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May 25, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

'They're afraid of us': Ukrainian soldier describes taking down Russian helicopter

What we covered

  • “Fierce battles” are taking place around Severodonetsk in eastern Ukraine, Ukrainian officials said, as Russia intensifies efforts to take full control of the Luhansk region.
  • In neighboring Donetsk, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said Russian forces are “conducting an intense offensive” on the important rail hub of Lyman.
  • Ukraine’s foreign minister said Russia is trying to “blackmail” the world with an offer to unblock Ukrainian sea ports if sanctions against it are lessened, warning the blockade could spur a “multi-year food crisis.”
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin said state pensions and the minimum wage will rise substantially in Russia from June 1 amid rising inflation.
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33 Posts

Zelensky condemns Kissinger idea for negotiations with Russia as 1938-style appeasement

Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky compared Henry Kissinger's views to appeasement of Nazi Germany in 1938.

Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky has made a blistering attack on former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who suggested on Tuesday that peace negotiations should be aimed at creating borders along the “line of contact” in Donbas as it existed on the eve of the Russian invasion.

Kissinger was speaking by video link to the Davos Forum.  

In a video message Wednesday, Zelensky said, “No matter what the Russian state does, there is someone who says: ‘let’s take into account its interests.’ This year in Davos, it was heard again. Despite thousands of Russian missiles hitting Ukraine. Despite tens of thousands of Ukrainians being killed. Despite Bucha and Mariupol, etc. Despite the destroyed cities. And despite the ‘filtration camps’ built by the Russian state, in which they kill, torture, rape and humiliate like on a conveyor belt.
“Russia has done all this in Europe. But still, in Davos, for example, Mr. Kissinger emerges from the deep past and says that a piece of Ukraine should be given to Russia.”

In his remarks, Kissinger said of the conflict that: “Negotiations need to begin in the next two months before it creates upheavals and tensions that will not be easily overcome. Ideally, the dividing line should be a return to the status quo ante,” apparently suggesting that Ukraine agree to give up much of the Donbas and Crimea.

“Pursuing the war beyond that point would not be about the freedom of Ukraine, but a new war against Russia itself,” Kissinger said.

Zelensky compared Kissinger’s views to appeasement of Nazi Germany in 1938.

Zelensky called those who advise that Ukraine give something to Russia, the “‘great geo-politicians,’ do not always want to see ordinary people. Ordinary Ukrainians. Millions of those who actually live in the territory they are proposing to exchange for the illusion of peace. You always have to see people.”

UK foreign minister will call on the West to ensure Putin loses in Ukraine

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss arrives to attend a cabinet meeting in London on May 24.

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is traveling to Bosnia and Herzegovina on Thursday, where she will use an address to the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) to urge the UK’s Western partners to ensure Russian President Vladimir Putin loses in Ukraine, the Foreign Office said in a statement late Wednesday.

Truss will also warn against appeasing the Russian leader, the release added.

“Russia’s aggression cannot be appeased. It must be met with strength”, she will say according to the Foreign Office. “We must be relentless in ensuring Ukraine prevails through military aid and sanctions. We can’t take our foot off the accelerator now.”

Putin announces 10% hike in state pensions and minimum wage as inflation rises in Russia 

President Vladimir Putin has announced that state pensions and the minimum wage will rise substantially in Russia from June 1.

According to the state news agency TASS, Putin made the announcement at a meeting of the State Council.

“We discussed this issue with the government for a long time, there were differences within the government and a solution was worked out,” he said according to TASS. “I propose to increase the pensions of non-working pensioners by 10% from June 1.”

“Our main task is to ensure [a] further increase in the minimum wage, so that the citizens’ income level would significantly exceed the size of the subsistence rate,” he added.

Some background: Pensions were raised by 8.6% at the beginning of the year, but inflation has risen sharply this year. Putin said it was currently 17.5% but would decline to 15% by the end of the year. However, he denied that the spike in inflation was related to the conflict in Ukraine.

“The current year is not easy. Since its beginning, cumulative inflation has exceeded 11%. But when I say ‘not easy’ this does not mean at all that all these difficulties are associated with this special military operation, because in countries that do not conduct any operations, say, across the ocean, in North America, in Europe, inflation is comparable. And if you look at the structure of their economy — it’s even more than ours, and in some neighboring countries, it’s many times higher,” Putin said.

Prince Charles visits Ukrainian refugee center in Romania

Prince Charles visits a Ukrainian refugee center in Bucharest, Romania on May 25.

Prince Charles has paid a visit to a Ukrainian refugee center in Romania, according to a news release from Clarence House.

Prince Charles joined Her Majesty Margareta, custodian of Romanian Crown, in “the visit to the Romexpo Donation Center for Ukrainian refugees in Bucharest, to see at first hand the excellent response of the Romanian authorities and of international and local organizations to the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine,” according to the news release.

As part of the visit, they spoke to “Ukrainians who have fled the horrors of war in Ukraine,” Clarence House said.

The center has been seeing a “steady increase” in the number of Ukrainian refugees it has welcomed since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, Clarence House said.

Romania has welcomed one of the highest numbers of Ukrainian refugees in Europe, according to data from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). As of May 24, 972,203 Ukrainian refugees have arrived in Romania, according to the latest UNHCR update.

This latest visit from Prince Charles “follows a series of engagements” undertaken “in recent months in support of the Ukrainian community,” according to the news release.

Ukraine condemns Russian move to issue passports in occupied regions

Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned a move by Moscow that makes it easier for Ukrainians in some Russian-occupied regions to obtain Russian citizenship.

“Illegal passportization in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions, as well as in Crimea and the temporarily occupied parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, is a gross violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, norms and principles of international humanitarian law, and the obligations of Russia as an occupying power in accordance with Article 45 of the 1907 Hague Convention and Article 47 of the 1949 Convention for the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War,” the ministry said in a statement. “The decree of the president of Russia is legally null and void and will have no legal consequences. This decision will not affect the citizenship of Ukrainians on the territories temporarily occupied by Russia.”

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on Wednesday streamlining the process for providing passports to Ukrainians in the occupied portions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia. Russia has already handed out hundreds of thousands of passports to residents of separatist areas in Ukraine’s east and in the annexed Ukrainian territory of Crimea, as well as to residents of the breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia and Transnistria in Moldova. Analysts say those moves have helped Moscow create a pretext for continued intervention in those areas. 

Yevhen Yaroshenko, an analyst for the human rights organization Crimea SOS, said Russia’s policy of “passportization” may also serve an agenda of providing conscripts for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.  

“Shortly after obtaining a Russian passport, the Russian Federation may call up such a person for military service and subsequently involve him in combat operations against Ukraine,” said Yaroshenko. “Thus residents of the temporarily occupied Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions become hostages of the call of the Russian Federation.”

US secretary of state announces joint UK, EU and US group to document war crimes in Ukraine 

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visits the Ukrainian Institute of America on May 19 in New York.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the launch of a new joint UK, EU and US group to help support efforts of the Ukrainian Prosecutor General (OPG) to document war crimes and other atrocities committed in Ukraine.

The new mechanism, called the Atrocity Crimes Advisory Group (ACA), will “provide strategic advice and operational assistance to the War Crimes Units of the OPG, the legally constituted authority responsible for prosecuting war crimes and other atrocities in Ukraine,” Blinken said. “Although the United States and our partners are supporting a range of international efforts to pursue accountability for atrocities, the OPG will play a crucial role in ensuring that those responsible for war crimes and other atrocities are held accountable.”

He added that the “ACA will liaise with the Department of Justice as it pursues accountability in US courts.”

In addition to streamlining efforts, the ACA will also provide expanded funding for the team of international prosecutors and other war crimes experts already deployed to the region, Blinken said.

Earlier this week, a 21-year-old Russian soldier was sentenced to life in prison for killing an unarmed man in Ukraine’s first war crimes trial since Russia’s invasion.

Putin makes rare visit to military hospital and meets with soldiers wounded in Ukraine 

Russian President Vladimir Putin met Wednesday with soldiers wounded in fighting in Ukraine during a rare visit to a military hospital, according to footage released by the Kremlin. 

Putin visited the Mandryk Central Military Clinical Hospital of the Russian Defense Ministry in Moscow and “spoke with members of the Russian Armed Forces undergoing treatment after being wounded during the special military operation, as well as with the hospital’s medical personnel,” according to the Kremlin. 

Putin, wearing a medical gown, asked the servicemen how they felt, where they were from and how their families were doing, the video showed. 

Putin was accompanied by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

On Wednesday, Putin also visited the National Crisis Management Center of the Ministry of Emergencies, according to the Kremlin. 

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday the president “constantly takes interest in and keeps under his control the topic of conditions provided for those wounded in the course of the special military operation,” according to Russian state news agency TASS.

Switzerland to seize assets of former Ukrainian leader's ally

The Swiss government plans to seize more than 100 million Swiss francs ($104 million) worth of assets from an associate of Ukraine’s former president, Viktor Yanukovych, who was deposed in 2014, it said on Wednesday.

The proceedings concern assets of Yuriy Ivanyushchenko and his family that were frozen after Ukraine’s 2014 revolution, the Swiss government said in a statement, stressing the move was “unrelated to sanctions” that Switzerland imposed against Russians this year.

The finance ministry will now ask the Federal Administrative Court of Switzerland to approve confiscating the assets so that they can be returned to Ukraine, the government said.

A few days after Yanukovych’s ouster, the Swiss cabinet had ordered the freezing of any assets in Switzerland of the deposed president and his entourage, including Ivanyushchenko, a former member of parliament whom it described as a close confidant of the former leader.

However, Ukrainian authorities have not been able to issue judgements ordering the confiscation of those assets, according to the Swiss government.

The Swiss government said since the war in Ukraine “severely compounded” criminal proceedings against Ivanyushchenko, it now considers confiscation proceedings in Switzerland “both possible and appropriate.”

2 killed by Russian shelling in Kharkiv region, officials say

Regional officials in Ukraine say that two people have been killed by Russian shelling of the town of Balakliya, which is on the frontlines in the Kharkiv region.

Nataliya Popova, an adviser to the head of the Regional Council in Kharkiv, said seven people had been injured in the shelling Wednesday, including one child who is in critical condition.

Balakliya lies to the northwest of Izium, which is occupied by Russian forces and has become their platform for attacks further south into Donetsk region.

Russia blocking Ukrainian ports is "clear blackmail," Ukraine's foreign minister says

Storage silos and shipping cranes at the Port of Odesa in Ukraine, on January 22.

Russia is trying to “blackmail” the international community with an offer to unblock Ukrainian sea ports if sanctions against it are lessened, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Wednesday.

This is “clear blackmail,” Kuleba claimed. “You could not find a better example of blackmail in international relations.” 

He warned that if Russia does not lift its blockage of Ukrainian exports of crops, the entire agricultural cycle will be interrupted and could spur a “multi-year food crisis.”

Some background: Before the war, Ukraine was the world’s fourth-largest exporter of corn and fifth-largest exporter of wheat, according to the US State Department. Almost 30% of global trade in wheat came from Russia and Ukraine alone.

Speaking at a panel discussion, Kuleba said Russia and Ukraine are nowhere near the possibility of negotiated peace and that Russia has no intention of taking part in discussions aimed at ending the war. 

“When you are conducting an operation like this, you basically say no to negotiations. If Russia had preferred talks to war, they would have behaved differently,” he said.

Making concessions to Russia has not worked since 2014 and won’t work now, Kuleba said. 

“This strategy has been used by the leading global forces from 2014 to Feb. 24, 2022. Make concessions here, make concessions here, it will help prevent war. It has failed. Eight years of this strategy has resulted in missiles hitting Kyiv and bloodshed in Donbas,” the foreign minister said.

Kuleba called again for further sanctions against Russia, namely stopping the purchase of Russian oil, which he said is keeping Moscow in a comfortable position.

“Ukraine is suffering more than Russia is with the sanctions against it. … After three months of war, my message is simple: kill Russian exports. Stop buying from Russia and allowing them to make money that they invest in the war machine to kill and destroy,” he said.   

Russian forces "conducting an intense offensive" in order to take key town, Ukraine officials say

A damaged home is seen after shelling in Lyman, Ukraine on April 28.

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry has said that Russian forces are “conducting an intense offensive” in order to seize the key town of Lyman in the Donetsk region.

Ministry spokesperson Oleksandr Motuzyanyk said Russian efforts to “completely take control” of Lyman “did not succeed.” However, images posted on social media Wednesday showed Russian soldiers at identifiable locations in northern neighborhoods of the town, which Ukrainian forces have defended in the face of an intense assault since late April.

Lyman is an important rail hub, and if the Russians are able to consolidate control over the town, the nearby city of Sloviansk becomes more vulnerable to attack by artillery — and Ukrainian troops to the south-east of Lyman become more at risk of encirclement.

Motuzyanyk added, “The enemy is conducting offensive operations, trying to surround our units near Lysychansk and Severodonetsk and reach the administrative border of Luhansk region.”

On Tuesday, the head of the regional administration in Donetsk, Pavlo Kyrylenko, described the situation in Lyman as “very difficult.”

“It’s now under constant fire,” he said. “The enemy entered the territory of the Lyman community a long time ago. Their main goal is to take the centre of the community of Lyman. The estuary is now partially under control, they enter, then they are kicked out, heavy artillery drives in, and tanks enter the outskirts of the city to conduct shelling and occupy the entire center and the entire Lyman community.”

The Institute for the Study of War reported in its latest assessment Tuesday that Russian forces continued to “prioritize attacks against Lyman rather than Slovyansk on May 24, likely to support a shallow encirclement of Ukrainian troops northwest of Severodonetsk.”

Sweden doesn't fund terror organizations, prime minister says in response to Turkey's claims amid NATO bid

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson speaks during a press conference in Stockholm, Sweden on May 25.

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson has said her country “does not send money to terrorist organizations,” responding to claims from Turkey as the Nordic nation seeks to join NATO. 

Speaking during a news conference in Stockholm on Wednesday, Andersson said dialogue between Turkey and Sweden was “ongoing” as part of efforts to counter Turkish concerns about Sweden joining the military alliance.  

Earlier this month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey would “say no to Sweden’s and Finland’s entry into NATO,” accusing both countries of housing Kurdish “terror organizations.” 

On Wednesday, Andersson said during discussions that the Turkish and Swedish sides “will naturally go through and discuss the list and sort out a number of things that have been unclear in reporting in the media and statements from other places.”

“Clearly, it’s about where we send our financial aid, for example, and that we sell weapons. We don’t send money to terrorist organizations, obviously — or weapons either,” Andersson continued. 

European Council chief Charles Michel, who addressed journalists alongside Andersson, said although he didn’t “want to make any statement” that would make things more difficult, he did want to express the EU’s support for the “important step” Sweden and Finland have decided to take in applying for NATO membership. 

European Council chief "confident" Russia oil ban issues will be resolved by next meeting on Monday

European Council chief Charles Michel, left, and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson speak at a joint press conference in Stockholm, Sweden, on May 25.

European Council chief Charles Michel is “confident” that any issues over a proposed ban on Russian oil imports will be resolved by the next council meeting on May 30. 

Addressing a news conference alongside the Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson in Stockholm on Wednesday, Michel said that although he was “still confident” that the bloc will be able to resolve any issues, it will require “a lot of dialogue.” 

“We are working very hard in order to be able to stay united,” Michel stressed. 

The Swedish prime minister publicly declared the country’s desire “to go further” with sanctions against Russia. 

The proposed ban has been largely opposed by Hungary, which has said that such a measure would be “against Hungarian national energy security.” 

Putin signs decree streamlining Russian citizenship for Ukrainians in regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia  

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting in Moscow on May 16.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree on Wednesday making it easier for Ukrainians in the parts of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions occupied by Russian troops to obtain Russian citizenship. 

According to the decree published on a government portal, amendments will be made to an existing decree used to simplify the process for the residents of the breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic or the Luhansk People’s Republic. 

Russia handed out hundreds of thousands of Russian passports to residents of the DPR and LPR ahead of the massive Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, helping create one of the pretexts for a wider war.

"Fierce battles" occur around Severodonetsk as Russian troops advance, Ukraine says

Smoke rises during shelling in the city of Severodonetsk on May 21.

The Ukrainian presidential administration on Wednesday reported “fierce battles” around the industrial city of Severodonetsk in the eastern Luhansk region, with a top military official saying shelling of the town had increased “exponentially.” 

A statement on Wednesday from the presidential administration reported “fierce battles for Severodonetsk,” with constant mortar shelling, adding, “In the morning, with the support of artillery, the Russian occupiers are advancing on Severodonetsk.”

According to the statement, six civilians have died and eight were wounded in the region amid the stepped-up fighting. 

Serhiy Haidai, the head of the Luhansk region military administration, said the shelling of Severodonetsk had “increased exponentially” in recent hours. 

“Russian troops are very close; they can already fire mortars,” he said. “The fighting was on the outskirts of the city yesterday. [Russian] forces are being transferred here from different regions — from Kharkiv, Mariupol, even from Donetsk in order to push through in the Luhansk region at any cost.”

He added that “the next week is important; if they do not succeed by Saturday or Sunday, they will run out of steam, and the situation will at least stabilize for us.”

Elsewhere in Ukraine, the Russian military acknowledged Wednesday that it had launched cruise missiles at targets in Dnipropetrovsk and Zaporizhzhia. A statement by Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, the Russian defense ministry spokesperson, said the strikes on Zaporizhzhia had targeted production workshops of the Motor Sich plant, an aerospace facility. 

Ukrainian officials previously reported strikes in Zaporizhzhia and Dnipropetrovsk without giving extensive details on the facilities targeted. Officials in Zaporizhzhia subsequently posted video showing damage to a shopping mall. 

It's 2:30 p.m. in Kyiv. Here's everything you need to know about the war in Ukraine today

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses the audience at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Monday, May 23.

The World Economic Forum opens. Fighting rages in Ukraine’s east. And a state of emergency is declared in Hungary.

Here’s the latest on Russia’s war in Ukraine:

  • Dire warnings in Davos: Business and political leaders are descending on the Swiss ski resort town for the WEF, with the war in Ukraine one of the main points of conversation. Two of the early speakers addressed the conflict with stark predictions. Slovakia’s Prime Minister warned his country would be next if Ukraine fell, while Hungarian-born billionaire and philanthropist George Soros said the invasion may have marked the start of “a third world war.”
  • ‘His bubble of this alternative reality’: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, speaking via videoconference at a breakfast event in Davos, said his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin needs to “leave his bubble of this alternative reality into the real world and talk to us, understand that a lot of people are being killed, including civilians.” Zelensky said he was willing to talk to Putin, but directly, “with no intermediaries, no brokers.”
  • Hungary emergency: Hungary will enter a “state of emergency” due to the war in Ukraine, the country’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban said. The ruling will allow Orban to continue to rule by decree. Hungary was already in a state of emergency due to the Covid-19 pandemic but that was set to expire at the end of May
  • Food exports blocked: Russia has established an “effective blockade” in the northern third of the Black Sea, according to a US official who provided a declassified map of the region to CNN on the condition of anonymity. Ukraine provides about 10% of the world’s wheat exports, the official noted — the vast majority of which exit the country from Black Sea ports. The head of the UN’s World Food Programme has urged Putin to reopen ports in Ukraine to exports to prevent children around the world from starving.
  • Mariupol death toll: At least 22,000 residents are believed to have died during Russia’s three-month assault on Mariupol, according to an official from the Ukrainian port city. Petro Andriushchenko said the figure is based on the many contacts he and other town hall officials continue to have with officials trapped inside, and believes the true number could be much higher. The figures cannot be independently verified.

Ukrainian Eurovision winners to auction off trophy to raise money for army

Members of the band Kalush Orchestra pose onstage with their trophy after winning Eurovision on May 14.

The Ukrainian folk-rap group Kalush Orchestra, which recently won the Eurovision Song Contest, is auctioning off its trophy to raise funds for the Ukrainian army, the group announced on Instagram Wednesday. 

Oleh Psiuk, the group’s frontman, also offered to sell his signature pink bucket hat.

The group recently announced it would tour Europe to raise funds for Ukraine and its armed forces. 

Kalush Orchestra won the competition on May 15 with the song “Stefania,” written about the frontman’s mother. The band beat competition from main rivals the United Kingdom and Spain.

The event marked the first major cultural event in which Ukrainians have taken part since Russia invaded in February, and many in the audience waved Ukraine’s blue and yellow national flag during the evening.

Ahead of the final round, Kalush Orchestra were runaway favorites to win the campy, much-loved singing contest this year, in part because of all the obstacles it overcame due to the war.

The band was unveiled as the country’s entry on February 22, two days before Russian troops invaded Ukraine.

Hungary's Viktor Orban to rule by decree during state of emergency

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban speaks to parliament on May 24 in Budapest.

Hungary’s reelected Prime Minister Viktor Orban will continue to rule by decree after a state of emergency was declared at midnight due to the fact that one of the country’s neighbors – Ukraine – is in a state of war. 

“We have seen that the war and sanctions from Brussels have brought about a great economic upheaval and drastic price rises. The world is on the brink of an economic crisis. Hungary has to stay out of this war and has to protect the financial security of families,” Orban said.

The Hungarian government argues that “the government needs to be able to make decisions and act swiftly. The state of emergency, similarly to that introduced during the pandemic, will make it possible for the government to react quickly.”

Orban said the decree was reinstated to use “all methods at its disposal” to protect Hungary and Hungarians.

The current state of emergency, which allows Orban to disable some laws and push through emergency measures by decree, was set to expire at the end of May. It had been introduced in the spring of 2020 at the start of the coronavirus-pandemic.

Orban and his Fidesz party were reelected in April despite his historically pro-Kremlin positions and close relationship with Putin. The war there upended the contest, which had been focused mostly on domestic issues before the invasion began on February 24.

Orban’s relationship with Kyiv has deteriorated over the years. He has impeded the country’s attempts to form closer relations with NATO, and has clashed with successive governments in Kyiv.

"Slovakia is next" if Russia defeats Ukraine, Prime Minister warns

Eduard Heger, Prime Minister of the Slovak Republic, attends a panel session at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Wednesday.

The Slovakian Prime Minister issued a stark warning about the future of his country should Russia defeat Ukraine during a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos Wednesday. 

Heger went on to criticize members of the European Union for relying too heavily on Russian energy. He urged leaders to “stop compromising” their principles when dealing with Russia.

“We basically traded our values for cheap gas and oil for too long,” he said. “Compromising with Putin caused a war in Ukraine. An aggressive war, people are dying.” 
Ukrainians are “shedding their own blood for our values, so we don’t have to,” Heger said.

Entry into the Union: Heger asked the bloc to work with Ukraine and the western Balkans to come up with “standardized rules so they can accede to the EU.”

Ukraine has, in recent years, deepened its economic and political ties with the EU, and Kyiv has expressed a desire to join. Nations in the western Balkans have also sought accession for several years.

Joining the bloc usually takes several years, as nations must satisfy strict criteria for membership before engaging in negotiations.

However, some current EU leaders have rebuffed the idea that its membership could be fast-tracked due to the invasion.

“There’s no such thing as a fast-tracking of accession, such a thing doesn’t exist,” Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said in March.

Lithuania vows to ship more military aid to Ukraine

Lithuanian Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas speaks during news conference in Lithuania on February 22.

Lithuania will transfer a new shipment of aid to Ukraine “to further support its defence against Russia,” the Lithuanian ministry of defense said Wednesday.

On Twitter, Arvydas Anusauskas said the Baltic nation will send 20 M113 armored vehicles, 10 military trucks and 10 SUVs for demining operations.

“Our support is crucial for Ukraine’s victory and defence of its sovereignty,” he said, adding that “Lithuania provided the first assistance before the war started and now we are constantly thinking about additional effective support that is critical to Ukraine going forward.”

Some context:

Lithuania has been a strong supporter of Ukraine since the start of the war in February, becoming the first European Union country to stop Russian gas imports. Earlier this month, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said the Russian regime had to be removed to stop “warmongering.”

Read more here:

VILNIUS, LITHUANIA - FEBRUARY 19: Minister of Foreign Affairs Gabrielius Landsbergis during a press conference on February 19, 2022 in Vilnius, Lithuania. For the past two days, NATO Defence Ministers have gathered in Brussels to discuss the expansion of military points along the European Eastern flank. Ongoing conversations between Western countries and Russia to de-escalate the crisis at the Russian- Ukrainian continue, but Western leaders continue to claim that there is a very high chance that a Russian invasion might happen in the coming days. (Photo by Paulius Peleckis/Getty Images)

Lithuanian foreign minister says Putin and Russian regime must be removed to stop 'warmongering'

Correction: This article has been updated with a correct photo of Arvydas Anusauskas, who was incorrectly identified by Associated Press in a previously published photo.

Kramatorsk mayor urges residents not to return following Russian strikes

A man walks past a damaged building after a strike in Kramatorsk on May 25.

Oleksandr Honcharenko, the mayor of the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk, urged residents Wednesday not to return following a Russian airstrike overnight. 

“An anxious night in Kramatorsk,” he wrote in a statement on Facebook. “An air strike on residential areas and the private sector. No casualties. Friends, I understand how hard it is for you outside your hometown. But the enemy is getting closer. The danger is not somewhere out there, but here - nearby! It’s too early to go back, no matter how hard it is for you.”

Kramatorsk saw a deadly missile strike on a railway station in early April, killing at least 50 civilians, including five children, who were evacuating the fighting in the country’s east.

Read more here:

Burnt out vehicles are seen after a rocket attack on the railway station in the eastern city of Kramatorsk, in the Donbass region on April 8, 2022. - More than 30 people were killed and over 100 injured in a rocket attack on a train station in Kramatorsk in eastern Ukraine, the head of the national railway company said. (Photo by Hervé BAR / AFP) (Photo by HERVE BAR/AFP via Getty Images)

Dozens killed in train station missile strike in eastern Ukraine as civilians try to flee Russian onslaught

Zelensky says he can only talk with Putin once the Russian President steps out of his "bubble" of "alternative reality"

Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky speaks via video call during a breakfast discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Tuesday that he can only talk with Vladimir Putin once the Russian President returns to the “real world.”

“Once the President is prepared to leave his bubble of this alternative reality into the real world and talk to us, understand that a lot of people are being killed, including civilians, perhaps then, will he understand that we should start talking and should put the end to this war that he launched, his country is waging against us,” Zelensky said via videoconference at a breakfast event moderated by Fareed Zakaria in Davos. 

This is not the first time world leaders have accused Putin of being out of touch with reality when it comes to his motives for the war in Ukraine.

Putin said the Kremlin’s invasion began to protect Russian speakers from genocide at the hands of “neo-Nazis,” despite the lack of any concrete evidence. While Ukraine does have a far-right battalion playing a role in the resistance, Putin has exploited the fighting forces’ neo-Nazi ties as a pretext for the war. Shortly after the invasion began, he referred to the country’s leaders in Kyiv as a “gang of drug addicts and neo-Nazis,” despite the fact that Zelensky is Jewish.

US intelligence assessed in March that Putin’s advisers were not properly informing him about the status of the war, including Russia’s early failures on the battlefield.

Speaking to Zakaria on Wednesday, Zelensky said he could only talk with Putin directly, “with no intermediaries, no brokers.”

The Ukrainian President also said Russia should withdraw its troops and equipment as the first step in negotiations between the two countries and that Ukraine will fight until “it regains all its territory back.”

The event was hosted by the Victor Pinchuk Foundation, a Ukrainian charity founded in 2006, and the investment advisory group EastOne. 

British retailer Marks & Spencer exits Russian market

British retailer Marks & Spencer (M&S) has announced it will “fully exit” the Russian in light of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. 

“M&S is a values-led business; therefore, as a result of the invasion of Ukraine, we ceased shipments to Russia on 3 March 2022,” the company said in a yearly results report published Wednesday.
“Subsequently, we have made the decision to fully exit our Russian franchise and we have recognised a charge of £31 million ($38 million) in adjusting items, representing our full exit costs from Russia and business disruption in Ukraine.”

Some context: M&S is the latest in a growing line of businesses that have abandoned or scaled back operations in Russia since it began its invasion of Ukraine.

On Monday, Starbucks said it had “made the decision to exit and no longer have a brand presence in the market” after having previously paused its operations and stopped shipments of its products to Russia.

Last week, McDonald’s said it was selling its Russia business after operating for more than 30 years in the region.

The burger chain said the “humanitarian crisis caused by the war in Ukraine, and the precipitating unpredictable operating environment, have led McDonald’s to conclude that continued ownership of the business in Russia is no longer tenable, nor is it consistent with McDonald’s values.”

UK government approves sale of Chelsea FC, says Abramovich will not benefit

A general view of Stamford Bridge, home of Chelsea FC, on Wednesday.

The British government has approved the sale of Chelsea Football Club, saying Russian owner Roman Abramovich will not benefit from the $5 billion deal . 

“Last night the Government issued a licence that permits the sale of Chelsea FC,” Britain’s Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Nadine Dorries, tweeted Wednesday. “Given the sanctions we placed on those linked to Putin and the bloody invasion of Ukraine, the long-term future of the club can only be secured under a new owner.”
“We are satisfied the proceeds of the sale will not benefit Roman Abramovich or other sanctioned individuals,” she added. 

On Tuesday, the English Premier League said its board had approved the sale of the club to a group led by American businessman Todd Boehly.

A UK government spokesperson said they will be “ensuring the proceeds of the sale are used for humanitarian causes in Ukraine, supporting victims of the war.”

“The steps today will secure the future of this important cultural asset and protect fans and the wider football community,” the spokesperson said. “We have been in discussions with relevant international partners for necessary licences required and we thank them for all their cooperation.”

Some context: The sale of Chelsea brings an end to nearly two decades of Abramovich’s ownership of the club. The Russian oligarch has known ties to the Kremlin and Russian President Vladimir Putin and was sanctioned by the UK shortly after Russia began its invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24. 

Russian missile attacks on Zaporizhzhia, Dnipropetrovsk regions, Ukrainian officials say

Ukrainian officials reported Russian missile attacks on the east-central Dnipropetrovsk region and southeastern Zaporizhzhia region on Wednesday, causing extensive damage in the city of Zaporizhzhia. 

The Russian military launched four cruise missiles on Zaporizhzhia Wednesday, a statement from the Zaporizhzhia Regional Council said. One missile was shot down by the city’s air defense, it added.

In an update, the council added at least one person was killed and three others injured, and that 62 buildings were damaged in residential areas of the city.

In a separate statement Wednesday, Valentyn Reznichenko, head of the Dnipropetrovsk regional military administration, said there had been constant air raid alarms overnight. 

“The enemy fired three missiles at Kryvyi Rih this morning,” Reznichenko said. “An industrial enterprise was hit. There is severe destruction. We are clarifying the information on the victims.”

It's 7 a.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has effectively halted all maritime trade at Ukrainian ports, according to declassified US intelligence, blocking grain exports and risking a global food crisis.

Here’s the latest on Russia’s war in Ukraine:

  • Food exports blocked: Russia has established an “effective blockade” in the northern third of the Black Sea, according to a US official who provided a declassified map of the region to CNN on the condition of anonymity. Ukraine provides about 10% of the world’s wheat exports, the official noted — the vast majority of which exit the country from Black Sea ports. The head of the UN’s World Food Programme has called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to reopen ports in Ukraine to exports to prevent children around the world from starving.
  • Mariupol death toll: At least 22,000 residents are believed to have died during Russia’s three-month assault on Mariupol, according to an official from the Ukrainian port city. Petro Andriushchenko said the figure is based on the many contacts he and other town hall officials continue to have with officials trapped inside, and believes the true number could be much higher. The figures cannot be independently verified.
  • Ukrainian forces withdraw from contested town: Russian forces have taken the contested town of Svitlodarsk in the eastern Donbas region, and Ukrainian forces have withdrawn, Pavlo Kyrylenko, the head of the Donetsk regional military administration, said Tuesday. About 10,000 civilians remain in occupied Svitlodarsk, according to Kyrylenko. He added it was “not a retreat” of the Ukrainian forces, but a “regrouping” and the “right and logical decision” to save lives.
  • Ukraine shows drone footage: The Ukrainian military has for the first time released footage of special forces using small, foreign-made drones to target Russian positions. The portable, so-called kamikaze drones carry warheads and detonate on impact.
  • Europe on alert: Hungary will enter a “state of emergency” due to the war in Ukraine, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Tuesday. “Hungary must stay out of this war and protect families’ financial security. To do this, we need room for maneuver and the ability to act immediately,” he said. Meanwhile, Poland’s foreign minister said Russia would remain a threat to peace in Europe even after any ceasefire in Ukraine.

Declassified US intelligence shows Russian blockade of Ukraine

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has effectively halted all maritime trade at Ukrainian ports, according to newly declassified US intelligence, cutting off a critical export commodity for Ukraine and risking a global food crisis.

In the months since Russia moved to invade in February, it has established an “effective blockade” in the northern third of the Black Sea, according to a US official who provided a declassified map of the region to CNN on the condition of anonymity. 

The map analyzes the density of ships coming in and out of Ukrainian ports before and after the start of the conflict, showing an almost total drop-off of commercial traffic to ports in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov after the start of the invasion. A third map provides a current visualization of the density of Russian naval vessels clustered in the Black Sea off Ukraine’s coast, highlighting “hotbeds of activity,” according to the US official. 

“The impact of Russia’s actions cannot be understated as Ukraine’s seaborne exports are vital to global food security,” the US official said, echoing the broad assessment of Western analysts and government officials.

Ukraine provides about 10% of the world’s wheat exports, the official noted, the vast majority of which exit the country f