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UKRAINE WRAP | War’s impact will last decades, Germany says

15 May 2022 - 06:30 By TimesLIVE

May 15 2022 - 22:00

Ukrainian troops holding destroyed village believe Russians withdrawing across border

While three of his men heaped dark soil into a chin-high berm to shield their trench, Ohor Obolenskiy gestured on Sunday across sun-dappled fields to a tree-clad ridge line sweeping the nearby horizon.

“We can see the Russian positions from here and say, ‘F**k you, Russians,’” the 35-year-old Ukrainian commander joshed in rough English, his grim face creasing into a wide grin.

The amalgam of National Guard and volunteers he leads seized Ruska Lozova in fierce fighting on May 8, four days into a counteroffensive that has thwarted Russia’s bid to seize nearby Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city.

The counter-offensive has been Ukraine's most successful since it expelled Russian troops from the north of the country and the area around the capital Kyiv at the end of March, and signals a new turning point in the battle for the east.

For the first week, the troops in Ruska Lozova said, Russian shelling was so intense they only could move about the now-devastated village at night.

While they remain ever-alert to the high explosives regularly hurled by Russian artillery and tanks, Obolenskiy and his men made little effort to conceal themselves from the foe hunkered along the ridge line three kilometers away.

One reason, they said as Reuters toured their positions, was because the patchy cloud made it difficult for Russian drones to target their positions.

Another was because they believed the Russians, while trying to keep them pinned down, have been pulling their forces out in a withdrawal to their border.

From there, they think, those troops are redeploying south to bolster a Russian drive to seize the entire Donbas region, which largely has stalled.

Reuters 

May 15 2022 - 21:30

McConnell sees Wednesday U.S. Senate vote on $40 billion Ukraine aid bill

US Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said on Sunday he expected the Senate to vote on Wednesday to approve about $40 billion in proposed aid to help Ukraine resist Russia's invasion after holding a related procedural vote on Monday."

We expect to invoke cloture - hopefully by a significant margin - on the motion to proceed on Monday, which would set us up to approve the supplemental on Wednesday," McConnell told reporters on a conference call from Stockholm after visiting the Ukrainian capital on Saturday.

He was referring to a procedural "cloture" vote that caps further debate on a matter at 30 hours.President Joe Biden requested $33 billion in aid for Ukraine on April 28, including over $20 billion in military assistance.

The US House of Representatives boosted the sum to roughly $40 billion, adding more military and humanitarian aid.

Speaking from the capital of Sweden, which along with Finland plans to seek membership in NATO, McConnell voiced strong support for both countries joining the 30-member Western military alliance created to deter Soviet aggression.

"They have very capable militaries, both of them," McConnell said. "They will be important additions to NATO if they choose to join, and I think the United States ought to be first in line to ratify the treaty for both these countries to join."

Reuters 

May 15 2022 - 21:00

WATCH | Pictures by border guard show Azovstal bunker

May 15 2022 - 20:00

NATO expects Turkey not to hold up Finland, Sweden membership

NATO and the United States said on Sunday they were confident Turkey would not hold up membership of Finland and Sweden in the Western military alliance, as the two Nordic states took firm steps to join in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto confirmed on Sunday that his country would apply to join NATO, while Sweden's ruling Social Democrats announced an official policy change that would pave the way for their country to apply within days.

"Today the Swedish Social Democratic Party took a historic decision to say yes to apply for a membership in the NATO defence alliance," tweeted Sweden's foreign minister, Ann Linde.

"The Russian invasion of Ukraine has deteriorated the security situation for Sweden and Europe as a whole."

Turkey, which had surprised its allies in recent days by saying it had reservations about Finnish and Swedish membership, laid out its demands on Sunday on the sidelines of a meeting of foreign ministers in Berlin.

Ankara said it wanted the Nordic countries to halt support for Kurdish militant groups present on their territory, and lift bans on some sales of arms to Turkey.

"I'm confident that we will be able to address the concerns that Turkey has expressed in a way that doesn't delay the membership," NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said.

Reuters 

May 15 2022 - 19:00

Swedish PM to seek parliament backing for NATO bid on Monday

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said she will go to parliament on Monday to seek broad support for an application to join NATO, after her party dropped its long-standing opposition to membership in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

"Tomorrow I will assure that there is a broad parliamentary support in the Riksdag for a Swedish membership application and after that we will be set to take a government decision," Andersson told a news conference.

There is already overwhelming support in parliament for a Swedish membership bid. Neighbour and close ally Finland said on Sunday it will apply for membership.

Reuters 

May 15 2022 - 18:30

Sweden's security needs best served by NATO membership, PM says

Sweden's security needs are best served by NATO membership, Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said on Sunday, after her party abandoned decades of opposition to joining the U.S.-led alliance in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

"The best thing for the security of Sweden and the Swedish people is to join NATO," Andersson told a news conference.

"We believe Sweden needs the formal security guarantees that come with membership in NATO.

Reuters 

May 15 2022 - 17:50

Ukraine has deployed new U.S. howitzers at front lines - embassy

Ukraine has deployed many of its new U.S. M-777 howitzers at the front lines and Washington has delivered all but one of the 90 artillery pieces they were due to send, the U.S. embassy in Kyiv said on Sunday.

The M-777 howitzer consignment is part of a huge outlay of weapons from Washington to help Ukraine fend off Russia's invasion, which began on Feb. 24. The M-777 is seen as particularly significant because of its long range and accuracy.

The U.S. embassy reposted a Ukrainian military video of Kyiv's soldiers training to use the weapons.

"M-777 Howitzers in action. Part of the United States' most recent $800 million care package for the Ukrainian Armed Forces," it tweeted. "All but one of the 90 Howitzers sent by the United States are now in Ukraine, many now deployed on the front lines," it said. 

Reuters 

May 15 2022 - 17:00

Finnish leader says latest Putin talk on NATO 'calm and cool'

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said on Sunday his latest talk with Russian President Vladimir Putin about his country's bid to join NATO was measured and did not contain any threats.

"He confirmed that he thinks it's a mistake. We are not threatening you. Altogether, the discussion was very, could I say, calm and cool," Niinisto said in an interview with CNN's "State of the Union." 

Reuters 

May 15 2022 - 16:30

WATCH | Video shows rain of fire hitting Ukraine steel plant

May 15 2022 - 16:00

War’s Impact Will Last Decades, Germany Says

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock predicted the war in Ukraine “will not be over so quickly” and said Germany and its international allies will face fallout from Russia’s invasion for decades.

“Russia’s break with all the norms of peaceful coexistence, especially the European peace order, the deliberate destruction of humanitarian law: all this is a radical turning point in the international order,” Baerbock said after hosting talks with NATO counterparts in Berlin.  

“All this has drastically changed the security situation in the European and Transatlantic sphere, and it requires far-reaching strategic answers,” she added.

©2022 Bloomberg L.P.

May 15 2022 - 15:00

Russia says it strikes Ukraine positions in battle for Donbas

Russia said on Sunday it had pummelled Ukrainian positions in the east with missiles, targeting command centres and arsenals as its forces seek to encircle Ukrainian army units in the battle for Donbas.

Nearly three months since the Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, Russian and Russian-backed forces are still in control of an area of Ukraine about the size of Greece along the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea and in Ukraine's east bordering Russia.

Russian forces have been driven out of the area around the city of Kharkiv in the northeast in the past two weeks, their most rapid losses since being expelled from areas around Kyiv and the north of Ukraine at the start of April.Russia, which annexed Crimea in 2014, is trying to capture two eastern provinces known as the Donbas.

Its forces have been pushing down from the city of Izium south of Kharkiv in an attempt to surround Ukrainian forces between Izium and Russian-controlled territory around the city of Donetsk.

Russia's defence ministry said rockets had hit two command points, 11 company positions and four artillery stores in four regions of the eastern Donetsk region, some deep in Ukrainian-controlled territory between Donetsk and Izium.

Reuters 

May 15 2022 - 14:15

Turkey lays out demands as Finland, Sweden seek NATO membership

Turkey's foreign minister said on Sunday that Sweden and Finland must stop supporting terrorists in their countries, provide clear security guarantees and lift export bans on Turkey as they seek membership in NATO.

Mevlut Cavusoglu, speaking with Turkish reporters after a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Berlin, said Turkey was not threatening anybody or seeking leverage but speaking out especially about Sweden's support for the PKK Kurdish militant group.

Ankara views the PKK as a terrorist organisation.

Finland confirmed on Sunday that it would apply for NATO membership and Sweden is expected to follow suit, in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

However Turkey's concerns may pose an obstacle as any decision on NATO enlargement requires unanimous approval by all 30 member states.

Reuters 

May 15 2022 - 13:38

NATO deputy chief 'confident' of finding consensus on Finland, Sweden membership

NATO is confident that it can overcome objections by Turkey and quickly admit Finland and Sweden, its deputy chief said on Sunday, as the alliance prepares for a historic enlargement in the Nordic region prompted by Russia's war on Ukraine.

Foreign ministers from Nato's 30 member states are holding two days of talks this weekend in Berlin that are focused on the two Nordic countries' membership bids. Their formal application to join NATO is expected within days.

May 15 2022 - 10:56

Ukraine's top diplomat meets US Secretary of State, touts more weapon supplies

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Sunday he had met US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Berlin and that "more weapons and other aid is on the way to Ukraine".

"We agreed to work closely together to ensure that Ukrainian food exports reach consumers in Africa and Asia. Grateful to Secretary Blinken and the U.S. for their leadership and unwavering support," Kuleba tweeted.

Kuleba was due to brief NATO foreign ministers meeting in Berlin on Sunday on the situation on the ground in Ukraine and on how the alliance can further help the country as it battles invading Russian forces for a 12th week.

Reuters 

May 15 2022 - 09:24

Italian police prevents pro-Russian hacker attacks during Eurovision contest

The Italian police thwarted hacker attacks by pro-Russian groups during the May 10 semi-final and Saturday final of the Eurovision Song Contest in Turin, it said on Sunday.

During voting operations and contestants' performances, police said it had mitigated several cyber attacks on network infrastructure by the hacker group "Killnet" and its affiliate "Legion".

On May 11, "Killnet" claimed an attack to the websites of several Italian institutions, including the Senate, Italy's upper house of parliament, and the National Health Institute (ISS), ANSA news agency reported.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, many Western governments have raised alert levels in anticipation of possible cyber attacks on IT systems and infrastructure.

Ukraine's Kalush Orchestra won the Eurovision Song Contest on Saturday with their entry "Stefania", riding a wave of public support to claim an emotional victory that was welcomed by the country's president Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Reuters 

May 15 2022 - 08:00

UniCredit, Citi consider swapping assets with Russian institutions - FT

UniCredit SpA and Citigroup are exploring asset swaps with Russian financial institutions as western banks trying to avoid heavy writedowns as they exit Russia, the Financial Times said on Sunday

.UniCredit has received several offers from Russian financial institutions to buy its local subsidiary since its chief executive, Andrea Orcel, said in March it was considering pulling out of the country, the newspaper reported, citing unnamed people familiar with matter.

Citigroup is the most internationally diversified of big banks based in the United States. It provides trade finance to corporations and wealth management to billionaires around the world.

UniCredit received one offer from Interros group, the investment business owned by Vladimir Potanin, one of Russia's richest men and an oligarch who has not been sanctioned by the United States, Britain or the European Union, but the Italian bank rejected the offer, the FT said.

Citi declined to comment.

UniCredit and Interros did not immediately responded to Reuters requests for comment.

In March, UniCredit detailed its exposure to Russia, flagging a 7.4 billion euro loss in a worst case. It confirmed its cash dividends and plans for a share buyback, making the latter contingent on a key capital threshold.

Citi Chief executive Jane Fraser said last year the bank would divest its Russia consumer business along with a dozen other consumer businesses in Asia and EMEA markets that she said were too small to keep. Citi has since found buyers for many of those businesses.

Reuters 

May 15 2022 - 07:40

Britain says Russia's Donbas offensive 'has lost momentum'

Russia's offensive in Ukraine's Donbas region "has lost momentum and fallen significantly behind schedule", British military intelligence said early on Sunday.

"Under the current conditions, Russia is unlikely to dramatically accelerate its rate of advance over the next 30 days," the British military said in a regular Twitter bulletin.

On Friday, Ukrainian forces prevented an attempted Russian river crossing in the Donbas, an eastern area comprising the Luhansk and Donetsk regions that has been a focus of the war.

Reuters 

May 15 2022 - 07:33

Missile hits military infrastructure in Ukraine's Lviv region - governor

A missile strike hit some military infrastructure in the western Ukrainian region of Lviv early on Sunday, the region's Governor Maxim Kozitsky said in a post on his Telegram messaging app.

"There is no information about dead or injured at this hour," Kozitsky said. "The extent of the destruction is being clarified."

Reuters 

May 15 2022 - 06:30

For Ukrainian fighters Eurovision win heralds coming victory over Russia

Gathered in a basement used as safe quarters north of Kyiv a small group of Ukrainian soldiers joyfully watched their country win the Eurovision Song Contest, saying it heralded their coming victory in the war to evict Russian forces from Ukraine.

The Kalush Orchestra won the Eurovision with their entry "Stefania", surfing a wave of popular support from all around Europe to claim an emotional victory that was welcomed by the country's president."

We had a victory: today in Eurovision, but soon we will have a victory in Ukraine-Russian war," said Tetyana, a military medic, standing in the basement decorated with children's paintings of Ukraine flag and "Glory to Ukraine" signs on them.

The tired-looking but happy servicemen had sat around a screen, some tapping rhythmically on their knees when Kalush performed, and when the winner was announced they clapped and cheered with delight.

"We will also win," said Vitaliy, a soldier. "We have shown that we can not only fight, but we can also sing very nice."

The Russian invasion, now in its third month, has claimed thousands of civilian lives, sent millions of Ukrainians fleeing and reduced cities to rubble.

Moscow calls its actions a "special military operation" to disarm Ukraine and protect it from fascists. Ukraine and the West say the fascist allegation is baseless and that the war is an unprovoked act of aggression.

The southern port city of Mariupol has suffered the heaviest fighting, and while it is now in Russian hands there hundreds of Ukrainian fighters still holding out at the Azovstal steel works despite weeks of heavy bombardment.

Stationed far to the north, closer to the border with Belarus, soldiers in the basement paid homage to the bravery of their comrades in the south.

"The next Eurovision we will host in liberated Mariupol," Vitaliy said, the servicemen said. 

Reuters 

May 15 2022 - 06:00

Mysterious tanker full of Russian oil nears SA port

A supertanker filled with Russian oil was on Saturday nearing SA’s territorial waters on its way to Saldanha.

The 330m Elandra Denali, carrying  up to 2-million barrels of crude from Russia’s Black Sea port of Novorossiysk, was travelling at 10.3 knots due west of Alexander Bay and scheduled to arrive at the west coast harbour at 6pm today, according to marine traffic information.

The ship is being monitored by global freight and news organisations in light of efforts to impose sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. Satellite data on Saturday showed the ship at the edge of SA’s exclusive economic zone, which extends 200 nautical miles (370km) from the coast.

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