Ukraine Preparing 41 Russian War Crimes Cases
Ukraine’s prosecutor general said Friday that her office was readying 41 war crimes cases against Russian soldiers.
“We have 41 suspects in cases with which we will be ready to go to court. All of them concern Article 438 of the [Ukrainian] criminal code on war crimes, but different types of war crimes. There is the bombing of civilian infrastructure, the killing of civilians, rape, and looting,” Iryna Venediktova said in a live briefing on Ukrainian TV on Friday evening.
It was not immediately clear how many of the suspects would be tried in absentia.
Friday marked the first war crime prosecution of a member of the Russian military in Kyiv, as a 21-year-old Russian soldier went on trial for the killing of an unarmed Ukrainian civilian in the early days of the war.
Venediktova said that two more of the suspects, who are physically in Ukraine, are likely to face preliminary hearings next week.
Shelling in Donetsk Region Kills 1, Harms 12
One civilian was killed and twelve more people were injured in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region as a result of Russian shelling, the regional governor said Friday.
The Donetsk region, one of two that make up the Donbas, has seen some of the war’s fiercest fighting in recent weeks, as Moscow mounts an offensive to capture Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland.
“On May 13, the Russians killed one more civilian of Donbas—in [the city of] Avdiivka. 12 more people were injured today as a result of Russian shelling,” Pavlo Kyrylenko wrote on Telegram.
Turkey Not Supportive of NATO Membership for Finland, Sweden: Erdogan
“We’re following the developments regarding Sweden and Finland, but we don’t hold positive views,” Erdogan told reporters.
He criticized the Scandinavian countries as “guesthouses” for terrorist organizations and implied that some terrorists are in the parliament in some countries.
“It is not possible for us to be in favor,” he added.
Erdogan also said that allowing Greece to join NATO was a mistake that he doesn’t want to repeat with Finland and Sweden.
Turkey has repeatedly slammed Sweden and other Western European countries for their handling of organizations deemed terrorist organizations by Ankara, including the Kurdish militant groups PKK and YPG, and the followers of U.S.-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen.
Azov Regiment’s Deputy Commander: Troops Will Resist Moscow’s Forces ‘As Long as They Can’
The deputy commander of the Azov Regiment, the last Ukrainian army unit holding out in the ruined port of Mariupol, said on Friday that his troops will resist Moscow’s forces “as long as they can,” despite shortages of ammunition, food, water, and medicine.
Speaking during an online session of the Kyiv Security Forum, Sviatoslav Palamar said Russian forces continued to storm the Azovstal steelworks, the last bastion of Ukrainian resistance in Mariupol, where his forces are hunkered down.
“We continue to resist and follow the order of our senior political leaders to hold the defense. We are holding the defense and continue fighting despite everything,” he said.
Ukraine Says Russian Army Continued Its Strategic Offensive in the Country’s East
The Ukrainian army said in its daily operational statement Friday that the Russian army continued its strategic offensive in the country’s east, attacking new towns and villages.
Russian troops were engaging their Ukrainian opponents with live fire near the Rubezhnoye settlement, near the strategic city of Severodonetsk in Ukraine’s Donbas, the Ukrainian military’s general staff said in a Facebook post published on its official profile.
Analysts say that fighting in the Sevedononetsk area is critical to securing control over the Donbas, Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland, which is made up of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
On Friday, Russian troops unsuccessfully stormed the towns of Zolote and Kamyshevakha, the Ukrainian military said.
It added that Moscow’s forces were firing artillery at the strategically important settlements of Kamenka and Novoselivka. The military also said that Russia continued shelling Ukrainian positions in Mariupol, near the Azovstal steel plant where Kyiv’s troops continue to hold out.
The accuracy of these claims could not be immediately verified.
US Accuses Russia of Using UN Security Council to Spout Disinformation, Conspiracy Theories About Biological Weapons in Ukraine
The United States is again accusing Russia of using the U.N. Security Council to spout disinformation and conspiracy theories about biological weapons in Ukraine to distract from its brutal war against its smaller neighbor.
U.S. deputy ambassador Richard Mills called the Russian claims of alleged U.S. involvement in a biological weapons program “categorically false and ludicrous.”
He warned the council Friday that Moscow’s actions follow a pattern of accusing others of violations it has perpetrated or intends to perpetrate, adding that they need to be watched closely “for the possibility of a false flag chemical or biological attack by Russia’s forces.”
Italy Will Hold Meeting Next Month on Food Crisis Triggered by War in Ukraine
Italy will hold a ministerial level meeting next month involving fellow Mediterranean countries in an effort to head off a food crisis triggered by the war in Ukraine.
Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio told reporters in Germany on Friday on the sidelines of a G-7 foreign ministers’ meeting that next month’s gathering will deal with how to diversify food sources to “head off a food crisis that can lead to famines and can lead to ever more massive migratory flows.’’
Di Maio didn’t announce a date but said that the Rome-based U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization would be involved in the initiative.
In First Since Ukraine Invasion, Pentagon Chief Speaks With Russian Counterpart
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin called for an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine when he spoke by telephone to his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu on Friday for the first time since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Pentagon said.
Austin has tried multiple times to try and talk with Shoigu since the invasion started nearly three months ago, but officials said Moscow had appeared uninterested.
Austin stressed the importance of maintaining lines of communication, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.
Russia’s TASS news agency quoted the Russian defense ministry as saying that the call happened “at the initiative of the American side”.
“Topical issues of international security were discussed, including the situation in Ukraine,” TASS said, quoting the ministry.
The United States and Russia have established a hotline since the invasion—which Moscow calls a “special military operation”—to prevent miscalculation and any widening of the conflict.
Ukraine Defense Chief: No Swift End in Sight
Ukraine’s defense minister admitted Friday that there was no swift end to the war with Russia in sight.
Writing on social media, Oleksii Reznikov said that Western weapons would take some time to begin turning the tide in Ukraine’s favor.
“We are entering a new—long-term—phase of the war,” Reznikov said in a Facebook post. “Extremely difficult weeks await us. How many there will be—no one can say for sure.”
He added that Russia was unable to sweep across Ukraine and capture its capital, and is now “forced to reduce the scale of its targets down to the operational-tactical level.”
“We are witnessing a strategic turning point in favor of Ukraine. This process will last for some time,” he said.
Natural Gas Prices Rose Friday After Russian Gazprom Stops Supplies to Europe via a Pipeline in Poland
Natural gas prices rose Friday after Russian state-owned exporter Gazprom said it would no longer send supplies to Europe via a pipeline in Poland, citing new sanctions that Moscow imposed on European energy companies. The move doesn’t immediately block large amounts of natural gas to Europe but intensifies fears that the war in Ukraine will lead to wide-ranging cutoffs.
Gazprom said Thursday that it would ban the use of the Yamal pipeline that reaches Germany through Poland. While that cuts off a supply route to Europe, the pipeline’s entry point to Germany has not been used in recent months. Plus, Gazprom has already cut off gas to Poland for refusing to meet Moscow’s demand to make payments in rubles.
“A ban is in place on making transactions with and payments to persons under sanctions. In particular, for Gazprom, this means a ban on the use of a gas pipeline owned by (the Polish company) EuRoPol GAZ to transport Russian gas through Poland,” Gazprom representative Sergey Kupriyanov wrote in a Telegram post.
The fear is that gas disputes and cutoffs will keep escalating amid the war in Ukraine. Last month, Gazprom said it had completely cut off natural gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria over the rubles dispute.
Russian Air Forces Hit Arms Depot in Ukraine’s Kharkiv Region: RIA
Russian air forces have attacked an arms depot in Ukraine’s Kharkiv region, state news agency RIA quoted the Russian Defence Ministry as saying on Friday.
US Says Working to Clarify Turkey’s Position on Sweden, Finland NATO Bid
The United States is working to clarify Turkey’s position on Sweden and Finland’s potential membership to NATO, the top U.S. diplomat for Europe at the State Department said on Friday after Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said Ankara is not supportive of the two countries’ bid to join the alliance.
Erdogan said it was not possible for NATO-member Turkey to support plans by Sweden and Finland to join the pact given that the Nordic countries were “home to many terrorist organizations”.
In a call with reporters, Karen Donfried, Assistant Secretary for Europe and Eurasian Affairs at the State Department, said the topic will be discussed at the NATO ministerial meeting over the weekend in Berlin as foreign ministers from Turkey, Sweden, and Finland among others will be attending.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken also will attend the NATO meeting in Berlin. It was not immediately clear if he would be holding a bilateral meeting with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu.
“In terms of the comments President Erdogan has made, we’re working to clarify Turkey’s position,” Donfried said.
Though Turkey has officially supported NATO enlargement since it joined the U.S.-led alliance 70 years ago, its opposition could pose a problem for Sweden and Finland given new members need unanimous agreement.
Russian Inflation Jumps to 17.83 Percent in April, Highest Since Early 2002
Consumer inflation in Russia accelerated in April to 17.83 percent in year-on-year terms, its highest level since January 2002, data showed on Friday, as it got a boost from the volatile rouble and unprecedented western sanctions that disrupted logistics chains.
But monthly inflation slowed to 1.56 percent in April from 7.61 percent in March when it staged the biggest month-on-month increase since January 1999, data from the federal statistics service Rosstat showed.
Inflation in Russia has accelerated sharply after Russia began what it calls “a special military operation” in Ukraine on Feb. 24.
Olaf Scholz Spoke With Putin by Phone
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has spoken with Russian President Vladimir Putin by phone, the first time the two have spoken since late March.
The 75-minute call on Friday “focused on the ongoing war in Ukraine and efforts to end it,” according to German government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit.
Scholz urged Putin to reach a ceasefire agreement with Ukraine as soon as possible and to improve the humanitarian situation on the ground, he said
The German leader also “clearly rejected the (Kremlin) accusation that Nazism was widespread in Ukraine,” according to Hebestreit.
Moldova Says Some in Breakaway Transdniestria Trying to Destabilize Region
There are internal elements in Moldova’s pro-Russian separatist region that are trying to destabilize the area and stoke tensions, Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu said on Friday, as his country presses ahead with efforts to join the European Union.
Fears have increased in recent days that Moldova could be drawn into the conflict in neighboring Ukraine after pro-Russian separatists in Moldova’s Transdniestria region blamed Kyiv for what they said were shootings, explosions, and cross-border drone incursions.
Speaking in an interview with Reuters on the sidelines of a G7 foreign ministers meeting in northern Germany, Popescu said he could not apportion blame, but said it was clear the recent explosions were taking place as a result of the war in Ukraine.
“We want to solve the Transdniestria conflict through peaceful dialogue and diplomacy. What we see is that absolute majority of citizens in the Transdniestrian region doesn’t want to live in a war zone and want peace, but there are forces inside that want to fuel destabilization,” he said.
“They are limited, but want to play games stoking up tensions, provoking, (making) the population of Transdniestria hysterical and making nervous the population of Moldova. There are internal forces that want to destabilize this region and bring war closer to our homes. We are working to make sure this is not happening.”
Moldova, a tiny, mainly Romanian-speaking country wedged between Romania and Ukraine, has faced an unresolved separatist conflict for 30 years.
Helsinki Urges Patience After Turkey Says Not Supportive of Finland Joining NATO
Finland’s Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto urged patience on Friday and called for a step-by-step approach in response to Turkish resistance to Finnish and Swedish NATO membership.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan earlier said NATO member Turkey could not support Finnish and Swedish plans to join the alliance, erecting a potential stumbling block as membership requires unanimous backing from all 30 member states.
“We need some patience in this type of process, it’s not happening in one day … Let’s take issues step-by-step,” Haavisto told reporters.
Turkey’s President Says His Country Is ‘Not Favorable’ to Finland and Sweden Joining NATO
Turkey’s president says his country is “not favorable” to Finland and Sweden joining NATO, as they are considering doing.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan cited as a reason for his stance the alleged support by Sweden and other Scandinavian countries for Kurdish militants and other groups considered by Ankara to be terrorists.
“Scandinavian countries are acting like a guesthouse for terrorist organizations, including the PKK and the DHKP-C,” he said Friday, in reference to the Kurdish and leftist militant groups.
He also accused fellow NATO Greece of using the alliance against Turkey, saying Ankara did not want a repeat of that “mistake.”
Russian Court Fines Radio Liberty Nearly $200,000 Over ‘Fakes’: Interfax
A Moscow court has fined U.S.-backed broadcaster Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) 12.8 million roubles ($196,621) for not deleting what Russia calls “fake” content about its operation in Ukraine, Interfax news agency reported on Friday.
Russia’s communications watchdog blocked websites of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and some other foreign media in early March.
Ukraine Accuses Russia of Forcibly Deporting Over 210,000 Children
Ukraine said on Friday Russia had forcibly deported more than 210,000 children since its invasion on Feb. 24 and accused Moscow of wanting to make them Russian citizens.
Human rights ombudswoman Lyudmyla Denisova said the children were among 1.2 million Ukrainians who Kyiv says have been deported against their will.
Reuters could not independently verify the figure given by Denisova or her allegations, for which she did not provide supporting evidence.
The Kremlin did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment on Denisova’s allegations concerning the deportation of large numbers of children and other Ukrainian nationals.
Moscow has denied intentionally targeting civilians since launching what it calls a special military operation in Ukraine and says it is offering humanitarian aid to those who want to leave Russia.
Russia Expels 10 Romanian Diplomats in Tit-for-Tat Move
Russia on Friday expelled 10 Romanian diplomats in response to similar expulsions by Bucharest.
Moscow’s foreign ministry added that it rejected Romanian attempts to blame Russia for alleged war crimes in Ukraine.
In a separate statement, the ministry said a member of the Bulgarian embassy was also being expelled.
EU Plans to Give Ukraine Almost 500 Million Euros for Heavy Weapons
The European Union is planning to give Ukraine almost 500 million euros ($520 million) to buy heavy weapons that will help fend off Russia’s invasion.
The bloc’s foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell announced the funds at a gathering of top diplomats from the Group of Seven wealthy nations Friday.
But E.U. diplomats cautioned that any disbursement still requires ratification by all member states. Some countries are expressing misgivings, and approval is unlikely before next week.
Borrell said the money would be earmarked for the purchase of heavy weapons, taking the bloc’s total financial support for Ukraine to 2 billion euros (more than $2 billion) for the purchase of lethal and non-lethal support.
Kyiv Still Willing to Hold Talks With Russia
Ukraine’s foreign minister says his country remains willing to engage in diplomatic talks with Russia to unblock grain supplies and achieve a political solution to the war.
But Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba says his country won’t accept ultimatums from Moscow.
Kuleba told reporters in Germany on the sidelines of a meeting Friday of top diplomats from the Group of Seven major economies that Kyiv has received “no positive feedback” from Russia. He said the Kremlin “prefers wars to talks.”
“We are ready to talk, but we are ready for a meaningful conversation based on mutual respect, not on the Russian ultimatums thrown on the table,” he said.
Britain Added Putin’s Ex-wife and His Alleged Girlfriend to Its Sanctions List
Britain has added Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ex-wife and his alleged girlfriend to its sanctions list over the invasion of Ukraine.
The British government says its latest asset freezes and travel bans target the “shady network” of friends and allies who “owe Putin their wealth and power, and in turn support Putin and his war machine.”
The sanctioned individuals include Putin’s ex-wife Lyudmila Ocheretnaya; former Olympic gymnast Alina Kabaeva, who is “alleged to have a close personal relationship with Putin,” according to the government; and several businessmen who are cousins of the Russian president.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the United Kingdom is “exposing and targeting the shady network propping up Putin’s luxury lifestyle and tightening the vice on his inner circle.”
Swedish Government Report: Country Can Expect to Be Target of Russian Cyberattacks If It Opts to Join NATO
A Swedish government report says the Nordic country can expect to be the target of Russian cyberattacks and other aggressive measures if it opts to join NATO.
The Swedish government’s security policy analysis, which will be used as a basis for a decision on NATO membership by Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson’s Cabinet later this month, was presented in parliament Friday.
While it sees obvious security advantages in NATO membership, it also lists numerous operations likely to be undertaken by Russia if Sweden joins the alliance.
Those include different kinds of hybrid attacks, violations of Swedish airspace or waters, and threats to increase and even possibly use nuclear weapons in the Baltic Sea region.
Ukraine Begins First War Crimes Trial of Russian Soldier
The first trial of a Russian soldier for alleged war crimes since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine has opened in Kyiv.
The 21-year-old member of a Russian tank unit is accused of shooting to death a civilian during the war’s first week.
Scores of journalists packed inside a small courtroom in the Ukrainian capital where the suspect appeared in a glass enclosure Friday.
Sgt. Vadim Shyshimarin stands accused of shooting a 62-year-old man in the head. He faces up to life in prison under Ukrainian law.
Ukraine’s Military: Russia Forces Staged Multiple Assaults in Eastern Ukraine, but Not All Were Successful
Ukraine’s military says that Russian forces staged assaults on multiple villages in eastern Ukraine as they try to expand control there, but not all were successful.
In its daily operational note on Friday, the general staff of Ukraine’s armed forces said Russia’s military continued to launch artillery and air strikes on the embattled port of Mariupol, focusing on blocking Ukrainian fighters at their last holdout at the Azovstal steelworks.
In the Russian campaign in the east, villages were targeted near Donetsk, Lyman, Bakhmut and Kurakhiv, the Ukrainian military said.
It said Russian forces also fired artillery on Ukrainian troops in the direction of Novopavlovsk and Zaporizhzhia, a major industrial city that has become a haven for refugees fleeing Mariupol.
The Ukrainian military said Russian forces are transferring additional artillery units to border areas near Ukraine’s northern Chernihiv region, where deadly Russian strikes hit a school and dormitory Thursday.
Ukrainian Forces Thwart Russian River Crossing, Hit Naval Ship
Ukrainian forces destroyed a pontoon bridge and parts of a Russian armored column as it tried to cross a river in the Donbass region, video released by Ukraine’s military showed on Friday, and a Russian naval ship was set afire in the Black Sea.
Ukraine has driven Russian troops back from the second-largest city of Kharkiv in the fastest advance since Kremlin forces pulled away from Kyiv and the northeast over a month ago.
Reuters journalists have confirmed Ukraine is now in control of territory stretching to the banks of the Siverskyi Donets River, around 40 km (25 miles) east of Kharkiv. The city, which had been under fierce bombardment, has been quiet for at least two weeks but fighting continued to the north.
Firefighters doused the shouldering wreckage of the House of Culture in Dergachi, 10 km (six miles) north of Kharkiv, after what local officials said was an overnight Russian missile attack on the building used to distribute aid. Volunteers inside were trying to salvage packages of baby diapers and formula.
“I can’t call it anything but a terrorist act,” the mayor, Vyacheslav Zadorenko, told Reuters. “They wanted to hit the base where we store provisions and create a humanitarian catastrophe.”
Another missile had slammed into the building on Thursday and Russian shelling had wounded a staff member at a clinic and killed a young couple in their home, he said.
Russia, which denies targeting civilians, said its forces had shot down a Ukrainian Su-27 aircraft in the Kharkiv region and disabled the Kremenchuk oil refinery in central Ukraine.
It was not immediately possible to verify the reports.
German Industrial Giant Siemens Is Leaving Russia After Nearly 170 Years
German industrial giant Siemens AG says it is exiting Russia, where it has operated for almost 170 years.
“We condemn the war in Ukraine and have decided to carry out an orderly process to wind down our industrial business activities in Russia,” Roland Busch, the Munich-based company’s CEO, said Thursday.
Siemens had been one of the first companies to put all new business in Russia, along with international deliveries to the country, on hold following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.
The company said it had been evaluating the situation with the eye of ensuring the safety of its 3,000 employees in Russia.
The maker of trains and industrial equipment said the Russia sanctions shaved off about 600,000 euros ($623,000) from its fiscal second-quarter results, which were reported Thursday.
G7 Seeks More Ways to Help Ukraine, Unblock Grain Supplies
Top diplomats from the Group of Seven wealthy nations gathered Thursday in northern Germany for a three-day meeting centered on Russia’s war against Ukraine and the wider impact it is having around the world, particularly on food and energy prices.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, the meeting’s host, said the conflict already had become a “global crisis” because shipments of staple crops are stuck in Ukraine, a major agricultural exporter.
“Twenty-five million tons (27.5 million U.S. tons) of grain are currently blocked in Ukrainian ports, particularly Odesa,” Baerbock said. “Grain that’s food for millions of people around the world, and which is needed particularly urgently in African countries and the Middle East.”
“That’s why we are discussing how the grain blockade exerted by Russia can be unblocked, how we can get the grain out to the world,” she added.
Rand Paul Stalls Quick Senate Approval of $40 Billion Ukraine Package
Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul defied leaders of both parties Thursday and single-handedly delayed until next week Senate approval of an additional $40 billion to help Ukraine and its allies withstand Russia’s three-month-old invasion.
Faced with the prospect of an extended delay for the package that passed the House of Representatives on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and his Republican counterpart, Mitch McConnell, sought to move forward on the aid package only to be blocked by Paul, a longtime fiscal hawk who objects to the amount of spending proposed.
The stalemate has threatened to delay passage of the measure into next week. Late on Thursday, Schumer moved to limit debate on the bill, which could set up an initial procedural vote on Monday. But it was not clear whether leaders were still trying to negotiate a deal that would further speed the bill along.
If the Senate debate on Ukraine aid spills into next week, it could cause problems for Western nations trying to bolster Ukraine in its fight against Russia. The Biden administration has said that by May 19 it expects to run out of available funds to draw on under an authority that allows the president to authorize the transfer of weapons without congressional approval in response to an emergency.
Paul is demanding that the legislation be altered to require an inspector general to oversee spending on Ukraine. Without his agreement, the Senate must follow a lengthy process stipulated by the chamber’s traditional rules.
Rocket Attacks Intensify on Poltava Region
Rocket attacks on Ukraine’s central Poltava region on Thursday were “perhaps the most intense for the duration of the war,” the regional governor said that same day.
“Today’s shelling of the Poltava region is perhaps the largest during the course of this full-scale war,” Dmitry Lunin wrote in a Telegram post, and “12 Russian missiles hit the infrastructure in [the city of] Kremenchuk; most of them hit an oil refinery that was not operational anyway.”
“Rescuers are putting out a fire at the refinery. Luckily, no one was hurt,” Lunin added.
Allen Zhong, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.