakhmut over to the defence ministry’s troops on Friday.

“We have captured all the territory we promised to capture, right up to the last centimetre,” he said in an audio message on Telegram. “As we stated yesterday. We are handing over our positions to [Russia’s] Defence Ministry and on the 25th we are leaving the conflict zone.”

ICYMI: Ukraine says troops still engaging Russian forces in Bakhmut after Moscow announces victory in city

Sunday 21 May 2023 21:00 , Matt Mathers

Ukrainian soldiers were still engaging Russian forces in fierce battles in and around Bakhmut on Sunday, military officials said, hours after Moscow and the private army Wagner announced that their troops had taken full control of the eastern city.

The fog of war made it impossible to confirm the situation on the ground in the invasion’s longest battle, and a series of comments from Ukrainian and Russian officials added confusion to the matter.

Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minsiter Hanna Malyar even went so far as to say that Ukrainian troops “took the city in a semi-encirclement.”

Susie Blann and Elise Morton report:

Ukraine says troops still engaging Russian forces in Bakhmut after Moscow announces victory in city

Ukraine’s ‘insignificant’ territory in Bakhmut still a vital foothold, top general insists

Sunday 21 May 2023 19:58 , Andy Gregory

Kyiv’s troops are advancing on Russian forces in the suburbs of Bakhmut and are getting closer to a "tactical encirclement" of the city, the commander of Ukraine's ground forces has claimed.

General Oleksandr Syrskyi said on Telegram that he had visited frontline positions near Bakhmut and thanked troops defending the area.

Accepting that the area still controlled by Ukraine was “insignificant”, the top general insisted the foothold would be enough to enter the devastated city when the situation changed, Reuters reported.

ICYMI: Russia warns of ‘colossal risks’ if F-16 fighter jets sent to Ukraine

Sunday 21 May 2023 19:00 , Matt Mathers

Russia has warned Western countries that supplying Ukraine with F-16 fighter jets would carry “colossal risks”, after US president Joe Biden announced the US would support the delivery of warplanes.

As G7 leaders met for the second day of the summit in Japan, Russian deputy foreign minister Alexander Grushko accused Western countries of “still adhering to the escalation scenario”.

“It involves colossal risks for themselves,” he added. “In any case, this will be taken into account in all our plans, and we have all the necessary means to achieve the goals we have set.”

Katy Clifton reports:

Russia warns of ‘colossal risks’ if F-16 fighter jets sent to Ukraine

Opinion: Are the economic sanctions on Russia yielding desirable results?

Sunday 21 May 2023 18:00 , Matt Mathers

They have long been the weapon of choice of political leaders wishing to curb a rogue country’s behaviour – the problem is, they rarely work, writes Chris Blackhurst.

Read Chris’s full piece here:

Are the economic sanctions on Russia yielding desirable results? | Chris Blackhurst

ICYMI: Modi promises ‘whatever is possible’ to find solution on Ukraine to Zelensky at G7

Sunday 21 May 2023 17:00 , Matt Mathers

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi has assured Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky of “whatever is possible” to find a solution to bring an end to the continuing war amid Russia’s full-scale invasion as the two leaders met in Hiroshima along the sidelines of the G7 summit.

“Over the past one-and-a-half years, we have spoken on the phone but… after a long time, we have an opportunity to meet. The war in Ukraine is a very big issue for the whole world. It has had many different impacts on the whole world,” Mr Modi told the Ukrainian president as the two leaders sat down for their first face-to-face talks with their delegation on Saturday.

Mr Modi added: “… But I don’t see this as a political or economic issue, for me this is an issue of humanity, an issue of human values.”

Arpan Rai reports:

Modi promises ‘whatever is possible’ to find solution on Ukraine to Zelensky at G7

Wagner chief says he will pull fighters out of Bakhmut after ‘capturing city’

Sunday 21 May 2023 16:40 , Matt Mathers

The leader of a Russian mercenary group has said he will pull its fighters from Bakhmut after claiming to have captured the Ukrainian city.

Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin said Bakhmut, in the eastern Donetsk-Oblast region, had been captured by his private army on Saturday afternoon - a claim Ukraine continues to dispute.

Volodymyr Zelensky’s deputy defence minister Hanna Maliar instead claimed Ukrainian forces have partly encircled the besieged eastern city along the flanks and still control a part of the city.

Full report:

Wagner chief says he will pull fighters out of Bakhmut after ‘capturing city’

ICYMI: ‘Putin will not break our resolve,’ Joe Biden tells G7

Sunday 21 May 2023 16:20 , Matt Mathers

Joe Biden has insisted Russian president Vladimir Putin “will not break our resolve” as he vowed America would show “unwavering” commitment to Ukraine in a speech at the G7 summit.

Speaking on the last day of the summit in Japan, the US president called for “peace that respects Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

He also said Volodymyr Zelensky has given the US a “flat assurance” that Ukraine will not use F-16 jets to attack Russian territory after the US gave the green light for Western allies to hand over their F-16 fighter jets to Kyiv to bolster defences.

Martha McHardy reports:

‘Putin will not break our resolve,’ Joe Biden tells G7

Russian mercenary chief plays down regular army's role in claimed capture of Bakhmut

Sunday 21 May 2023 15:39 , Matt Mathers

The founder of Russia’s Wagner mercenary force on Sunday played down the role of the regular Russian army in capturing Bakhmut, the east Ukrainian city that Moscow claimed to have taken a day earlier.

In a voice message published by his press service on Telegram, Yevgeny Prigozhin said: "During the taking of Artyomovsk, practically no one from the army helped us", referring to Bakhmut by its Soviet-era name.

Kyiv denies Russia has taken full control of Bakhmut and says its forces have partly encircled the city.

Wagner fighters have long spearheaded Russia’s campaign to take the city, taking heavy losses in the process.

In the same message, Prigozhin praised individual Russsian army units, while restating long-standing criticism of the leadership of Russia’s defence ministry, which he has accused of hampering the war effort via incompetence.

Russia Ukraine Wagner (PRIGOZHIN PRESS SERVICE)
Russia Ukraine Wagner (PRIGOZHIN PRESS SERVICE)

South Korea and Germany to sign defence pact

Sunday 21 May 2023 15:20 , Matt Mathers

South Korea and Germany will soon sign an agreement aimed at protecting military secrets to boost defence cooperation, South Korean president Yoon Suk Yeol said on Sunday as he met with German chancellor Olaf Scholz in Seoul.

The military information agreement will help "smoothly operate the defence industry supply chain", amid global economic and political instability, Yoon told a briefing.

South Korea, which recently pursued a similar information-sharing pact with Canada, has moved to expand its defence industry amid rising demand driven by the war in Ukraine and other global tensions, but has so far refused to provide weapons to Kyiv.

Yoon said respect for freedom as a universal value was "very vital" in the face of authoritarianism challenging democracy, unstable global supply chains and the war.

"From now, I expect South Korea and Germany will further expand reciprocal and future-oriented cooperation and strengthen the solidarity for peace and prosperity of Europe and Asia," Yoon said in opening remarks at the meeting with Scholz.

The two leaders also discussed deepening cooperation in production of semiconductors, among other areas.

Yoon Suk Yeol with Scholz
Yoon Suk Yeol with Scholz

Pro-government rally in Moldovan capital draws tens of thousands

Sunday 21 May 2023 15:00 , Matt Mathers

Tens of thousands of Moldovans rallied in the capital Chisinau on Sunday to support their pro-Western government’s drive towards Europe amid what officials have said are Russian efforts to destabilise their country.

Moldova has been badly hit by the impact of Moscow’s invasion of neighbouring Ukraine, which Chisinau has repeatedly condemned, and applied to join the European Union.

President Maida Sandu has accused Russia of seeking to sabotage its European integration by fuelling anti-government protests and propaganda. Moscow denies meddling in Moldova’s affairs.

"Moldova does not want to be blackmailed by the Kremlin," Sandu said at the rally, which was organised by her government and packed a central square.

Police said more than 75,000 demonstrators were present.

"We don’t want to be on the outskirts of Europe anymore," she said, pledging that Moldova would become an EU member by 2030.

Russia calls G7 summit incubator for anti-Russian and anti-Chinese ‘hysteria’

Sunday 21 May 2023 14:35 , Matt Mathers

Russia’s foreign ministry on Sunday dismissed the G7 summit in Japan’s Hiroshima as a "politicised" event that it said had pumped out anti-Russian and anti-Chinese statements and accused the forum of undermining global stability.

Moscow lashed out after the leaders of the world’s richest democracies said they would not back down from supporting Ukraine, in a warning to Russian president Vladimir Putin as he claimed to have taken the eastern city of Bakhmut, something Kyiv denied.

In a statement posted on Telegram, the Russian foreign ministry said that the G7 had "irreversibly deteriorated" and that the forum had become "an ‘incubator’ where, under the leadership of the Anglo-Saxons, destructive initiatives that undermine global stability are prepared".

The statement accused the G7 of fanning anti-Russian and anti-Chinese "hysteria".

Estonia and Latvia look to purchase mid-range air defence from Germany

Sunday 21 May 2023 14:10 , Matt Mathers

European Union and NATO members Estonia and Latvia will begin negotiations with Germany’s Diehl Defence for the purchase of a medium-range air defence system, Estonia’s Defence ministry said on Sunday.

The cost of the Iris-T SLM air defence system and additional capabilities such as infrastructure, personnel, training, equipment, will be determined at the negotiations, which could be concluded during the summer, it added.

“Our objective is to ensure operational medium-range air defence capabilities for Estonia by 2025, which means that the first systems should arrive in 2024,” Estonia’s defence minister Hanno Pevkur said.

The purchase will be led by Estonia Centre for Defence Investment.

Estonia’s defence minister Hanno Pevkur (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Estonia’s defence minister Hanno Pevkur (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Zelensky likens Bakhmut’s devastation to Hiroshima after World War Two

Sunday 21 May 2023 13:45 , Matt Mathers

President Volodymyr Zelensky likened the destruction of Ukraine’s eastern city of Bakhmut to that of Hiroshima in World War Two, as he attended the G7 summit in the Japanese city on Sunday.

Russia said on Saturday it had captured the ruined city of Bakhmut after the longest and bloodiest battle of its full-scale invasion, though Ukraine denies Moscow’s forces have full control of the city.

"I’ll tell you openly: Photographs of ruined Hiroshima absolutely remind me of Bakhmut and other similar settlements. Nothing left alive, all the buildings ruined," he told reporters.

Zelensky told the press conference that Ukrainian forces were continuing to fighting inside the city of Bakhmut and were carrying out "important tasks".

"Today they are in Bakhmut which places, I won’t share. But this speaks to the fact that Bakhmut has not been captured by the Russian Federation as of today. There are no two or three interpretations of this."

The photos below show the scale of some of the destruction in the city, which has become the longest-running battle in the war.

 (Maxar/Reuters)
(Maxar/Reuters)
 (Maxar/Reuters)
(Maxar/Reuters)
 (Maxar/AP)
(Maxar/AP)

Ukraine controls ‘insignificant’ part of Bakhmut, advancing on flanks - general

Sunday 21 May 2023 13:20 , Matt Mathers

A top Ukrainian general said on Sunday that Kyiv’s forces controlled an "insignificant" part of the eastern city of Bakhmut, but that the foothold would be enough to enter the devastated city when the situation changed.

In a Telegram post, general Oleksandr Syrskyi said Kyiv’s forces were advancing on Russian forces in the suburbs of Bakhmut and that they were getting closer to a "tactical encirclement" of the city.

Ukraine says troops still engaging Russian forces in Bakhmut after Moscow announces victory in city

Sunday 21 May 2023 13:00 , Matt Mathers

Ukrainian soldiers were still engaging Russian forces in fierce battles in and around Bakhmut on Sunday, military officials said, hours after Moscow and the private army Wagner announced that their troops had taken full control of the eastern city.

The fog of war made it impossible to confirm the situation on the ground in the invasion’s longest battle, and a series of comments from Ukrainian and Russian officials added confusion to the matter.

Ukrainian deputy defence minister Hanna Malyar even went so far as to say that Ukrainian troops “took the city in a semi-encirclement.”

Susie Blann and Elise Morton report:

Ukraine says troops still engaging Russian forces in Bakhmut after Moscow announces victory in city

Watch: Zelensky and Fumio Kishida lay wreaths at Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima

Sunday 21 May 2023 12:35 , Matt Mathers

 (The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Imag)
(The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Imag)
 (EPA)
(EPA)
 (EPA)
(EPA)

Watch: Zelensky takes part in family photo with world leaders at G7 summit

Sunday 21 May 2023 12:10 , Matt Mathers

Bakhmut not occupied by Russia - Zelenksy

Sunday 21 May 2023 12:05 , Matt Mathers

Bakhmut is not occupied by Russia as of today, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has said.

Answering questions from the media at a press conference following the G7 leaders’ meeting in Japan, Mr Zelensky was asked whether the battle for the city was still ongoing and whether its defence was worth all the lives that have been lost.

He said: “We don’t have simple questions any more, as well as we don’t have simple answers. Because we have a very complicated neighbour, who is a criminal and terrorist, a complicated enemy.

“We are keeping young, fighting thanks to the courage of our people, our warriors, and thanks to our cleverness. We are not throwing people to die.”

Mr Zelensky added: “Bakhmut is not occupied by Russian Federation as of today. There are no two or three interpretations of those words.

‘Situation critical’ in Bakhmut

Saturday 20 May 2023 15:28 , Matt Mathers

Ukraine has denied claims by Russia that it has taken full control of Bakhmut but warned the situation in the key battle town is “critical”.

Hanna Maliar, Ukraine’s defence minister, pushed back on the claim by Yevgeny Prigozhin that his Wagner Group of mercenaries had seized the town  around lunchtime.

“Heavy fighting in Bakhmut. The situation is critical,” she said on the Telegram messaging app.

“As of now, our defenders control some industrial and infrastructure facilities in the area and the private sector.”