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UKRAINE WRAP | Moscow will respond if Nato moves nuclear forces closer to Russia's border

14 May 2022 - 09:12 By TimesLIVE
Teenagers Oleskandr and Bohdan sit on swings in front of residential buildings destroyed during Russia's invasion of Ukraine in the town of Borodianka, in Kyiv region, Ukraine May 13, 2022.
Teenagers Oleskandr and Bohdan sit on swings in front of residential buildings destroyed during Russia's invasion of Ukraine in the town of Borodianka, in Kyiv region, Ukraine May 13, 2022.
Image: REUTERS/Vladyslav Musiienko

May 14 2022 - 17:39

Russia forges new partnerships in face of West's 'total hybrid war' - Lavrov

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Saturday that Moscow was the target of “total hybrid war” by the West but would withstand sanctions by forging deeper partnerships with China, India and others.

In a speech on the 80th day since Russia invaded Ukraine, Lavrov pointed to the barrage of sanctions imposed by the West in an effort to portray Russia as the target, not the perpetrator, of aggression.

“The collective West has declared total hybrid war on us and it is hard to predict how long all this will last but it is clear the consequences will be felt by everyone, without exception,” he said.

May 14 2022 - 16:45

Turkey has offered sea evacuation for wounded Ukrainian fighters - Erdogan adviser

NATO member Turkey has proposed carrying out a sea evacuation of wounded fighters holed up in a steel works in the southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol, President Tayyip Erdogan's spokesman said on Saturday.

Ibrahim Kalin told Reuters in an interview that he had personally discussed the proposal with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Kyiv two weeks ago and that it remains "on the table" although Moscow has not agreed to it.

Under the plan, people evacuated from the vast Azovstal steel plant would be taken by land to the port of Berdyansk, which like Mariupol is on the Sea of Azov, and a Turkish vessel would take them across the Black Sea to Istanbul, he said.

"If it can be done that way, we are happy to do it. We are ready. In fact our ship is ready to go and bring the injured soldiers and other civilians to Turkey," said Kalin, who is also Erdogan's top foreign policy adviser.

Ukraine and Russia did not immediately comment on the possibility of an evacuation by sea.

After weeks of Russian siege and bombardment, Mariupol is in Russian hands, but hundreds of Ukrainian fighters are holding out under heavy fire at the steel works.

A number of civilians who were sheltering in the plant were evacuated this month with the help of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations. Turkey's proposal included evacuating the civilians who were still there.

Zelenskiy has said complex talks are under way to evacuate a large number of wounded soldiers from the steel works in return for the release of Russian prisoners of war.

Russia, which initially said the fighters should surrender, has said little publicly about the talks.

Kalin said the Russian position "changes day to day".

"They look at the security situation on the ground and other dynamics, their negotiations, their own internal coordination," he said.

"So sometimes it is hard to get a firm response (or) commitment from either side."

Turkey neighbours Russia and Ukraine, has good ties with both and has tried to facilitate peace talks. It objected to Russia's invasion and has supplied Kyiv with armed drones though it also opposes Western sanctions on Moscow.

Kalin said the naval evacuation from Berdyansk was one of a number of proposals to reach a ceasefire and carry out an evacuation.

"It may happen, yes. I believe it may happen," he said."

The boat is still in Istanbul. It is ready to sail but we are waiting for final clearance from Russian and Ukrainian side for it to go to Berdyansk and bring those injured soldiers to Turkey."

Reuters

May 14 2022 - 16:30

Hungary's new president condemns Putin's 'aggression', plans trip to Warsaw

Hungary's President Katalin Novak at her inauguration ceremony on Saturday condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine and said her first trip would take her to Poland, in an apparent gesture to mend relations with Warsaw.

Hungary's rejection of sending weapons shipments to neighbouring Ukraine and its opposition to a planned European Union embargo on Russian oil imports has weighed on relations between Budapest and Warsaw, whose two nationalist governments have been long-time allies in the EU.

Novak, a former Fidesz party lawmaker and ally of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, was elected to the largely ceremonial post of president in March, shortly before Orban won another landslide victory in elections on April 3.

Hungary's first woman president, Novak has served as deputy chair of Fidesz and was family affairs minister in Orban's previous government.

"On Tuesday, 17 May, I am travelling to Warsaw to meet the President of the Polish people. Mr. President, dear Andrzej (Duda), I thank you for the opportunity to talk as befits friends!," Novak said in her inauguration speech.

"We condemn Putin's aggression, the armed invasion of a sovereign state. We say eternally no to every effort aiming at the restoration of the Soviet Union," she added.

She said the war in Ukraine was also "fought against us peace -loving Hungarians", adding that Hungary demanded that war crimes be investigated and punished.

Orban has also condemned Russia's attack on Ukraine but has avoided personal criticism of President Vladimir Putin and has been strongly opposed to any sanctions on Russian energy.

Dependence on Russian oil in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia poses the biggest obstacle to an embargo deal that the European Commission, the EU executive, proposed in early May in response to Russia's Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.

Reuters 

May 14 2022 - 14:58

Lavrov says all will suffer from West's 'total hybrid war' on Russia

 Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Saturday that the West had announced a "total hybrid war" against Russia and it was hard to predict how long it would last.

In a speech on the 80th day since Russia invaded Ukraine, Lavrov pointed to the barrage of sanctions imposed by the West against Moscow and attempted to portray Russia as the target, not the perpetrator, of aggression.

"The collective West has declared total hybrid war on us and it is hard to predict how long all this will last but it is clear the consequences will be felt by everyone, without exception," he said in a speech.

"We did everything to avoid a direct clash - but now that the challenge has been thrown down, we of course accept it. We are no strangers to sanctions: they were almost always there in one form or another."

Efforts by the West to isolate Russia were doomed to fail, Lavrov said, while pointing to the importance of Russia's relations with China, India, Algeria and Gulf countries. 

Reuters 

May 14 2022 - 14:45 

Putin tells Finland that swapping neutrality for NATO is a mistake

Russian President Vladimir Putin told his Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinisto on Saturday that ditching neutrality and joining NATO would be a mistake that could damage relations between their two countries, the Kremlin said.

The two countries said their presidents spoke by phone two days after Finland declared its intention to join the Western alliance. Moscow has described that as a security threat that will require it to respond, but has not specified how.

Niinisto's office said he told Putin "how fundamentally the Russian demands in late 2021 aiming at preventing countries from joining NATO and Russia's massive invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 have altered the security environment of Finland".

He said Finland wanted to handle relations with its Russian neighbour in a "correct and professional manner".

The Kremlin said: "Vladimir Putin stressed that abandoning the traditional policy of military neutrality would be a mistake, since there are no threats to Finland's security. Such a change in the country's foreign policy may have a negative impact on Russian-Finnish relations."

Moscow described the call as a "frank exchange of views", normally a diplomatic euphemism for a difficult conversation.

Niinisto said: "The conversation was direct and straightforward and it was conducted without aggravations. Avoiding tensions was considered important."

Finland's membership bid is expected to be followed by a similar move from Sweden, confronting Putin with exactly what he said he wanted to avoid when he launched his invasion of Ukraine on February 24: a further expansion of NATO to Russia's borders. 

Reuters 

May 14 2022 - 14:37 

Ukraine presses counteroffensive on key Russian line of assault - governor

Ukrainian forces are on the counteroffensive near the Russian-held town of Izyum, the governor of Kharkiv region said on Saturday, striking at a key axis of Russia's assault on eastern Ukraine.

A major and successful counteroffensive on that Russian line of advance would deal a serious setback for Moscow in the Battle for the Donbas, a region in Ukraine's east that Russia has said it wants to capture completely.

Moscow's forces have been trying to fight their way south from the town of Izyum, the northern part of a Russian pincer movement aimed at outflanking battle-hardened Ukrainian forces dug in to defend the eastern front line.

"The hottest spot remains the Izyum direction," regional governor Oleh Sinegubov said in comments aired on social media."

Our armed forces have switched to a counteroffensive there. The enemy is retreating on some fronts and this is the result of the character of our armed forces," he said.

In a possible shift in momentum in the war, Ukraine has been recapturing territory in its northeast, driving Russia away from the second-largest Ukrainian city of Kharkiv in their fastest advance since Moscow's troops pulled away from Kyiv.

Ukrainian forces destroyed parts of a Russian armoured column as it tried to cross a river in the Donbas, video from Ukraine's military showed on Friday, and its defence minister predicted many weeks of grinding fighting ahead.

Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, driving towards but failing to reach the capital, before withdrawing to focus its firepower on the south and the Donbas.

Moscow announced on April 19 that the second phase of what it calls its "special operation" had begun.

It says the operation's aim is to disarm Ukraine and protect it from fascists, a claim Kyiv and its Western allies dismiss as a false pretext to wage an unprovoked war of aggression.

Reuters 

May 14 2022 - 13:42

Ukraine seeks evacuation of wounded fighters as war rages on

Very complex talks are underway to evacuate a large number of wounded soldiers from a besieged steelworks in the strategic southeastern port of Mariupol in return for the release of Russian prisoners of war, Ukraine's president said.

Mariupol, which has seen the heaviest fighting in nearly three months of war, is now in Russian hands but hundreds of Ukrainian defenders are still holding out at the Azovstal steelworks despite weeks of heavy Russian bombardment.

Fierce Ukrainian resistance, which analysts say Russian President Vladimir Putin and his generals failed to anticipate when they launched the invasion on Feb. 24, has slowed and in some places reversed Russian advances elsewhere in Ukraine too.

As well as losing large numbers of men and much military equipment, Russia is also reeling from economic sanctions. The Group of Seven leading Western economies pledged in a statement on Saturday to "further increase economic and political pressure on Russia" and to supply more weapons to Ukraine.

In a late night address, Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy addressed the plight of people trapped at the Azovstal site."

At the moment very complex negotiations are under way on the next phase of the evacuation mission – the removal of the badly wounded, medics," he said, adding that "influential" international intermediaries were involved in the talks.

Russia, which initially insisted the defenders in the sprawling Soviet-era bunkers beneath the steel works give themselves up, has said little publicly about the talks.

Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk told local TV on Saturday that efforts were now focused on evacuating about 60 people, comprising the most seriously wounded as well as medical personnel.

The wife of one of the steel works defenders, Natalka Zarytska, appealed to Chinese President Xi Jinping at a briefing in Kyiv on Saturday to "show ... great concern for world values and great Eastern wisdom" and help end the siege of Azovstal.

Xi has aligned China with Russia, blaming the West for the war while calling for a diplomatic resolution of the crisis.Many of those still in the plant are members of the Azov Regiment. Deputy commander Sviatoslav Palamar said his forces would continue to resist as long as they could.

"Our enemy, supported by planes and artillery ... continue their assault on our positions but we continue to repel them," he told an online forum on Friday streamed on YouTube.

Reuters 

May 14 2022 - 12:11

Russian fighter jets take part in Baltic Sea drills - Interfax

Russian Su-27 fighter jets have taken part in drills to repel a mock air strike on Russia's Kaliningrad exclave, Interfax news agency reported on Saturday, citing the Baltic Sea fleet.

The drills took place two days after Finland announced plans to apply to join NATO, with Sweden likely to follow - moves that would bring about the expansion of the Western military alliance that Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he aims to prevent.

The Russian Baltic Sea fleet's press service said Su-27 fighter jets "destroyed" the planes of the simulated adversary during the drills, Interfax reported.

According to the report, more than 10 crews of the Baltic Sea fleet's Su-27 were involved in the exercises.

Reuters 

May 14 2022 - 11:50

Zelensky says Russia being driven from Kharkiv

Ukraine’s president says Kyiv’s forces are steadily pushing Russian troops away from Kharkiv, the nation’s second largest city. India prohibited most wheat exports that the world was counting on to alleviate supply constraints sparked by the war in Ukraine.

Sweden has received no indication that Turkey would oppose it joining NATO, and will raise the issue at a meeting this weekend in Germany, Foreign minister Ann Linde said. Earlier on Friday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed concern about Sweden and Finland potentially becoming members of the military alliance. NATO foreign ministers are set to meet on Saturday, when the issue of enlargement is likely to dominate. 

May 14 2022 - 10:56

Over 700,000 refugees from Ukraine registered in Germany

More than 700,000 people fleeing the war in Ukraine have been recorded in Germany thus far, Welt am Sonntag newspaper reported on Saturday, citing Interior Ministry data.

Since the start of the war on February 24 until May 11, 727,205 people have registered in Germany's Central Register of Foreigners (AZR), of which 93% hold Ukrainian citizenship, Welt reported. A significant number may have travelled on to other European Union countries or returned to Ukraine, it said.

Around 40% of Ukrainian refugees were minors and women make 81% of the adult refugees registered, Welt added.

May 14 2022 - 10:20

Ukraine collects Russian dead as war rages on multiple fronts

The bodies of Russian soldiers killed in Ukraine were brought to a rail yard outside Kyiv and stacked with hundreds of others in a refrigerated train, waiting for the time when they can sent back to their families.

“Most of them were brought from the Kyiv region, there are some from Chernihiv region and from some other regions too,” Volodymyr Lyamzin, the chief civil-military liaison officer, told Reuters on Friday as stretcher-bearers in white, head-to-toe protective suits lifted body bags into the box cars.

He said refrigerated trains stationed in other regions across Ukraine were being used for the same grim purpose. 

May 14 2022 - 10:00

Ukraine begins first war crimes trial of Russian soldier

A Ukrainian court held a preliminary hearing in the first war crimes trial arising from Russia's Febuary 24 invasion, after charging a captured Russian soldier with the murder of a 62-year-old civilian.

Reuters 

May 14 2022 - 09:20

Russia's Gazprom says gas transit via Ukraine up from Friday at 64.9 mcm

Russian gas producer Gazprom said it is continuing to ship gas to Europe through Ukraine via the Sudzha entry point, with volumes on Saturday seen at 64.9 million cubic metres (mcm), up from 61.97 mcm on Friday.

An application to supply gas via the main Sokhranovka entry point was rejected by Ukraine, Gazprom said. Russian gas flows to Europe via Ukraine fell by a quarter on Wednesday after Kyiv halted use of the Sokhranovka route.

Reuters

May 14 2022 - 09:10

Moscow will respond if NATO moves nuclear forces closer to Russia's border - RIA

Moscow will take adequate precautionary measures if NATO deploys nuclear forces and infrastructure closer to Russia's border, RIA news agency quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko as saying on Saturday.

Moscow has no hostile intentions towards Finland and Sweden and does not see "real" reasons for those two countries to be joining the NATO alliance, Grushko added.

Reuters 

May 14 2022 - 09:00

Moscow-administered Kherson to ask to be included in Russia, UK says

The Russian-imposed military-civilian administration in Ukraine's Kherson region said it will ask Russia to include it in the Russian federation, British defence ministry said on Saturday.

If Russia carries out an accession referendum in Kherson, it will almost certainly manipulate the results to show a clear majority in favour of leaving Ukraine, Britain said in a regular Twitter bulletin.

Reuters 

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