Live: More than 260 fighters, including badly wounded, evacuated from Mariupol steelworks

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A bus carrying wounded service men from the besieged Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol drives under escort of the pro-Russian military. May 16, 2022.

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After months of fighting, many of the last defenders of the steelworks in Mariupol were evacuated overnight, with the Ukrainian government saying they had fulfilled their mission. Hundreds were evacuated to Russian-held territory, including wounded, though some remain behind.

Follow our live coverage below for more of the key events as they develop on Tuesday.

06:39

    Kremlin-critic Navalny set to appeal nine-year prison sentence later today.

    Russia relying on indiscriminate artillery bombardments, says British Ministry of Defence

    Hundreds of fighters, included wounded, evacuated from Mariupol steelworks, with the Ukrainian government saying they had fulfilled their mission.

    Ukrainian conflict demonstrates European “double standard” in dealing with refugees, says Red Cross chief

13:10

Alexei Navalny appeal trial postponed in Moscow

The appeal trial of Russia’s leading opposition figure, Alexei Navalny, who has already been jailed and sentenced again in March to nine years’ imprisonment on charges of “fraud”, has been adjourned to 24 May.

About an hour into the hearing, the Moscow City Court announced that the trial had been extended for a week, following a request from Navalny, who was appearing via video conference from the Pokrov prison colony number 2, about 100km east of Moscow.

Answering questions from the judge, the opponent, who has been imprisoned since January 2021, said he wanted to see the audio recording of his trial to compare it with his written version.

He also said that his family had been granted visiting rights for Friday and that he did not want to miss this visit.

“They are going to send me to a strict regime colony and this appointment is urgent,” he observed. “On 24 (May), you will be able to convict me and I will be sent to a strict regime,” he quipped.

Navalny is currently being held in a so-called “normal” regime colony. But if the first instance verdict is confirmed on appeal, he should be transferred to a “severe” penitentiary where conditions of detention are harsher. 

He appeared on Tuesday locked in a cage, wearing a prison uniform, according to images broadcast in the courtroom.

Navalny was accused of embezzling millions of rubles in donations to his anti-corruption organisations, and was sentenced to nine years in prison for “fraud” and “contempt of court” on 22 March.

This sentence includes one handed down in March 2021 for “fraud” in a case dating back to 2014 involving the French company Yves Rocher. 

Alexei Navalny was arrested in January 2021 on his return from Berlin, where he had spent several months recovering from poisoning by a nerve agent, for which he holds Russian President Vladimir Putin responsible. Putin categorically denies this and no investigation has been opened. 

(AFP)

12:49

Russia expels Finnish diplomats

Russia is expelling two Finnish diplomats in retaliation for a similar measure taken by Helsinki, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

The Finnish ambassador was summoned to the ministry on Tuesday, the statement said. During the meeting, Russian diplomacy “strongly protested” against the expulsion of two employees of the Russian embassy in Finland.

“The ambassador was informed that in response to the actions of the Finnish authorities, the Russian side has decided on a ban on the stay of two staff members of the Finnish embassy,” the ministry added.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February has led to a wave of international condemnation and a barrage of sanctions, with hundreds of Russian diplomats expelled by Western countries.

The announcement of this latest round of expulsions comes as Finland said it will make an application to join NATO as a direct result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Sweden has also signed its letter of application to join NATO on Monday. 

On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that Moscow would react to NATO’s “deployment of military infrastructure” in these two countries, but did not specify what that response would be. 

(Euronews / AFP)

12:12

Turkish politician says Sweden and Finland’s entry into NATO will lengthen war in Ukraine

The leader of a Turkish nationalist party that is allied with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expressing concern that NATO’s expansion to include Sweden and Finland will provoke Russia and cause an expansion of the war in Ukraine.

Devlet Bahceli, the leader of the Nationalist Action Party, on Tuesday told his party’s lawmakers that the most “logical” option would be for the two countries to be kept in “NATO’s waiting room.”

Bahceli says that “Sweden and Finland’s entry into NATO will mean the lengthening of the war in Ukraine and even its geographical expansion.”

Bahceli’s speech comes a day after Erdogan said Sweden and Finland should not be allowed in. Erdogan has cited the two countries’ perceived support for groups Turkey considers to be terrorists, refusal to extradite “terrorists” wanted by Turkey and arms export restrictions on Turkey.

Bahceli in his speech also accused the two countries of “aiding and abetting” Kurdish militants.

All 30 current NATO countries must agree to open the door to new members.

(AP)

11:37

Sweden formally signs its application to join NATO

11:05

Russian-backed separatists claim 256 Ukrainian troops ‘have surrendered’ in Mariupol

Russian-backed separatists said on Tuesday that 256 Ukrainian servicemen who had been holed up in Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant “have surrendered” and that 51 were wounded.

This marked a very different tone to Ukraine’s announcements of the evacuation, in which officials stressed that the defenders of Mariupol had ‘fulfilled all their tasks’ and were being evacuated to Russian-held areas, and that an exchange would be worked out for their return home.

Ukraine’s military also said on Tuesday that it was working to evacuate all remaining troops from their last stronghold in the besieged port of Mariupol, ceding control of the city to Russia after months of bombardment.

10:48

Finland’s minister for European affairs Tytti Tuppurainen tells Euronews why her country is applying for NATO membership following decades of neutrality.

10:13

Turkey won’t prevent Sweden and Finland from joining NATO, says Luxembourg’s foreign minister

Luxembourg’s foreign minister says he doesn’t believe Turkey will prevent Sweden and Finland from joining NATO, despite the Turkish president’s stated objections.

All 30 current NATO members, among them Turkey, must agree to let the Nordic neighbours join. But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said they failed to take a “clear” stance against Kurdish militants and other groups that Ankara considers terrorists, and imposed military sanctions on Turkey.

However, Luxembourg’s long-serving Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn told Germany’s Deutschlandfunk radio on Tuesday that he suspects Erdogan is merely “pushing up the price” for the two countries’ membership. He said: “At the end of the day, I am convinced that Turkey can’t slam the brakes on this.”

Asselborn added that “this will take some time, I hope not too long.”

He pointed to Turkey’s removal in 2019 from the US-led F35 stealth fighter jet program and the possibility of Ankara getting F-16 fighter jets from the US.

(AP)

09:48

Vatican envoy heading to Kyiv

The Vatican’s foreign minister, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, is heading to Kyiv this week as the Holy See seeks to balance its concern for Ukrainians with its efforts to keep open a channel of dialogue with Russia.

Gallagher is due to arrive Wednesday and meet Friday with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, a visit that was originally scheduled for before Easter but was postponed after Gallagher came down with COVID-19.

The trip comes as the Holy See toes a delicate line in trying to keep alive newly improved ties with the Russian Orthodox Church while offering support to the “martyred” Ukrainian faithful. At the same time, the Holy See is reconciling Pope Francis’ frequent denunciation of the weapons industry and “crazy” recourse to re-arming Ukraine with Catholic teaching that says states have a right and duty to repel an “unjust aggressor.”

“It has to be proportional,” Gallagher told RAI state television in announcing his trip. “Yes, Ukraine has the right to defend itself and it needs weapons to do it, but it has to be prudent in the way it’s done.”

Gallagher, a 68-year-old career Vatican diplomat from Liverpool, becomes the third papal envoy dispatched to the region by Francis, after two trusted cardinals went to Ukraine and bordering countries to assess the humanitarian needs of Ukrainian refugees and bring them the pope’s solidarity.

Francis has drawn criticism from some for refusing to condemn Russia or President Vladimir Putin by name, though he has stepped up his criticism of the “barbaric” war and recently met with the wives of two Ukrainian soldiers holding out at the besieged steel mill in Mariupol, a gesture of “our concern and participation in the suffering of these families,” Gallagher said.

(AP)

09:20

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