UKRAINE WRAP | Evacuations from Sievierodonetsk 'not possible'

31 May 2022 - 10:25 By TimesLIVE
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Two Ukrainian soldiers enjoy a tender off-duty moment near the village of Stoyanka on May 30 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine.
Two Ukrainian soldiers enjoy a tender off-duty moment near the village of Stoyanka on May 30 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine.
Image: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

May 31 2022 - 20:33

Pope leads international prayer service for peace in Ukraine, elsewhere

Pope Francis led an international prayer service for peace in Ukraine and other places stricken by war on Tuesday, sitting in his wheelchair before a statue that Romans traditionally associate with peace.

The 85-year-old pope visited the Rome basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore and prayed before the statue of Mary Queen of Peace. Pope Benedict XV commissioned the work in 1918 to ask God to end World War One.

Worshippers in shrines in Ukraine, Iraq, Syria and other countries were connected by video and Catholics around the world were asked to pray at the same time.

About 1,000 attended the service in Rome, including the Ukrainian ambassador to the Vatican and a number of people wearing the blue and yellow colours of the Ukrainian flag.

Before praying the rosary, Francis asked Mary, who in Christianity is revered as the Mother of God, to "reconcile hearts that are full of violence and vendetta".

Francis, who has made numerous appeals for peace in Ukraine since Russia invaded its neighbour in February, is suffering from knee pain and has been using a wheelchair for the past few weeks.

As he was leaving the church, he stopped to greet other people in wheelchairs, including a boy wearing a Ukrainian flag around his neck. 


May 31 2022 - 19:40

Russian forces control most of Sievierodonetsk, says Ukraine regional governor

Russian forces now control most of the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk but have not surrounded it, the governor of Ukraine's Luhansk province said on Tuesday after days of fighting.

Serhiy Gaidai said in an online post that Russian shelling had made it impossible to deliver humanitarian supplies or evacuate people.


May 31 2022 - 16:31

Jailed Kremlin critic Navalny says new criminal case opened against him

Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny said on Tuesday he had been charged in a new criminal case and faced up to 15 years in prison if found guilty. In a post on Instagram, Navalny said he had been charged with creating an extremist organisation and inciting hate towards the authorities.

The charge comes on top of a nine-year sentence he received in March for fraud and contempt of court, before which he was already serving a two-and-a-half-year sentence.


May 31 2022 - 16:29

Government extends temporary reduction in the general fuel levy

The continuing Russia/Ukraine conflict, numerous supply chain bottlenecks and a tightening of global monetary policy have led to further unfavourable changes in the two key drivers of the regulated petrol price — the exchange rate and the global oil price.

May 31 2022 - 16:25

SA is paying nearly 12% more for food than last year

The war in Ukraine has contributed to South Africans forking out nearly 12% more for basic food items compared to a year ago.

May 31 2022 - 15:15

Czech ministry summons Russian ambassador over diplomatic properties

The Czech foreign ministry summoned Russia's ambassador on Tuesday to express concerns about the use of Russian diplomatic properties. The Czech Republic expelled around 100 Russian embassy staff last year in a diplomatic row over Prague's accusations of Russian involvement in a 2014 explosion at an arms depot, and the government has been one of the toughest advocates of sanctions against Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine.

"Diplomatic missions on the territory of a foreign state must respect not only the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, but also the rules and laws of the host country," foreign minister Jan Lipavsky said in a statement. "Russia does not do this and does not respect the rule of law," the ministry's statement added, without providing further details.

Russia's Embassy in Prague said it disagreed with the statements, saying usage of Russian real estate in the Czech Republic and Czech real estate in Russia had been a matter of expert discussions for a number of years, and the Czech side had ignored proposals to hold a next round of talks. "It would be appropriate to refrain from politicisation of and drawing media attention to this sphere of our mutual relations and return to a well-proven negotiation process," it said on its Facebook page.

CTK news agency reported that a newly created working group to deal with properties owned by Russia had found dozens of properties that raised doubts whether they were still used for diplomatic activities. It gave no further details.Earlier this year, the district of Prague where the Russian embassy is located requested that a Russian school building — unused since the Czechs expelled the Russian diplomats last year — be made available for Ukrainian refugee children. It was not clear if this building was among those that had raised concerns.


May 31 2022 - 13:20

Russia's Lavrov to meet Gulf ministers in Riyadh on Wednesday: officials

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov will visit Saudi Arabia on Wednesday where he will meet foreign ministers from Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, two Gulf officials said on Tuesday.

Lavrov, who was in Bahrain on Tuesday, is expected to meet ministers from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain in the GCC headquarters in Riyadh, the officials said, asking not to be named.

The focus of the talks was not clear, although the officials said the six Gulf ministers would also hold an online meeting with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba later on Wednesday. They declined to give details.

Gulf states have stayed neutral in the Russia-Ukraine conflict despite Western calls to help isolate Moscow. Oman's foreign minister said in remarks published by his ministry on Saturday that the crisis required a European solution and that a posture of "you are with us or against us" would not work.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with his Saudi counterpart Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud by phone on Monday, underscoring the importance of international support for Ukraine, the US State Department said.

Lavrov's visit will take place a day before a meeting in Vienna of OPEC+, an oil alliance that includes Gulf producers and Russia. OPEC+ is set to stick to last year's deal that will see another modest monthly output increase by the group in July.

Saudi Arabia and other members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries have so far resisted pressure from the United States to boost crude output more sharply to prices which have rocketed higher, partly due to the Ukraine crisis. Riyadh says high oil prices are caused by geopolitics, stretched refining capacities and higher taxes in the Western world rather than supply concerns.

US President Joe Biden and his team have been considering making a stop in Saudi Arabia and Israel after he travels to summits in Germany and Spain in late June, sources have said. Two senior US officials visited Saudi Arabia last week for talks that covered energy and other issues but did not include calls for boosting Saudi oil exports, the White House said.


May 31 2022 - 13:15

IN PICS | EU leaders meet in Brussels

May 31 2022 - 10:54

Turkey, Russia to discuss Ukraine exports corridor in talks on June 8

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov will come to Turkey with a military delegation on June 8 to discuss creating a potential sea corridor for Ukrainian agricultural exports, Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Tuesday.

In a phone call with Turkey's Tayyip Erdogan on Monday, President Vladimir Putin said Russia was ready to facilitate the unhindered export of grain from Ukrainian ports in coordination with Turkey.

Speaking to the state-owned Anadolu news agency, Cavusoglu said work was still under way with the United Nations to reach an agreement on creating the corridor from the Black Sea, but that issues between Moscow and Kyiv remained. He said the UN had proposed forming a joint observation mechanism to monitor the shipping route, and that Turkey was open to the idea.

He said Russia wanted some Western sanctions targeting its insurance sector lifted, as it would impact the ships that will participate in the potential shipping network, while Ukraine did not want Russian warships to approach its docks in Odesa.


May 31 2022 - 10:51

Russian rouble weakens past 63 vs dollar after EU sanctions

The Russian rouble firmed past 61 against the dollar on Tuesday but soon slipped back towards 64 as capital controls provided support and concerns about new European sanctions dragged the market lower.

European Union leaders agreed in principle on Monday to cut 90% of oil imports from Russia by the year-end and on other sanctions, such as cutting Sberbank from the SWIFT transaction network, to punish Moscow for its intervention in Ukraine.

At 7.32am GMT, the rouble was 1.5% weaker against the dollar at 63.09. Last Wednesday it had hit 55.80 to the dollar, its strongest since February 2018, before falling to 66.70 by the end of the week. Against the euro, the rouble eased 0.6% to 64.71 , having last Wednesday hit a seven-year high of 57.10, at the peak of month-end tax payments that usually prompt export-focused companies to convert foreign currency to meet liabilities.

Boosted by capital controls, the rouble had risen to become the world's best-performing currency so far this year until last week's slide. New gas payment terms for EU consumers that require conversion of foreign currency into roubles and a fall in imports have also supported the rouble.

Russian stock indexes were down.


May 31 2022 - 10:45

How the Ukraine war is putting millions at risk in insurgent-hit Africa

A small charity broke ground this year on a clinic in northern Burkina Faso to care for thousands of women and children who have fled Islamist insurgents wreaking havoc along the fringes of the Sahara.

But when Russia invaded Ukraine in February, global supply chains buckled and the cost of building materials, fuel and food spiked in West Africa. The charity’s founder, Boukary Ouedraogo, was forced to make a tough decision: he halted construction of the clinic with only the foundations laid.

Similar calls are being made across sub-Saharan Africa, where aid projects are threatened by the fallout from the war in Ukraine, potentially putting millions of lives at risk.

May 31 2022 - 10:30

Kalush Orchestra makes it crystal clear that its money’s on the military

Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra, which won the Eurovision Song Contest earlier this month, raised $900,000 (about R14m) for the country’s military by selling the contest’s trophy.

The group won Eurovision with Stefania, surfing a wave of public support to claim an emotional victory that was welcomed by the country’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

On Sunday the band sold the crystal microphone it was awarded in a Facebook auction led by Ukrainian TV presenter Serhiy Prytula.

May 31 2022 - 10:00

Evacuations from Sievierodonetsk not possible at present - city administration

Ukraine is still in control of Sievierodonetsk city and its soldiers are fighting slowly advancing Russian troops but evacuations of civilians are not currently possible, the head of the city's administration said on Tuesday.


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