Moscow Says 1,847 Children Among Thousands Transported From Ukraine to Russia
More than 11,500 people, including 1,847 children, were transported from Ukraine into Russia on Monday without the participation of Kyiv’s authorities, Russia‘s defence ministry said.
That number includes evacuations from Russian-backed breakaway regions of Ukraine, the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s republics, which Russia recognised as independent just before launching its Feb. 24 invasion.
Russia says the people have been evacuated on their own request, while Ukraine has said Moscow has forcefully deported thousands of people to Russia since the war’s beginning.
Moscow calls its actions in Ukraine a “special operation” to demilitarise and “denazify” its neighbour. Ukraine and the West say Russia launched an unprovoked war of aggression.
On Monday the first civilians to evacuated from a giant steel plant in the besieged port of Mariupol arrived in the Ukrainian-held city of Zaporizhzhia, as part of a United Nations and International Committee of the Red Cross operation coordinated with Ukraine and Russia.
Since Feb. 24, nearly 200,000 children and 1.1 million people have been evacuated from Ukraine into Russia, the defence ministry said.
Governor: Russian Missile Attack Hits Odessa
Authorities say a Russian missile attack struck the Black Sea port of Odessa on Monday evening.
Maksym Marchenko, the governor of the Odessa region in southwestern Ukraine, wrote on the messaging app Telegram that the strike killed and wounded people but didn’t specify how many.
He added that an infrastructure site was hit, without identifying what it was. Further details weren’t immediately available.
Head of EU State Added to Ukraine’s ‘Enemies List’
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been added to the notorious online database pro-Kyiv activists use to blacklist people they consider enemies of Ukraine.
The Mirotvorets (Peacemaker) website was created in 2014 as a public database of “pro-Russian terrorists, separatists, mercenaries, war criminals, and murderers.” It contains links to social media accounts and personal information, such as home addresses, phones, and emails.
Orban is listed as “an accomplice of Russian war criminals,” and an “anti-Ukrainian propagandist.” The website mentioned that the Hungarian PM refused to back an embargo on Russian oil and gas, among other things. He also broke ranks in the EU by refusing to send weapons to Ukraine or allow the transit of foreign weapons to Ukraine through Hungarian territory.
Orban, who won reelection last month, built his campaign around promises to keep his country out of the Russia–Ukraine conflict and, in a victory speech, named Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as one of his “opponents.”
Zelenskyy singled out Hungary during a video chat with the European Council in March. “You must decide for yourself whose side you are on … Listen, Viktor, do you know what’s happening in Mariupol?” Zelenskyy said.
UEFA Bans Russia From Women’s Euros and World Cup, Clubs Banned Next Season
UEFA has banned Russia from the Women’s European Championship in July and from participating in qualifying for next year’s World Cup following the country’s invasion of Ukraine, European soccer’s governing body said on Monday.
Portugal will replace Russia for the July 6–31 tournament in England, joining Netherlands, Sweden, and Switzerland in Group C.
UEFA also ruled Russia’s bid to host the men’s Euros in 2028 and 2032 ineligible and said the team will not participate in the 2022–23 Nations League.
Additionally, Russian clubs will not compete in UEFA’s Champions League, Europa League or Europa Conference League next season.
UEFA and world governing body FIFA suspended Russian clubs and national teams from their competitions after the invasion of Ukraine.
In March, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) rejected an appeal from Russia’s football association (FUR) to freeze FIFA’s suspension.
The FUR last month withdrew its appeal.
Finland, Sweden to Drop Ice Hockey Players From Russian League Teams
Finnish and Swedish ice hockey players playing in the Russia-based Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) and other leagues in Russia will not be selected for their national teams, the two countries’ ice hockey associations said on Monday.
The move followed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow describes as a “special military operation.”
“The position of the Finnish Hockey Association is that players playing in Russia next season will not be able to play for the national team,” the Finnish Ice Hockey Association said in a statement.
Finnish club Jokerit also withdrew from the KHL in late February, days after the invasion.
The Swedish Ice Hockey Association (SIF) said it was leaning towards not selecting Swedish players plying their trade in the KHL, but will make a formal decision after the season ends.
“But what we can now state is that none of the players who participated during the playoffs in the KHL are eligible for the World Cup tournament in Finland,” the SIF said in a statement.
Finland is hosting the 2022 men’s World Championship from May 13–29.
As many as 31 Finnish and 30 Swedish players were on KHL rosters according to the league’s website but only a handful remain following Jokerit’s withdrawal and several players choosing to leave their clubs following the invasion.
Finland’s men’s ice hockey team won Olympic gold in Beijing in February, beating the Russian Olympic Committee team in the final. Sweden finished fourth.
Russia Says Carried Out Dozens of Strikes of Military Targets in Eastern Ukraine
The Russian military says its forces have struck dozens of Ukrainian military targets in the east.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said Monday that Russian warplanes fired precision-guided missiles to hit 38 Ukrainian targets, including concentrations of troops and weapons, over the last 24 hours. He said that a Russian airstrike also destroyed an ammunition depot near Chervone in the Zaporizhzhia region.
Konashenkov said that a Ukrainian MiG-29 fighter jet was downed near the eastern town of Slovyansk.
The announcements couldn’t be independently confirmed.
Pelosi Thanks Poland for Ukraine Support, Meets President
A top-level U.S. congressional delegation led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was in Warsaw on Monday to express gratitude to Poland for its humanitarian and other support for Ukraine.
Pelosi and a half dozen U.S. lawmakers met with President Andrzej Duda and Polish lawmakers in Warsaw. The visit followed a weekend visit to Kyiv where they met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, pledging to support his country until it defeats Russia.
Azov Regiment Commander Is Glad for Steel Mill Evacuations
Svyatoslav Palamar, deputy commander of the neo-Nazi Azov Regiment that is helping defend the last section of Mariupol not occupied by the Russians, said he was glad evacuations had begun.
Palamar hoped the evacuations from the Azovstal steel mill continue until everyone in the plant, civilians and soldiers, has gotten out. It’s been difficult even to reach some of the wounded inside the plant, he told The Associated Press in an interview from Mariupol on Sunday.
“There’s rubble. We have no special equipment. It’s hard for soldiers to pick up slabs weighing tons only with their arms,” he said.
He claimed the presence of children and civilians makes it harder to fight, and there are many injured people in the plant.
The fighters in the plant will continue to resist until they receive an order not to, Palamar said.
Hungary Affirms Stance on Russian Energy Embargo
Hungary has denied a report in the German media that claims that the country is prepared to support an EU ban on Russian oil and gas in response to Moscow’s military campaign in Ukraine.
Budapest affirmed its stance on the matter after German public broadcaster ZDF quoted sources as saying that “hesitant” countries, such as Austria, Hungary, and Slovakia, have “withdrawn their veto.”
The Hungarian government’s international spokesman, Zoltan Kovacs, said on Twitter on Monday: “No, dear editors at ZDF, Hungary did not ‘move away from its veto.’ In fact, Hungary’s stance on oil and gas sanctions [from] Russia remains unchanged: We do not support them.”
EU Timeline for ‘Phasing Out’ Russian Energy Disclosed
The year 2022 will see Western countries implementing “a very ambitious policy” of reducing dependence on energy from Russia, with Russian oil set to be phased out by the end of the year, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has announced.
In an interview with Indian Express ahead of his meeting with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Berlin, Scholz explained that “the attack on Ukraine by Russia is on the top of the agenda for all of Europe and beyond.” He also expressed confidence that there is “broad agreement” between Germany and India that Russia’s actions violate the “core principles of the UN Charter,” that “massacres against the civilian population are war crimes,” and that “those responsible must be held accountable.”
“We are furthermore now implementing a very ambitious policy to reduce our dependency on the import of fossil fuels from Russia. We will stop the import of Russian coal this summer, we will phase out Russian oil [by] the end of the year, and will reduce gas imports from Russia severely,” the chancellor said.
Finland Ends Deal for Russian Nuclear Plant
A Finnish nuclear energy company said Monday it has decided to terminate with immediate effect a contract with Russian state nuclear energy corporation Rosatom for the delivery of a nuclear power plant, in part due to the war in Ukraine “which has worsened the risks for the project.”
The company, Fennovoima, also cited “significant delays and inability to deliver the project” for terminating the deal to build the northern Finland Hanhikivi Nuclear Power Plant.
It was proposed to house a Russian-designed pressurized water reactor, with a capacity of 1,200 MW, and the nuclear power plant was to generate approximately 10 percent of Finland’s electricity needs, the company said.
In April 2021, the company announced that construction was to begin in 2023 and commercial operation would start in 2029.
In a statement, Fennovoimas’s CEO Joachim Specht said the decision “is estimated to have a significant employee impact in Fennovoima and is expected to impact also the supply chain companies.”
Ukraine: Russia Deploys Some Forces From Mariupol
The Ukrainian military says that Russia has redeployed some of its forces from the port of Mariupol to join its offensive in the east.
The General Staff of the Ukrainian armed forces said Monday that several Russian battalions had been sent from Mariupol to the town of Popasna in the eastern Luhansk region. Popasna has been one of the epicenters of fighting in the east as the Russian military has sought to break through the Ukrainian defenses there in a bid to encircle Ukrainian forces in the east.
The Ukrainian General Staff also said that the Russians were also trying to press their attacks from Izyum to the towns of Slovyansk and Barvinkove.
The Russian military is still struggling to uproot the last remaining Ukrainian pocket of resistance at the giant Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol. The U.N. is set to coordinate an effort Monday to evacuate civilians sheltering at the plant.
Russia Makes Gas Payments Easier
Russian tax law has been amended to make it easier for foreign companies to open accounts in Russian banks and register with the country’s tax authority.
President Vladimir Putin signed a bill into law amending Russia’s tax code on Sunday, and it was published on the official portal for legal information.
The law aims to help foreign firms pay for Russian gas in rubles, in line with the new mechanism adopted last month. Foreign entities will be able to register with Russia’s tax authority after the bank that opens an account for them submits an application.
“This makes it really easy to register and open an account,” business daily Vedomosti quoted lawmaker and tax committee member Olga Anufrieva as saying. She added that the measure is temporary.
EU Energy Ministers Hold Crisis Talks After Russian Gas Cuts
Energy ministers from European Union countries hold emergency talks on Monday, as the bloc strives for a united response to Moscow’s demand that European buyers pay for Russian gas in rubles or face their supply being cut off.
Russia halted gas supplies to Bulgaria and Poland last week after they refused to meet its demand to effectively pay in rubles.
This has raised fears that other EU countries, including Europe’s gas-reliant economic powerhouse Germany, could be next.
With many European companies facing gas payment deadlines later this month, EU states have a pressing need to clarify whether companies can keep buying the fuel without breaching the EU’s sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.
The European Commission has told countries that complying with Russia’s scheme could breach EU sanctions, while also suggesting countries could make sanctions-compliant payments if they declare the payment complete once it has been made in euros and before its conversion into rubles.
After Bulgaria, Denmark, Greece, Poland, Slovakia, and others last week urged clearer advice, Brussels is drafting extra guidance.
Russia on Friday said it saw no problem with its decree, which considers the buyer’s obligation fulfilled only after the hard currency has been converted to rubles.
While Bulgaria and Poland refused to engage with Moscow’s scheme, Germany has echoed the Commission’s workaround to allow companies to pay, and Hungary has said buyers can engage with Russia’s mechanism.
EU countries have paid more than 45 billion euros ($47.43 billion) to Russia for gas and oil since it invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, research organization the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air found.
Ambassadors will discuss at a meeting on Wednesday a sixth package of EU sanctions against Moscow being drafted by the Commission.
Renault to Sell Russian Assets for One Ruble: Officials
French carmaker Renault plans to sell its stake in Russia’s Avtovaz for a symbolic sum of 1 ruble, the Russian Trade Ministry announced on Wednesday.
Renault will transfer its 68 percent stake to the auto research institute NAMI Russia, known for designing the Aurus Senat, the country’s first luxury car, currently used by President Vladimir Putin. Renault apparently took the step as it lacks the ability to maintain its Russian operations.
The Trade Ministry also said Renault’s factory in Moscow, which produces cars under the Renault and Nissan brands, would be transferred to the city’s government.
Renault has declined to comment on the deal.
Russia Probes Bridge Collapse as ‘Terrorism’
Subversive activity is likely behind Sunday’s railway bridge collapse in Russia’s Kursk region, the local governor, Roman Starovoyt, has claimed. The area borders Ukraine.
There have been no reports of casualties linked to the incident, but it disrupted a rail line linking two Russian towns located near the frontier.
Russian’s Investigative Committee has launched a probe into the suspected act of terrorism, after authorities said the bridge was apparently damaged by an explosion.
“The information has been confirmed. That was an act of sabotage,” Starovoyt said in a video address published on Telegram, promising to provide further details at a later date.
Finland Almost Certainly to Apply for NATO Membership, Says Swedish Foreign Minister
Finland will almost certainly apply for membership in NATO, Sweden’s Foreign Minister Ann Linde told Swedish television on Sunday.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has forced both Sweden and its eastern neighbor Finland to review beliefs that military neutrality is the best means of ensuring national security.
“We know more or less that they [Finland] will apply for NATO membership. And that changes the whole balance … If one of our countries join, we know that tensions would increase,” Linde told public broadcaster SVT.
Asked whether she thinks Finland will join NATO, Linde said:
“I think you can say that quite surely.”
Both Sweden and Finland are expected to make a decision on whether to join the military alliance in the coming weeks.
Finland’s Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said on Friday that he hoped Finland and Sweden would make similar decisions at the same time.
Ukraine Formally Closes Seaports Captured by Russia
Ukraine has formally closed its four Black and Azov Sea ports, which Russian forces have captured, the Ukrainian agriculture ministry said on Monday.
The Azov Sea ports of Mariupol, Berdiansk, and Skadovsk and the Black Sea port of Kherson were closed “until the restoration of control,” the ministry said in a statement.
“The adoption of this measure is caused by the impossibility of servicing ships and passengers, carrying out cargo, transport, and other related economic activities, ensuring the appropriate level of safety of navigation,” it said.
All Ukrainian seaports have suspended their activity as a result of the Russian invasion in late February. Russian forces captured some ports and blockaded others.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Monday Ukraine could lose tens of millions of tons of grain owing to Russia’s control of Black Sea shipping, triggering a food crisis that will affect Europe, Asia, and Africa.
Ukraine, a major agricultural producer, used to export most of its goods by sea but has been forced to switch to export by train via its western border or via its small Danube river ports.
The ministry said last week Ukraine’s grain exports had reached 45.709 million tons in the 2021/22, July–June season.
It said the volume included 763,000 tons exported in April but gave no comparative figures. Senior agriculture officials said this month that Ukraine exported up to 300,000 tons of grain in March.
Russia Strikes US Weapons at Airfield Near Odessa, Defense Ministry Says
Russia’s defense ministry said on Sunday it had struck at weapons supplied to Ukraine by the United States and European countries and destroyed a runway at a military airfield near the Ukrainian city of Odessa.
The ministry said it used high-precision Onyx missiles to strike the airfield, after Ukraine accused Russia of knocking out a newly-constructed runway at the main airport of Odessa.
Odessa regional governor Maksym Marchenko said Russia had used a Bastion missile, launched from Crimea.
Reuters could not immediately verify the reports.
Russia’s defense ministry also said its air defense systems had shot down two Ukrainian Su-24m bombers over the Kharkiv region overnight.
Russia’s Lavrov Says May 9 Not a Relevant Date for Ukraine Operations
The upcoming anniversary of Russia’s liberation at the end of World War II will have no bearing on Moscow’s military operations in Ukraine, the country’s foreign minister said on Italian television on Sunday.
“Our soldiers won’t base their actions on a specific date,” Sergei Lavrov said when asked whether the May 9 anniversary would mark a turning point in the conflict.
“We’ll commemorate our victory in a solemn manner but the timing and speed of what is happening in Ukraine will hinge on the need to minimize risks for civilians and Russian [soldiers],” he added, speaking in Russian through an Italian interpreter.
Israel Denounces Lavrov’s Hitler Comments, Summons Russian Ambassador
Israel denounced on Monday Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov for suggesting that Nazi leader Adolf Hitler had Jewish roots, and demanded an apology from Moscow.
Israeli Foreign Ministry Yair Lapid said the Russian ambassador would be summoned for “a tough talk” over the comments, which Lavrov made on Sunday in an interview with Italian television.
“It is an unforgivable, scandalous statement, a terrible historical mistake, and we expect an apology,” Lapid told the YNet news website.
There was no immediate comment from the Russian Embassy.
During his interview with Italy’s Rete 4 channel, Lavrov was asked how Russia could claim that it needed to “denazify” Ukraine when the country’s President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, was Jewish.
“When they say ‘What sort of nazification is this if we are Jews,’ well I think that Hitler also had Jewish origins, so it means nothing,” Lavrov said, speaking through an Italian interpreter.
“For a long time now we’ve been hearing the wise Jewish people say that the biggest anti-Semites are the Jews themselves,” he added.
Ukraine Says It Destroyed 2 Russian Patrol Boats on Monday
A Ukrainian Bayraktar drone destroyed two Russian Raptor-class patrol ships in the Black Sea on Monday, Ukraine’s military chief said.
“Two Russian Raptor-class boats were destroyed at dawn today near Zmiinyi [Snake] Island,” Chief of General Staff Valeriy Zaluzhniy wrote on the Telegram messaging app.
There was no immediate reaction from Moscow to the claim.
Ukrainian Commander: Russia Resumes Shelling
A Ukrainian military officer says that Russian forces have resumed their shelling of a steel plant in the war-torn port city Mariupol immediately after the partial evacuation of civilians.
Ukrainian National Guard brigade commander Denys Shlega said Sunday in a televised interview that the shelling began as soon as rescue crews ceased evacuating civilians at the Azovstal steel mill.
Shlega said that at least one more round of evacuations is needed to clear civilians from the plant. He said dozens of small children remain in bunkers below the industrial facilities.
The commander estimated that several hundred civilians still are trapped at the site alongside nearly 500 wounded soldiers and numerous dead bodies.
Germany May Quit Russian Oil by Late Summer
Germany says it’s making progress on weaning itself off Russian fossil fuels and expects to be fully independent of crude oil imports from Russia by late summer.
Economy and Climate Minister Robert Habeck said Sunday that Europe’s largest economy has reduced its share of Russian energy imports to 12 percent for oil, 8 percent for coal, and 35 percent for natural gas.
Habeck says those steps mean increased costs for the economy and for consumers. But he says the changes are necessary if Germany no longer wants to be “blackmailed by Russia.”
The announcement comes as the European Union considers an embargo on Russian oil. The bloc has already decided to ban Russian coal imports starting in August.
Weaning German off Russian natural gas is a far bigger challenge. Before Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, Germany got more than half of its natural gas imports from Russia.
Nadal Says Wimbledon Ban on Russian and Belarusian Players Unfair
Australian Open champion Rafael Nadal has labeled the ban on Russian and Belarusian players from this year’s Wimbledon over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine as unfair, saying they are not responsible for the war.
The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) has barred the two countries’ players from competing at this year’s grasscourt major in response to what Russia calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine. Belarus has been a key staging area for the invasion.
“I think it’s very unfair to my Russian tennis mates, my colleagues. In that sense it’s not their fault what’s happening in this moment with the war,” 21-time major winner Nadal told reporters at the Madrid Open on Sunday.
“Let’s see what happens in the next weeks, if the players will take some kind of decision… well, there is one thing that’s negative, there are things that are clear. When the government imposes some restrictions, you just have to follow them.”
AELTC’s decision has been condemned by both the men’s and women’s tours as well as several other players.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.