Ukraine live: Russia throwing everything it has at four cities in eastern Donbas, says Zelenskyy

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Destroyed houses are seen after Russian shelling in Soledar, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 24, 2022.

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Fighting is intensifying around four cities in eastern Donbas, with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accusing Russia of throwing the full might of the Russian army against the cities of Liman, Popasna, Sievierodonetsk, Slaviansk.

In Russia, parliament has given preliminary approval for a bill that would allow the government to appoint new management of foreign companies that pulled out of Russia after its invasion of Ukraine.

See a summary of the latest developments in our live coverage below.

08:50

    Russia is ready to set up corridor for ships carrying food to leave Ukraine, says Russian official.

    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says he will only talk with Vladimir Putin, not intermediators.

    The US is set to close the last avenue for Russia to pay its debts on Wednesday, making a Russian default on its debts for the first time since the Bolshevik Revolution all but inevitable.

    Severodonetsk is being erased from the face of the earth, says regional governor.

    Russian parliament gives preliminary approval to a bill allowing the government to appoint new management of foreign companies that pulled out of Russia after its invasion of Ukraine.

    Russia is throwing everything it has at four cities in eastern Donbas, says President Zelenskyy, in his nightly address.

10:31

At least six dead in latest Russian shelling in eastern Ukraine

A regional governor in eastern Ukraine says at least six civilians have been killed by the latest Russian shelling.

Luhansk region Gov. Serhiy Haidai said Wednesday that another eight people were wounded in the shelling of the town of Sievierodonetsk over the previous 24 hours.

Sievierodonetsk is at the epicentre of fighting in Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland of Donbas, where Russian forces have been pressing their offensive despite stiff Ukrainian resistance.

Haidai accused the Russians of deliberately targeting shelters where civilians were hiding.

(AP)

10:24

Overland routes unlikely to be solution to Ukrainian grain worries, says British MoD

The British Ministry of Defence has also highlighted the issue of Ukrainian grain exports in the face of Russian blockades of its ports.  

“There has been no significant merchant shipping activity in or out of Odessa since the start of the war. Russia’s subsequent naval blockade of key Black Sea ports has deterred the commercial shipping industry from operating in the area,” the ministry said in its latest Intelligence Update on the war in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s overland export mechanisms “are highly unlikely to substitute for the shortfall in shipping capacity caused by the Russian blockade,” it said. “As a result, significant supplies of Ukrainian grain remain in storage unable to be exported.”

The resulting supply shortfalls will further increase the global price of many staple products, it added.

10:11

Swedish, Finnish delegates in Ankara to try to overcome Turkish objections to NATO membership

Delegations from Sweden and Finland are scheduled Wednesday to hold talks in Ankara with senior Turkish officials, aiming to overcome Turkey’s objections to their historic bids to join NATO.

Sweden and Finland submitted their written applications to join the alliance last week in a move that marks one of the biggest geopolitical ramifications of Russia’s war in Ukraine — and which could rewrite Europe’s security map.

Turkey has said it opposes the two Nordic countries’ membership in the military alliance. It cites grievances with Sweden’s — and a to a lesser extent Finland’s — perceived support to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and other entities that Turkey views as a security threat. It also accuses the two of imposing arms exports restrictions on Turkey and refusing to extradite suspected “terrorists.”

Turkey’s objections have dampened Stockholm’s and Helsinki’s hopes for quick NATO membership amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and puts the trans-Atlantic alliance’s credibility at stake. All 30 NATO members must agree to admit new members.

(AP)

10:06

Russia left Sweden and Finland no choice but to join NATO, says German foreign minister

Germany’s foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, says Russia left Sweden and Finland “no choice” but to join NATO, while adding that Germany would support the two countries’ membership, calling it “a real gain” for the military alliance.

Baerbock spoke late Tuesday ahead of her visit to Norway for a meeting of the Council of the Baltic Sea States.

Baerbock also said that Germany will use its presidency of the group, which starts in July, to promote the use of offshore wind power in the Baltic, in order to help the countries wean themselves off of Russian energy imports.

(Euronews / AP)

10:00

Russia ready to set up corridor for ships carrying food to leave Ukraine, says official

Russia is ready to provide a humanitarian corridor for vessels carrying food to leave Ukraine, the Moscow-headquartered Interfax news agency cited Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko as saying on Wednesday.

The statement comes amid growing concerns over Ukraine’s agricultural exports. The country was the world’s fourth-largest grain exporter last season, shipping staples such as wheat and maize to Africa and the Middle East, as well as supplying half the grain procured by the UN’s World Food Programme for emergency aid.

Russia will also discuss the possibility of holding a prisoner exchange with Ukraine once prisoners who surrendered have been convicted, Rudenko said.

Russian and separatist officials have previously said that some of those who surrendered should be put on trial for war crimes.

At the same time, he said that it was premature to establish a Russian military base in the Russian-controlled area of Ukraine’s Kherson region.

(Euronews / Reuters)

09:12

Ukraine’s Zelenskyy says he will only talk with Putin, not intermediators

Speaking to an audience at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Wednesday that he was only willing to talk directly to Vladimir Putin, and not via intermediators.

He added that if the Russian President “understands reality” there was the possibility of finding a diplomatic way out of the conflict.

Zelenskyy also said that Ukraine would fight until it recovered all of its territory, adding that Moscow should withdraw its troops back to the lines in place before Russia began its invasion on 24 February.

“That might be a first step towards talks,” he said, adding that Russia has been playing for time in its talks with Ukraine.

(Euronews / Reuters)

08:43

US set to close last avenue for Russia to pay its debts

The US will close the last avenue for Russia to pay its billions in debt back to international investors on Wednesday, making a Russian default on its debts for the first time since the Bolshevik Revolution all but inevitable.

The Treasury Department said in a notification that it does not plan to renew the license that allowed Russia to keep paying its debtholders through American banks.

Since the first rounds of sanctions, the US Treasury Department has given banks a license to process any dollar-denominated bond payments from Russia. That window expires at midnight 25 May.

There had already been signs that the Biden administration was unwilling to extend the deadline. At a press conference heading into the Group of Seven finance minister meetings in Koenigswinter, Germany, last week, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the window existed “to allow a period of time for an orderly transition to take place, and for investors to be able to sell securities.”

The Kremlin has been using JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup as its conduits to pay its obligations.

The Kremlin appears to have foreseen the likelihood that the US would not allow Russia to keep paying on its bonds. The Russian Finance Ministry prepaid two bonds on Friday that were due this month to get ahead of the 25 May deadline.

The next payments Russia will need to make on its debts are due on 23 June. 

Like other Russian debt, those bonds have a 30-day grace period — which would cause default by Russia to be declared by late July, barring the unlikely scenario that the Russia-Ukraine war would come to an end before then.

(AP)

08:04

Severodonetsk being erased from the face of the earth, says regional governor

The industrial city of Severodonetsk has become a key goal of recent fighting in the Donbas region of Ukraine.

Sergiy Gaidai, governor of the eastern region of Luhansk, said the city of Severodonetsk was being hammered by air strikes, rockets, artillery and mortars in a bid to solidify control over the province and move further into Ukraine.

“The situation is very difficult and unfortunately it is only getting worse,” Gaidai said, describing what he termed a “full-scale offensive in all directions” in a video on Telegram. 

“The Russian army has decided to completely destroy Severodonetsk. They are simply erasing Severodonetsk from the face of the earth,” he added.

Thousands of troops have been sent to capture Luhansk region, Gaidai said, adding that the bombardment of Severodonetsk was so intense it was too late for its 15,000 civilians to leave.

(AFP)

07:36

Fuel crisis for Ukrainian farmers

After making it through the spring planting season, sometimes with the help of bulletproof vests and helmets, Ukraine’s farmers are facing another challenge – finding enough diesel for the harvest to come.

The war with Russia cut fuel supplies just as farmers stepped up work for the spring season and they have lost about 85% of their normal supplies since the conflict started on 24 February, farmers, fuel distributors and analysts say.

The total area planted with grain this spring is already expected to be up to 30% smaller than last year because of the fighting, and yields could drop too if farmers don’t get fuel so they can apply chemicals and harvest crops at the right time.

Ukraine usually relies on Russia, Belarus and imports from elsewhere coming in by sea for most of its fuel. Last year more than 60% of its diesel came from Russia and Belarus, Ukrainian oil products consultancy A-95 estimates.

Now, Ukraine has been forced to embark on costly and complex ways to bring in fuel via land from neighbours such as Poland and Romania, though a lack of capacity and red tape has slowed these efforts, the Ukrainian Oil and Gas Association said.

Ukraine was the world’s fourth-largest grain exporter last season, shipping staples such as wheat and maize to Africa and the Middle East, as well as supplying half the grain procured by the UN’s World Food Programme for emergency aid.

Between January and June 2021, Ukraine exported 45 million tonnes of grain. It had been expected to ramp that up to 65 million after a record harvest late last year but the war has left some 21 million tonnes stranded in silos across territory it controls as the 2021/22 season comes to an end next month.

(Euronews / Reuters)

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