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.

Meanwhile, Finland’s parliament has approved 188-8 the country’s application to join NATO, hours after Sweden formally signed its application to join the military alliance.

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

06:39

    Eight killed in Russia strike north of Kyiv, say local rescuers.

    “Surrendering Azovstal fighters will be treated in line with international norms”, says Kremlin spokesperson.

    Russia claims to have hit US and European arms shipments in western Ukraine.

    Finland’s parliament approves NATO application: 188-8.

    Sweden formally signed its application to join NATO.

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

    The leader of a Turkish nationalist party allied with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Sweden and Finland’s entry into NATO will lengthen the war in Ukraine.

    Hundreds of fighters, including the wounded, have been 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.

    Russia relying on indiscriminate artillery bombardments, says UK Ministry of Defence.

    19:10

    Ukrainian official hopes Azovstal fighters will be exchanged despite objections from Russian Duma

    Ukraine’s deputy defence minister expressed hope on Tuesday that the 264 Ukrainian fighters extracted from the Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol will be exchanged for Russian prisoners of war, despite remarks by a top Russian official who called them “criminals” who have to be “brought to justice”.

    Hanna Maliar said at a briefing Tuesday that the comment by Russian State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin is a political statement, “conceived as internal propaganda, internal political processes in the Russian Federation.”

    Maliar said that from Ukraine’s perspective both the negotiation process and rescue operation itself is ongoing.

    Earlier Tuesday, the Russian news agency Interfax cited Volodin as calling the Azovstal fighters “Nazi criminals” who should be excluded from any future exchanges.

    Volodin was cited calling the fighters “war criminals” and that Russia “must do everything to bring them to justice”.

    18:32

    18:01

    Concerns that Russia could cut off gas supplies to Finland 

    Finland is concerned that Russia might cut gas supplies, because of its refusal to pay Russia’s Gazprom in rubles, the Nordic country’s gas operator announced on Tuesday.

    Gasum, the company in charge of gas imports to Finland, “does not accept Gazprom Export’s demand to switch to ruble payments and will therefore not make any ruble payments,” the group announced in a statement.

    The announcement, which coincides with Finland’s bid to join NATO, comes a few days after Russian electricity exports to Finland were suspended due to payment problems.

    Although gas accounts for only 8% of the energy consumed in Finland, a majority of the gas used in the Nordic country comes from Russia.

    Gasum, which says it has taken the dispute to an arbitration court, considers that there is an “increased risk” that the contracted supply will be interrupted “and as a result the import of natural gas from Russia to Finland will stop”.

    Finland has already announced plans to go without Russian gas next winter, with a dedicated import vessel to be shared with neighbouring Estonia.

    Several countries that refused to pay in roubles to avoid supporting the Russian economy during the war in Ukraine, such as Poland and Bulgaria, have had their gas cut off by Gazprom.

    (AFP) 

    17:41

    Russians say they’ll disclose Ukrainian war crimes evidence next week

    The Russian Embassy in The Hague says it will disclose “videos of witnesses’ evidence of crimes” at a presentation next week. 

    The diplomatic outpost claims they’ll show “human rights violations and killings of civilians by Ukraine’s troops and nationalist organisations, as well as shelling by the Armed Forces of Ukraine of peaceful objects in Donbas.” 

    The event will be hosted by Russia’s ambassador to The Hague — home of the International Criminal Court — and the featured speaker is Maxim Grigoriev, described as the “Chairman of the International Public Tribunal for Ukraine.”

    If it not clear why Russian authorities are waiting until next week to reveal their evidence of war crimes. 

    (Euronews) 

    16:47

    Sweden and Finland to send joint NATO candidacy letters on Wednesday

    Sweden and Finland will jointly submit their candidacies to NATO headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday, Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson announced on Wednesday.

    “I am happy that we have taken the same path and that we can do it together,” she said during a joint press conference with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö.

    Sweden’s foreign minister signed her country’s letter on Tuesday morning, while the Finnish parliament voted overwhelmingly to join NATO on Tuesday by 188-8 and will likely sign their own letter on Tuesday evening. 

    President Niinistö is currently on a State Visit to Sweden, and he and Andersson will go to Washington DC on Thursday for talks with US President Joe Biden. 

    “Thanks for the close cooperation in recent months” Niinistö wrote to Andersson on Twitter. 

    “We are taking historic steps.” 

    (Euronews / AFP)

    16:37

    Italian energy company will pay bills in Russian roubles

    Italian energy giant Eni announced on Tuesday that it’s opening up a new account in Russian roubles at Gazprom Bank to honour its payments for supplies of Russian gas which are due “in the coming days.”

    The company insists that paying in roubles won’t be breaking any sanctions laws, and said “the decision has been shared with the Italian institutions. It was taken in compliance with the current international sanctions framework.”

    “The new procedure should be neutral in terms of both cost and risk, and not incompatible with the existing sanctions.” 

    After the imposition of sanctions on Russia by Western nations, the Kremlin demanded that payment for gas supplies, and other commodities, should be in roubles, not euros. 

    (Euronews / AFP)

    16:14

    War crimes investigation team sent to Ukraine

    The International Criminal Court prosecutor says he’s sent a team of 42 investigators, forensic experts and support personnel to Ukraine as part of a probe into suspected war crimes during Russia’s invasion.

    ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan said Tuesday that the team “will significantly enhance the impact of our forensic and investigative actions on the ground.”

    Khan says the team will improve the gathering of witness testimony, the identification of forensic materials and help ensure that “evidence is collected in a manner that strengthens its admissibility in future proceedings” at the Netherlands-based court.

    Several thousand civilians are believed to have died since the Russian invasion began on 24 February. Exact figures are impossible to verify. Incidents of summary executions and the use of cluster bombs by Russian forces have regularly been reported.

    To be classed as crimes against humanity, attacks have to be part of what the ICC’s founding treaty, the Rome Statute, calls “a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population.”

    Khan says that “now more than ever we need to show the law in action” in Ukraine.

    (AP)

    15:23

    Russian strike ‘kills eight’ in a village north of Kyiv

    Eight people died and 12 were wounded Tuesday in a Russian strike on Desna, a Ukrainian village about sixty kilometres north of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, known to house a large military training camp, local rescuers said.

    “Eight killed, 12 wounded,” Oleksandr Ivchenko, spokesman for the regional branch of the State Emergency Service, told AFP.

    14:54

    Nordic leaders set to visit White House on Thursday

    President Joe Biden Biden will host Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson of Sweden and President Sauli Niinistö of Finland at the White House for a meeting Thursday amid their push to join NATO in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

    The White House said they would discuss the two countries’ applications to join the mutual defence alliance, as well as European security broadly. The requests by the long-neutral nations to join NATO have been widely lauded within the alliance as a rebuke of Russia after its invasion of Ukraine, though Turkey has expressed reservations.

    The meeting is set to take place before Biden departs Washington for a four-day trip to South Korea and Japan.

    (AP)

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