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UKRAINE WRAP | Ukraine thanks US Senate after $40bn aid vote, predicts victory

19 May 2022 - 06:20 By TimesLIVE
Service members of pro-Russian troops wait before the expected evacuation of wounded Ukrainian soldiers from the besieged Azovstal steel mill in the course of Ukraine-Russia conflict in Mariupol, Ukraine May 16, 2022.
Service members of pro-Russian troops wait before the expected evacuation of wounded Ukrainian soldiers from the besieged Azovstal steel mill in the course of Ukraine-Russia conflict in Mariupol, Ukraine May 16, 2022.
Image: REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko/File Photo

May 19 2022 - 20:18

Ukraine thanks US Senate after $40bn aid vote, predicts victory

A top aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Thursday thanked the U.S. Senate after it approved nearly $40 billion in aid, saying this would help ensure the defeat of Russia.

"We are moving towards victory confidently and strategically. We thank our allies," Zelenskiy's chief of staff Andriy Yermak said in an online post minutes after the vote. The Senate voted 86-11 in favor of the package of military, economic and humanitarian assistance.

-Reuters

May 19 2022 - 19:46

Germany's Scholz confident Sweden, Finland will join NATO

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Thursday he was confident that Sweden and Finland would succeed in joining the NATO defence alliance and that Germany was doing everything possible to make that happen.

At a news conference with his Dutch counterpart, Scholz reiterated that Germany welcomed the Nordic countries' bids and said he had the impression many other countries shared his view.

"If you identify a general will, then it is that Sweden and Finland should quickly become members so I am confident that the many efforts that are underway to enable a joint decision will be successful," Scholz said. 

-Reuters

May 19 2022 - 17:59

G7 countries commit $18.4 bn in funds for Ukraine - draft

The Group of Seven (G7) industrialised nations have committed $18.4 billion in transfers and loans to help Ukraine meet its immediate financing needs, according to a draft communique seen by Reuters on Thursday.

"We have mobilised 18.4 billion US dollars of budget support, including 9.2 billion US dollars of recent commitments in the lead up to the Petersberg meeting, to help Ukraine close its financing gap and continue ensuring the delivery of basic services to the Ukrainian people," the G7 finance ministers and central bankers said in the draft document.

They were meeting near Bonn, Germany, on Thursday and Friday. 

-Reuters

May 19 2022 - 14:49

Ukraine to seek damages from Russia over huge environmental damage

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has caused huge environmental damage for which Kyiv will seek compensation in international courts, Ukraine's environment minister said on Thursday.

Ruslan Strilets, Minister of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources, said the war had destroyed ecosystems, deprived wildlife of its natural habitat and contaminated land in one of the world's main grain producers.

“Over the past 20 years, this is the first military conflict in the world that has caused such large-scale environmental damage,” he told a news conference.

“Russian missiles hit our oil depots, thermal power plants, chemical plants — this definitely affects the environment. Forests are burning, valuable protected things are being destroyed.”

May 19 2022 - 14:13

McDonald's to sell Russia business to current licensee

McDonald's Corp said on Thursday it has agreed to sell its Russian business to current licensee Alexander Govor, days after announcing it would exit the country.

Govor will acquire McDonald's entire restaurant portfolio and operate them under a new brand, McDonald's said.

Reuters 

May 19 2022 - 14:00

IMF chief optimistic G7 funds for Ukraine can stave off hyperinflation

International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said on Thursday she was "getting more optimistic" that a G7 agreement to provide new budget funding to Ukraine can be reached and can help the country avoid hyperinflation.

Georgieva said on the sidelines of a G7 finance ministers' and central bank governors' meeting that the main issue for the funding would be its timing - avoiding delays that may push the country into monetary financing, where its central bank effectively funds the government.

"You know, what happens if a country has to go into monetary financing. A war brings hyperinflation and then terrible, terrible, damage - which we think we can avoid," Georgieva said. 

Reuters 

May 19 2022 - 13:13

EXPLAINER-Washington holds key to Russia's sovereign default

The prospect of a Russia sovereign default is moving centre stage again with a deadline for a US license allowing Moscow to make payments expiring on May 25 and $100 million in interest payments due shortly after.

Sweeping sanctions imposed by western capitals on Russia in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine on February 24 as well as counter measures by Moscow have all but severed the country from the global financial fabric.

So far, Russia has managed to navigate the plethora of measures and make payments due on seven of its international bonds since the start of the war, averting a default.

May 19 2022 - 12:58

More Ukraine fighters surrendering in Mariupol, Russia says

Moscow said nearly 700 more Ukrainian fighters had surrendered in Russian-held Mariupol as it shored up a key gain in the south, while the US became the latest Western country to reopen its embassy in Kyiv.

Ukraine has ordered its garrison in Mariupol to stand down, but the ultimate outcome of Europe's bloodiest battle for decades remains unresolved.

Top commanders of Ukrainian fighters who had made their last stand at the Azovstal steelworks in the port city are still inside the plant, according to the leader of pro-Russian separatists in control of the area, Denis Pushilin, quoted by local news agency DNA on Wednesday.

May 19 2022 - 12:45

Moscow says opening Ukraine ports would need review of sanctions on Russia - Interfax

Russia's Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that if it were to heed a United Nations appeal to open access to Ukraine's Black Sea ports, the removal of sanctions against Russia would also have to be considered, the Interfax news agency reported.

Ukraine, one of the world's biggest grain producers, used to export most of its goods through its seaports, but since Russia sent troops into Ukraine, it has been forced to export by train or via its small Danube River ports.

UN food chief David Beasley appealed on Wednesday to Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying: "If you have any heart at all, please open these ports." Beasley's World Food Programme feeds some 125 million people and buys 50% of its grain from Ukraine.

Reuters 

May 19 2022 - 12:01

Russian rouble returns to gains as tax payments loom

The Russian rouble firmed past 63 against the dollar on Thursday, propped up by capital controls as well as looming tax payments that usually require extra conversion of foreign currency to roubles to meet local liabilities.

The rouble has become the best-performing currency this year despite a full-scale economic crisis, artificially supported by controls that Russia imposed in late February to shield its financial sector after it sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine.

At 0749 GMT, the rouble was up 0.8% at 62.95 to the dollar on the Moscow Exchange, closing in on levels previously seen in early 2020.

Against the euro, the rouble firmed 1.5% to 65.70 after a second-long move to 61.1075 at the market opening, which was likely caused by a trading error and became the rouble's strongest point since April 2017.

May 19 2022 - 11:29

Surging food prices fuel protests across developing world

The war in Ukraine and drought fuelled by climate change has sent global prices for grains, cooking oils, fuel and fertilizer soaring. 

Rising prices for basic food staples is fuelling protests from Indonesia to Iran.

European wheat prices have jumped 74% and benchmark palm oil futures went up 24% since January.

The trend is growing and is alarming policymakers, with United Nations agencies warning that the price hikes will worsen an existing food crisis in Africa and could cause "catastrophic" child malnutrition.

May 19 2022 - 11:19

Australia's gas producers cash in on global energy security fears

Gas producers in Australia are dusting off plans for new projects as Asian customers fret over energy security following Russia's invasion of Ukraine and seek gas with lower carbon credentials. 

With sanctions on Moscow stalling Russian liquefied natural gas (LNG) export projects, notably Arctic LNG 1 and 2, and boosting prices, exporters in Australia see an opportunity to beef up their position as suppliers of choice.

“It is a positive for the Australian projects as there's less competition from Russian projects which are low cost,” said Wood Mackenzie analyst Dan Toleman.

May 19 2022 - 11:09

Money for Ukraine tops G7 agenda; inflation, food a concern

Group of Seven financial leaders are likely to agree on Thursday and Friday to help Ukraine pay its bills in coming months, but surging inflation, climate change, supply chains and the impending food crisis are also on the agenda.

Finance ministers and central bank governors of the US, Japan, Canada, Britain, Germany, France and Italy — the G7 — are holding talks as Ukraine, invaded by Russia on Feb. 24, is struggling to fend off the attack and is running out of cash.

“We have to secure the liquidity of the Ukrainian state,” German Finance Minister Christian Lindner, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the group, told reporters on entering the talks.

“I am quite optimistic that we will be able at this G7 meeting to rise the funding which would allow Ukraine to defend itself over the next months,” he said.

May 19 2022 - 10:49

No nuclear arms or NATO bases on Finland's soil, PM tells paper

Finland does not want NATO to deploy nuclear weapons or set up military bases on its territory even if Finland becomes a member, the Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin told an Italian newspaper in an interview published on Thursday.

Finland and Sweden formally applied to join the NATO alliance on Wednesday, a decision spurred by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, but face objections from Turkey to an accession process that was originally expected to be relatively rapid.

Marin, on a visit in Rome to meet her Italian counterpart Mario Draghi, said she believed the matter could be solved through dialogue.

“I think at this stage it is important to stay calm, to have discussions with Turkey and all other member countries, answering questions that may exist and correcting any misunderstandings,” Marin told Italian daily Corriere della Sera.

May 19 2022 - 10:23

Poland says it will help Sweden, Finland if they attacked before NATO accession

Poland will assist Sweden and Finland, should they be attacked before obtaining NATO membership, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Thursday.

"I consider the accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO as an important signal of strengthening security in Europe," he said during a conference."

I want to make it clear that in the event of an attack on Sweden or Finland during their accession (process), Poland will come to their aid.

"Finland and Sweden formally applied to join the NATO alliance on Wednesday, a decision spurred by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and setting in motion an accession process that is expected to take only a few weeks. 

Reuters

May 19 2022 - 10:00

Russia says 771 Ukrainian fighters surrendered from Azovstal plant in last 24 hours -RIA

Russia's defence ministry on Thursday said 771 Ukrainian fighters had surrendered from the Azovstal steel works in Mariupol in the last 24 hours, taking the total to 1,730 since Monday, RIA reported on Thursday.

The ministry said 80 of those were wounded, RIA reported.

Hundreds of Ukrainian fighters have surrendered from the labyrinth of bunkers and tunnels below the plant, though Moscow and Kyiv have given different estimates on numbers. 

Reuters 

May 19 2022 - 09:50

Italy's Draghi calls for urgent ceasefire in Ukraine

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi called on Thursday for an urgent ceasefire in Ukraine so that serious negotiations can begin to end the war that began with Russia's invasion almost three months ago.

"A ceasefire must be achieved as soon as possible," Draghi told the upper house Senate in Rome, opening a debate on Italy's role in supporting Ukraine which is creating growing tensions in the premier's ruling majority.

Draghi said it was important to maintain pressure on Russia through economic sanctions "because we have to bring Moscow to the negotiating table."

Reuters 

May 19 2022 - 09:30

More than half of Ukrainian fighters have left Azovstal plant - TASS

More than half of the Ukrainian fighters who were inside Mariupol's Azovstal steel plant have now left, Russia's TASS news agency cited the leader of pro-Russian separatists in control of the area, Denis Pushilin, as saying on Thursday.

It was not immediately clear how many fighters Pushilin was referring to and Reuters could not immediately verify the claim. Ukraine and Russia have given conflicting accounts of how many fighters have left the plant. 

Reuters 

May 19 2022 - 09:12

Ex-striker Shevchenko becomes ambassador for Ukraine charity

Former Ukraine, Chelsea and AC Milan striker Andriy Shevchenko has a new goal - to help raise funds for rebuilding his country following Russia's invasion.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Shevchenko, whom he met in Kyiv on Wednesday, had been appointed the first ambassador of UNITED24, a fundraising initiative to collect donations for the "restoration and development" of Ukraine.

"Andriy, with his work and sporting achievements, gained great confidence on the international stage," Zelenskiy wrote on the Telegram messaging app."

And now he has a new mission – to tell the world about the events in Ukraine and direct his authority to increase international assistance to our state. I am sure that is all for you it will work!"

Shevchenko, now 45, is widely regarded as his country’s greatest ever player. He played for Ukraine 111 times, scoring 48 goals, and represented Dynamo Kyiv before playing abroad. He was coach of the national team for five years until last August.

Reuters 

May 19 2022 - 08:27

More than half of Ukrainian fighters have left Azovstal plant - TASS

More than half of the Ukrainian fighters who were inside Mariupol's Azovstal steel plant have now left, Russia's TASS news agency cited the leader of pro-Russian separatists in control of the area, Denis Pushilin, as saying on Thursday.

It was not immediately clear how many fighters Pushilin was referring to and Reuters could not immediately verify the claim. Ukraine and Russia have given conflicting accounts of how many fighters have left the plant. 

Reuters 

May 19 2022 - 06:53

'I mean Ukraine': Former US president George Bush calls Iraq invasion 'unjustified'

Former US President George W. Bush mistakenly described the invasion of Iraq as "brutal" and "unjustified" before correcting himself to say he meant to refer to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Bush made the comments in a speech during an event in Dallas on Wednesday, while he was criticizing Russia's political system.

"The result is an absence of checks and balances in Russia, and the decision of one man to launch a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq,” Bush said, before correcting himself and shaking his head. "I mean, of Ukraine."

He jokingly blamed the mistake on his age as the audience burst into laughter.

May 19 2022 - 06:20

Ukraine shells village in Russia's Kursk, killing one -regional governor

Ukrainian forces shelled a border village in Russia's western region of Kursk at dawn on Thursday, killing at least one civilian, regional governor Roman Starovoit said.

Shells have hit an alcohol factory in the village of Tyotkino and several other buildings, Starovoit wrote on messaging app Telegram. 

Reuters 

May 19 2022 - 06:10

US Senate confirms Biden's pick for ambassador to Ukraine

The US Senate on Wednesday confirmed career diplomat Bridget Brink to be ambassador to Ukraine, a critical post that has been vacant for three years.

Brink was confirmed by unanimous voice vote.

Reuters 

May 19 2022 - 06:00

Japan says to double fiscal support for Ukraine to $600m

Japan will double fiscal aid for Ukraine to $600 million in a coordinated move with the World Bank to back the country's near-term fiscal necessities damaged by Russia's invasion, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters on Thursday.

"Our country stands with Ukraine," Kishida said, adding Japan will emphasise its fundamental stance to provide strong support to Ukraine with other nations in next week's U.S.-Japan summit and broader Quad group meeting with Australia and India.

Japan, a member of the Group of Seven (G7) industrialised nations, had previously announced $300 million in loans to Ukraine in April.

Japan has also joined other G7 countries and allies in sanctioning Russia for what Moscow calls a special military operation in Ukraine, by freezing assets as well as banning certain export and import items, including energy resources.

Reuters 

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