Russian Forces Have Blocked All Evacuation Routes out of the City: Mariupol Official
An adviser to the Mariupol mayor said Wednesday that Russian forces have blocked all evacuation routes out of the city.
The adviser, Petro Andriushchenko, said there were few apartment buildings fit to live in after the weeks of bombardment and very little food or drinking water.
Andriushchenko said some residents who have remained in the city are cooperating with the Russian occupying forces in exchange for food.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Ukraine has offered to release Russian prisoners of war if Russia will allow the badly injured fighters to be evacuated from the Mariupol steel plant.
Russian forces have surrounded the plant, the last bastion of Ukrainian resistance in the southern port city.
Vereshchuk said no agreement has been reached but negotiations were underway. The fighters trapped in the plant have refused to surrender to the Russians, saying they fear being tortured or killed.
Ukraine to Hold First War Crimes Trial of Captured Russian
Ukraine’s top prosecutor disclosed plans Wednesday for the first war crimes trial of a captured Russian soldier, as fighting raged in the east and south and the Kremlin left open the possibility of annexing a corner of the country it seized early in the invasion.
Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova said her office charged Sgt. Vadin Shyshimarin, 21, in the killing of an unarmed 62-year-old civilian who was gunned down while riding a bicycle in February, four days into the war.
Shyshimarin, who served with a tank unit, was accused of firing through a car window on the man in the northeastern village of Chupakhivka. Venediktova said the soldier could get up to 15 years in prison. She did not say when the trial would start.
Venediktova’s office has said it has been investigating more than 10,700 alleged war crimes committed by Russian forces and has identified over 600 suspects.
Russia Sanctions Gazprom Germania Group
Russia has imposed blocking sanctions on the entire Gazprom Germania Group taken under control by the German government.
According to a Russian government decision published Wednesday, there are 31 companies on the list, most of which belong to the Gazprom Germania Group.
Germany’s Economy Ministry said it was assessing the impact of the announcement and awaiting further details.
The ministry said that German authorities, who took control of Gazprom Germany in April, are “making the necessary preparations for various scenarios.” It didn’t elaborate, but said that the gas supply in Germany is safe and constantly monitored.
Germany has received about 55 percent of its natural gas from Russia before the war, but has since reduced this share to 35 percent. The German government said it aims to wean the country off Russian gas by 2024 at the latest.
UN Nuclear Agency Says It Is Again Receiving Remote Data From the Chernobyl Power Plant
The U.N. nuclear agency says it is again receiving remote data from the Chernobyl power plant in Ukraine following an interruption caused by the Russian occupation of the site.
The International Atomic Energy Agency said late Wednesday that data transmission was re-established following a visit by its inspectors and technicians in April, after Russian forces withdrew.
The agency said it was the first time in two months that it has received remote data from all nuclear power plants and spent fuel storage facilities in Ukraine where monitoring systems are in place.
Its head, Rafael Mariano Grossi, said this was “a very important step for the IAEA to continue to implement safeguards in Ukraine.”
Civilian Death Blamed on Ukrainian Shelling
The governor of a Russian region near Ukraine says that at least one civilian has been killed and another six have been wounded in the Ukrainian shelling of a village close to the border.
Belgorod Gov. Vyacheslav Gladkov said that the village of Solokhi came under shelling from the Ukrainian side late Wednesday. He said that the village residents will be evacuated.
Gladkov’s account couldn’t be independently verified. Russian authorities in the regions near Ukraine have repeatedly reported incidents when border areas came under Ukrainian shelling.
Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry Accused Russia of Stealing Grain and Selling at Global Markets
Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry has accused Russia of stealing the country’s grain and trying to sell some of it on global markets.
The ministry said in Wednesday’s commentary that the stealing of Ukrainian grain amounts to looting.
It warned countries that purchase Russian grain that some of its shipments could contain the grain stolen from Ukraine, making its buyers possible accomplices.
The ministry cited official estimates indicating that Russia already may have stolen 400,000–500,000 metric tons of grain that cost over $100 million. It charged that “practically all ships leaving Sevastopol with a load of grain are carrying the grain stolen from Ukraine.”
It urged the global community to toughen the sanctions against Russia.
Zelenskyy Thanks the US for New $40 Billion Aid Package
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has thanked the United States for a new $40 billion aid package.
Speaking in Wednesday’s video address, Zelenskyy said that “these funds will be used quickly and without any red tape to strengthen defenses of Ukraine,” allowing it to get more weapons and equipment. He added that the U.S. assistance will also help investigate war crimes by Russia.
Zelenskyy noted that President Joe Biden signed a bill that drew on the 1941 Lend-Lease Act that provided U.S. weapons for the allies during World War II, helping defeat the Nazis. He emphasized that “we are defending freedom and right for life for all free peoples in the fight against tyranny that represents a threat to Europe, which isn’t smaller than 80 years ago.”
Zelenskyy voiced confidence that Ukraine will “fully liberate our land and our people.”
Putin Does Not Want to Take on NATO: Pentagon Chief
The United States does not believe that Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to militarily take on the NATO alliance, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Wednesday, as Moscow struggles to achieve its goals in Ukraine three months into its invasion.
“As you look at Putin’s calculus, my view—and I’m sure the chairman has his own view—but my view is that Russia doesn’t want to take on the NATO alliance,” Austin said during a congressional hearing.
Ukraine’s Zelenskyy Says He Spoke to Scholz, Discussed More Russia Sanctions
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday said he had spoken to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and discussed defensive aid, energy sector cooperation, and increasing sanctions on Russia.
“We appreciate the high level of dialogue with Germany and support in our struggle!” he said in a tweet.
Ukraine Proposes Swapping Injured Azovstal Defenders for Russia Prisoners
Ukraine has proposed to Russia that badly injured defenders in the Azovstal plant in the port of Mariupol be swapped for Russian prisoners of war, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on Wednesday.
“There is no agreement yet. Negotiations are continuing,” she said in an online post.
Ukrainian General: Russia Still Wants Kyiv
A Ukrainian general says that Russia hasn’t abandoned hopes to capture the Ukrainian capital.
Brig. Gen. Oleksiy Hromov said at Wednesday’s briefing that the Russians harbor plans to take control over the southern Mykolaiv and Odessa regions to build a land corridor to the Transnistria separatist region of Moldova and also try to storm Kyiv.
Hromov said that Russia still hopes to capture more Ukrainian territories and call a sham vote to make them part of Russia. He added that such Russian plans will be foiled by the Ukrainian resistance.
The Russian forces tried to capture the Ukrainian capital in the first weeks of the invasion, but have pulled back after facing staunch Ukrainian defenses and shifted their focus on the country’s east, where Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces since 2014.
Italy’s Premier Pushes for Talks to End War
Ukraine’s leaders must start shaping their terms for an acceptable peace deal, especially in light of Russia’s surprising failure to win its war outright, Italy’s premier said Wednesday.
Draghi spoke after meeting with President Joe Biden on Tuesday. Draghi says he urged Biden to push to get all key players, including the United States and Russia, into talks to end the war.
But any rush to close a peace deal that leaves Ukrainians angry and resentful risks a return to fighting, the Italian leader said Wednesday.
“We have to remove any thought that we can reach an imposed peace,” Draghi said. “That is a recipe for disaster.”
Germany to Train Ukraine on Artillery System
The German army says it has begun training Ukrainian soldiers to use a powerful artillery system that Germany and the Netherlands plan to supply to Ukraine.
The Defense Ministry said 18 crews are being trained to use the Panzerhaubitze 2000, an advanced, self-propelled howitzer.
“This is a clear sign of our solidarity,” the ministry said. “But Germany won’t become a party to the conflict because of the training or delivery” of the howitzers.
Donetsk Separatists Celebrated Self-Proclaimed Independence From Ukraine
Separatists in Donetsk on Wednesday celebrated the eighth anniversary of self-proclaimed independence from Ukraine.
Constitution square in the city center was renamed after a Russian officer who was among the first Russian servicemen killed in the special military operation.
The head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, Denis Pushilin, and Engels Gadzhimagomedov, the father of the killed officer, installed a new street sign. Local residents who support the pro-Russian separatists came to lay flowers.
“The Day of Donetsk People’s Republic” was celebrated without the usual mass events this year due to security reasons.
Czech President Approved Request for Czechs to Join Ukraine’s Armed Forces
Czech President Milos Zeman has approved a request of 103 Czechs to join Ukraine’s armed forces to help them fight Russian aggression.
Czech citizens are typically banned from service in foreign armies, which is a crime punishable by a prison term of up to five years.
Those 103 belong to a total of some 400 Czechs who have applied for an exemption from the ban, according to the Defense Ministry. The authorities still have to process most of the requests.
It’s not clear how many Czech have already been fighting on the Ukrainian side against invading Russian troops.
The president’s approval has to be co-signed by Prime Minister Petr Fiala who said through his spokesman he would sign all requests that have been approved by the Czech authorities.
German Government Dismissed Claims It Might Activate the Nord Stream 2 Pipeline for Gas Compensation
The German government has dismissed suggestions that it might activate the Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia to Germany to compensate for reduced flows via Ukraine.
A spokeswoman for the Energy Ministry said Wednesday that Germany is currently receiving a quarter less gas through Ukraine after Ukrainian authorities shut down a pipeline saying it no longer controls a key compressor station that’s in Russian hands.
Annika Einhorn, the ministry spokeswoman, said the shortfall is being partly compensated for through increased supplies from Norway and the Netherlands.
“Nord Stream 2 has really died after Russian attacked Ukraine and nobody is thinking about switching to that,” she said.
She also noted that the majority of Russian gas reaches Germany through a sister pipeline, Nord Stream 1, rather than via Ukraine.
Ukraine Cuts Russian Gas Flow, Underlining Risk to Supply
Ukraine’s natural gas pipeline operator said it would stop Russian shipments through a hub in a part of eastern Ukraine controlled by Moscow-backed separatists because of interference from enemy forces, including the apparent siphoning off of gas.
The hub handles about one-third of Russian gas passing through Ukraine to Western Europe. But the immediate effect of the cutoff is likely to be limited since much of the gas can be directed through another pipeline, said gas analyst Zongqiang Luo at Rystad Energy.
Preliminary flow data suggested that was already happening, though Russia’s state-owned giant Gazprom indicated the amount of gas flowing to Europe through Ukraine was down 25 percent from the day before.
European gas futures seesawed on the news, meaning consumers may face higher energy bills at a time of already rising prices.
The cutoff highlights the broader risk to gas supplies in the war and holds symbolic significance as the first time Ukraine has disrupted the flow westward.
Russian Ship With Ukraine Grain Reaches Syria
Satellite photos analyzed by The Associated Press show a Russian ship believed to be carrying stolen Ukrainian grain has docked in Syria.
The photo taken Tuesday by Planet Labs PBC showed the Russian-flagged Matros Pozynich at dockside in Latakia, Syria. The ship seen in the photo matched known characteristics of the bulk carrier, as well as its dimensions. The ship turned off its transponders nearly a week ago off the island of Cyprus in the Mediterranean Sea.
Ukraine has said the ship had 27,000 tons of grain Russia stole from the country. It alleged Russia initially tried to ship the grains to Egypt, which refused to take the cargo.
Ukrainian diplomats had been asking nations not to accept the grain.
Russia’s Medvedev, Volodin Lash Out at US Aid to Ukraine
Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev accused the United States on Wednesday of waging a “proxy war” against Russia after the House of Representatives approved a $40 billion aid package for Ukraine, and said the U.S. economy would suffer.
Writing on the messenger app Telegram, Medvedev said that the bill approved by the House on Tuesday was a bid “to deal a serious defeat to our country and limit its economic development and political influence in the world.”
Medvedev said: “It won’t work. The printing press by which America is constantly increasing its already inflated government debt will break faster.”
Medvedev, who has served as deputy chairman of Russia’s security council since resigning as prime minister in January 2020, blamed “insane” prices for U.S. fuel and groceries on what he called America’s “Russophobic authorities.”
Also writing on Telegram, Russia’s State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin accused Washington of using the aid package to “indebt” Ukraine and of appropriating the country’s grain reserves in lieu of payment.
Russia Says It Is Closely Watching NATO Configuration on Borders
Russia is closely watching anything that can affect NATO’s configuration on its borders, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said, in response to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson visiting Sweden and Finland on Wednesday.
Both Sweden and Finland are expected to make decisions this month on whether to apply to join the Western military alliance.
Official: Plans for Kherson Annexation
A Russia-installed official in Ukraine’s Kherson region says the region’s administration will ask Russian President Vladimir Putin to annex the region.
The deputy head of the Russia-installed administration in Kherson, Kirill Stremousov, told reporters on Wednesday that there are no plans to create a self-proclaimed “Kherson People’s Republic,” akin to the ones in Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine. But, he said, there are plans to ask Putin to annex it.
“The city of Kherson is Russia,” Stremousov was quoted as saying by the state RIA Novosti news agency. “There will be no (Kherson People’s Republic) on the territory of the Kherson region, there will be no referendums. It will be a decree based on an appeal from the Kherson regional leadership to the Russian president, and there will be a request to include the region into a proper region of the Russian Federation.”
Russian Separatists Say There Are No Civilians Left at Azovstal Plant: TASS
The leader of Ukraine’s Russian-backed breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic said on Wednesday there were no civilians left at the Azovstal steel plant in the occupied Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, TASS news agency reported.
“According to our information, there are no civilians left there. Consequently, our units’ hands are no longer tied,” TASS quoted Denis Pushilin, whose separatist forces have taken part in the assault on Mariupol, as saying.
Ukraine said on Tuesday that Russian forces were bombarding the steelworks, where a local official said at least 100 civilians were still holed up. Scores of wounded fighters are also believed to be in the bombed-out plant.
Lavrov Says Russia Has Enough Energy Buyers Apart From West
Russia has enough buyers for its energy resources outside of Western countries, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday, as European Union countries try to sharply reduce their reliance on Russian oil and gas.
“Let the West pay more than it used to pay to the Russian Federation, and let it explain to its population why they should become poorer,” Lavrov said at a news conference in Muscat after talks with his Omani counterpart.
Ukrainian Officials: Russian Rocket Targeted the Area Around the City of Zaporizhzhia
Ukrainian officials say a Russian rocket attack targeted the area around the city of Zaporizhzhia.
The city’s military administration say the rocket exploded Wednesday over the city, destroying infrastructure, but it didn’t say just what was destroyed.
There were no immediate reports of deaths or injuries from the blast.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Visited the Gulf Arab State of Oman
Russia’s foreign minister has made a surprise visit to the Gulf Arab state of Oman for meetings with officials about Moscow’s war on Ukraine.
Sergey Lavrov briefed Sultan Haitham bin Tariq Al Said on the war Wednesday in Muscat, Oman’s state-run news agency reported.
Sultan Haitham stressed the need to adhere to international law and intensify efforts to achieve a diplomatic solution to the crisis “in a manner that preserves the independence, sovereignty and coexistence of countries and peoples,” the statement added.
Oman, a country of 4.6 million on the Arabian Peninsula, has long served as an island of neutrality in a region torn by sectarian and political conflicts. Sultan Haitham has continued the policies of his predecessor in pursuing quiet diplomacy to help resolve international crises.
Russia Says It Repelled Ukrainian Attempts to Reclaim Snake Island
Russia’s defense ministry on Tuesday said it had repelled Ukrainian efforts to reclaim Snake Island in the Black Sea and had inflicted heavy losses in terms of men, vessels, and aircraft in doing so.
It was not possible to independently verify the claims. Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said earlier on Tuesday in a YouTube interview that Ukraine was not trying to recapture Snake (Zmiinyi) Island as it was far easier to continue hitting Russian targets there.
Russia said Ukrainian forces had attempted to retake the island on May 8, the eve of Russia’s Victory Day anniversary celebrations over Nazi Germany in World War Two.
“This adventure ended in disaster for Ukraine,” said Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov.
Ukraine’s Pipeline Operator to Stop Russian Natural Gas Flow
Ukraine’s natural gas pipeline operator said it would stop Russian shipments through its Novopskov hub in a part of eastern Ukraine controlled by Moscow-backed separatists.
It said the hub handles about a third of the Russian gas passing through the country to Western Europe, although Russia’s state-owned natural gas giant Gazprom put the figure at about a quarter.
The operator, which also complained about interference along the route last month, said it will stop the flow starting Wednesday because of interference from “occupying forces,” including the apparent siphoning of gas. It said Russia could reroute affected shipments through Ukraine’s other main hub, Sudzha, in a northern part of the country controlled by Ukraine.
Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov said Ukraine’s rerouting request would be “technologically impossible” and that the company sees no grounds for Ukraine’s decision.
House Approves $40 Billion in Ukraine Aid
The U.S. House emphatically approved a fresh $40 billion Ukraine aid package Tuesday as lawmakers beefed up President Joe Biden’s initial request, signaling a magnified, bipartisan commitment to thwart Russian President Vladimir Putin’s bloody three-month-old invasion.
The measure sailed to passage by a lopsided 368–57 margin, providing $7 billion more than Biden’s request from April and dividing the increase evenly between defense and humanitarian programs.
The bill would give Ukraine military and economic assistance, help regional allies, replenish weapons the Pentagon has shipped overseas and provide $5 billion to address global food shortages caused by the war’s crippling of Ukraine’s normally robust production of many crops.
The new legislation would bring American support for the effort to nearly $54 billion, including the $13.6 billion in support Congress enacted in March.
That’s about $6 billion more than the U.S. spent on all its foreign and military aid in 2019, according to a January report by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, which studies issues for lawmakers.
Belarus to Deploy Special Forces to Southern Border Near Ukraine
Belarus will deploy special operations troops in three areas near its southern border with Ukraine, the armed forces said on Tuesday as President Alexander Lukashenko talked up the role of Russian-made missiles in boosting the country’s defenses.
A close ally of Russia, Belarus said in March that its armed forces were not taking part in what Moscow calls its “special operation” in Ukraine, but it did serve as a launchpad for Russia to send thousands of troops across the border on Feb. 24.
Minsk has complained for months about NATO countries amassing soldiers near its borders—Poland, Lithuania and Latvia are all members of the alliance—and is increasing the amount and intensity of its own military exercises in response.
“The United States and its allies continue to build up their military presence on the state borders of the Republic of Belarus,” Chief of General Staff Viktor Gulevich said. “The established grouping has more than doubled in the past six months in quantity and quality.”
Belarus is also deploying air defense, artillery, and missile units for drills in the west, Gulevich said.
Maryland Sending Supplies and Armor to Odesa
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced the shipment of a multimillion-dollar aid package to Odesa, Ukraine, on Tuesday, including medical supplies and body armor.
The Maryland Department of Health is donating more than 485,000 bandages and wound care supplies, 95 Eternity mechanical ventilators for intensive care units, and 50 Astral portable ventilators, the governor’s office said.
The package also includes nearly 200 pieces of body armor, including tactical vests and shields, which have been donated by the Maryland State Police.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.