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Ukraine’s leader warns war will cost Russia ‘for generations’ | Russia-Ukraine war News

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Ukraine’s president has warned Russians that continuing the invasion would exact a toll for “generations” after tens of thousands attended a nationalist event to hear a speech by President Vladimir Putin.

The remarks by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Saturday came after a mass rally was held in support of Russian forces in Moscow the previous night.

Noting the 200,000 people reported to have attended the rally was similar to the number of Russian forces deployed to Ukraine, Zelenskyy said Friday’s event in Moscow illustrated the high stakes of the largest ground conflict in Europe since World War II.

“Picture for yourself that in that stadium in Moscow there are 14,000 dead bodies and tens of thousands more injured and maimed,” the Ukrainian leader said. “Those are the Russian costs throughout the invasion.”

Putin lavished praise on his country’s military forces during Friday’s flag-waving rally, which took place on the anniversary of Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. The event included patriotic songs such as “Made in the USSR”, with the opening lines “Ukraine and Crimea, Belarus and Moldova, it’s all my country”.

“We have not had unity like this for a long time,” Putin told the cheering crowd.

Taking to the stage where a sign read “For a world without Nazism”, he railed against his foes in Ukraine with a claim they are “neo-Nazis” and insisted his actions were necessary to prevent “genocide”.

Russian President Vladimir Putin greets the audience.
Russian President Vladimir Putin greets the audience as he attends a concert marking the eighth anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimea [Ramil Sitdikov via AFP]

The rally took place as Russia has faced heavier-than-expected losses on the battlefield and increasingly authoritarian rule at home. Russian police have detained thousands of antiwar protesters.

Fighting raged on multiple fronts in Ukraine more than three weeks after Russia’s February 24 invasion.

The northwest Kyiv suburbs of Bucha, Hostomel, Irpin and Moshchun were under fire on Saturday, the Kyiv regional administration reported. The city of Slavutich, 165km (103 miles) north of the capital, was “completely isolated”, the administration said.

In the besieged port city of Mariupol, the site of some of the war’s greatest suffering, Ukrainian and Russian forces battled over the Azovstal steel plant, one of the biggest in Europe, Vadym Denysenko, adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister, said on Saturday.

Ukrainian and Russian officials agreed to establish 10 humanitarian corridors for bringing aid in and residents out — one from Mariupol and several around Kyiv and in the eastern Luhansk region, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.

She also announced plans to deliver humanitarian aid to the southern city of Kherson, which was seized by Russian forces.

INTERACTIVE_UKRAINE_CONTROL MAP DAY24

‘Territorial integrity and justice’

In his nightly video address, Zelenskyy said Russian forces were blockading the largest cities with the goal of creating such miserable conditions that Ukrainians will surrender. But he warned Russia would pay the ultimate price.

“The time has come to restore territorial integrity and justice for Ukraine. Otherwise, Russia’s costs will be so high that you will not be able to rise again for several generations,” he said.

Vladimir Medinsky, who has led Russian negotiators in several rounds of talks with Ukraine, said on Friday the two sides have moved closer to an agreement on the issue of Ukraine dropping its bid to join NATO and adopting a neutral status.

In remarks carried by Russian media, he said the sides are now “halfway” on issues regarding the demilitarisation of Ukraine.

However, Mikhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Zelenskyy, alleged that Moscow’s characterisation was intended “to provoke tension in the media”.

“Our positions are unchanged. Ceasefire, withdrawal of troops & strong security guarantees with concrete formulas,” he tweeted.

Britain’s foreign minister accused Putin of using the talks as a “smokescreen” while his forces regroup. “We don’t see any serious withdrawal of Russian troops or any serious proposals on the table,” Foreign Secretary Liz Truss told The Times newspaper.

‘Not close enough’

In a phone call with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Putin laid out plans for ending the war, according to the Turkish presidential spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin.

“President Putin thinks the positions on the Donbas and Crimea are not close enough to meet President Zelenskyy. What we need is a strategic-level meeting between the two leaders. There seems to be growing consensus … We are hoping there will be more convergence on these issues, and this meeting will take place sooner than later, because we all want this war to come to an end,” Kalin told Al Jazeera.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, during a Saturday visit to NATO ally Bulgaria, said the Russian invasion had “stalled on a number of fronts” but the United States had not yet seen signs that Putin was deploying additional forces.

Major General Oleksandr Pavlyuk, who is leading the defence of the region around Kyiv, said his forces are well-positioned to defend the city.

“We will never give up. We will fight until the end. To the last breath and to the last bullet,” said Pavlyuk.



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Ukraine-Russia live news: Fears grow for Azovstal POWs | Russia-Ukraine war News

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  • Russia’s forces are intensifying efforts to capture Severodonetsk, the final Ukrainian strongpoint in the Luhansk region.
  • Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says his country is prepared to exchange its troops who surrendered at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol for Russian prisoners.
  • A Russia negotiator says Moscow will consider exchanging prisoners from Ukraine’s Azov battalion for Viktor Medvedchuk, a wealthy Ukrainian businessman close to President Vladimir Putin. He did not specify the number of prisoners considered for the exchange.
  • Russian energy giant Gazprom says it had stopped all natural gas supplies to Finland as it had not received payment in roubles.

INTERACTIVE Russia Ukraine War Who controls what Day 87
Here are all the latest updates:

Ukraine will likely become ‘federation’: Russian official

A Russian politician and Putin’s appointed representative to the annexed region of Crimea says Ukraine is unlikely to continue to exist in its current form, Russia’s state news agency RIA reports.

Georgy Muradov suggested Ukraine would likely become a federation, or a group of states.

He added that no country that respects itself would tolerate a flagrant violation of the rights of its own people in neighbouring states, invoking the argument Moscow commonly uses for having invaded Ukraine.

“And even more so if these attempts result in outright extermination of people, as happened in recent years with regard to Russians and Russian-speakers in Ukraine, where they lived for centuries in their native land,” he said.


Ukraine’s first lady in rare interview with Zelenskyy

Ukraine’s First Lady Olena Zelenska has given a rare interview with her husband on Ukrainian television, only the second time the couple have been seen together since the beginning of the war.

Zelenska described the night she woke up hearing “weird sounds outside” and saw her husband wasn’t near her. She said she walked into the next room and “he was already dressed in a suit, but without a tie”.

“I asked him what was going on and he said, ‘It has started’,” Zelenska recalled.

“Our family was torn apart as every other Ukrainian family,” she said, adding the two hadn’t seen each other for two and a half months and spoke only be telephone.

US First Lady Jill Biden greets Olena Zelenska, wife of Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, outside a public school in Uzhhorod, Ukraine, May 8, 2022
US First Lady Jill Biden greets Olena Zelenska, wife of Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, outside a public school in Uzhhorod, Ukraine, May 8, 2022 [Susan Walsh/Pool via Reuters]

Poland’s Duda to deliver speech to Ukraine’s parliament

Poland’s president will be the first foreign head of state since the start of the war to speak directly to Ukraine’s parliament.

Andrzej Duda is due to deliver a speech to Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada on Sunday, Interfax reports.


Sanctions ‘practically broken’ logistics in Russia: Minister

Russia’s transport minister has said that international sanctions have “practically broken” logistics in the country, the state news agency TASS has reported.

“The sanctions imposed on Russia… have practically broken all logistics in our country. And we have to look for new logistics corridors,” Vitaly Savelyev, said on a visit to Russia’s southern port city of Astrakhan, on the Caspian Sea

The new corridors for moving goods include a north-south route through two Caspian Sea ports: Olya and Makhachkala.

The minister’s comments were a rare admission from the Kremlin that sanctions intended to cripple Russia’s economy are having a significant effect.


Russia labels two high-profile critics as ‘foreign agents’

Russia has added two Kremlin critics, former chess champion Garry Kasparov and former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, to its long list of “foreign agents”.

The designation applies to many independent media companies, journalists and NGOs. Everyone on the list is obliged to mark their publications with a disclaimer noting their “foreign agent” status.

Soviet-born former world chess champion Kasparov is a longtime opponent of Putin and has lived in the US for almost a decade.

Khodorkovsky, one of Russia’s most powerful businessmen in the 1990s, spent ten years in Russian prison on what many see as falsified charges, before going into exile.


Russia again accuses Ukraine of firing on Kursk region

The governor of Russia’s Kursk region has again accused Ukraine of firing on its settlements, TASS news agency reports.

“Tetkino and nearby residential areas were subjected to Ukraine’s fire once again,” Roman Starovoit said on Saturday, adding he would provide further details on the situation later.

The governor said there were no casualties or damage to infrastructure as a result of the attack.


Ukraine’s army deterring Russia’s attacks on Slovyansk, Severodonetsk: Zelenskyy

Zelenskyy has said that Ukraine’s army has for days been deterring Russia’s advances on Slovyansk and Severodonetsk.

“The situation in Donbas is extremely difficult. As in previous days, the Russian army is trying to attack Slovyansk and Severodonetsk. The Armed Forces of Ukraine are deterring this offensive,” Zelenskyy said in his nighttime address.

Russia’s defence minister said on Friday that Moscow’s forces had almost taken full control of Luhansk. Russia is intensifying its offensive on Severodonetsk, which is the last Ukrainian stronghold in the region.


Russian separatist says six men died at Azovstal during surrender

A Russian separatist leader has said that six Ukrainian fighters were killed at the Azovstal steel plant during an evacuation procedure in which the fighters were surrendering to the Russians in groups.

The self-proclaimed leader of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), Denis Pushilin, said that this happened due to Ukrainian men blowing up their own caches of ammunition.

“It is unclear who did this, no one is assuming responsibility, but after the main group walked out… someone ordered to blow up ammunition caches… six people died immediately, and, as far as I know, four were injured,” Pushilin said on the Soloviev Live YouTube channel on Saturday.

Pushilin also said that an unknown number of Ukrainian servicemen could still be at the Azovstal plant, adding that they had some stocks of food and water, but were short on medicines.


Russia has blocked 22 m tonnes of Ukraine’s food exports: Zelenskyy

Zelenskyy has said that Russia has blocked Ukraine from exporting 22 million tonnes of food products.

Speaking with media after a meeting with Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa, Zelenskyy said if the global community didn’t help Ukraine unblock its ports, the energy crisis would be followed by a food crisis.

“You can unblock them in different ways. One of the ways is a military solution. That is why we turn to our partners with inquiries regarding the relevant weapons,” he added.


Nearly 60 people evacuated from Luhansk region: Governor

The Luhansk governor has said 57 people were evacuated from the region on Saturday, adding that it was very “hot” in Severodonetsk, Lysychansk and the village of Bilohorivka.

“The shelling does not stop even for an hour. The Russians use artillery day and night,” Serhey Haidai said.

“Every life of the 57 rescued from these communities is important to us today. They are intact and already safe,” he added.

A partially collapsed school building in the village of Bilohorivka, Luhansk
A partially collapsed school building in the village of Bilohorivka, Luhansk, Ukraine, May 8, 2022 [Luhansk Regional Military-Civil Administration/Handout via Reuters]

Ukraine says agreeing to ceasefire with Russia will only escalate war

Ukraine’s presidential advisor has dismissed as “very strange” calls in the West to negotiate an urgent ceasefire with Russia that would involve its forces remaining in territory they have occupied in Ukraine’s south and east.

Mykhailo Podolyak told Reuters making concessions would backfire on Ukraine because Russia would hit back harder after any break in fighting.

“Any concession to the Russian Federation would instantly lead to an escalation of the war. So the war will not stop. It will just be put on pause for some time,” he said.

“After a while, with renewed intensity, the Russians will build up their weapons, manpower and work on their mistakes, modernise a little, fire many generals… And they’ll start a new offensive, even more bloody and large scale, taking into account all mistakes,” Podolyak added.


Russian forces intensify efforts to capture Severodonetsk: Think-tank

Russian forces have intensified efforts to encircle and capture Ukraine’s Severodonetsk city in Luhansk Oblast and will likely continue to do so in the coming days, the Institute for the Study of War has said.

“Russian troops in Luhansk will likely move to capitalise on recent gains made in the Rubizhne-Severodonetsk-Luhansk-Popasna arc to encircle and besiege Severodonetsk – the final Ukrainian strongpoint in Luhansk Oblast,” the US-based think-tank said.

According to ISW, Russian military bloggers are hypothesising on the success of Russian tactics in the area and have dubbed it the “Battle of Severodonetsk”.


Ukrainian director denounces Russian presence at Cannes

Ukrainian director Dmytro Sukholytkyy-Sobchuk has criticised the Cannes Film Festival for including a Russian director in its line-up.

The festival has banned official Russian delegations from attending, but Russian dissident Kirill Serebrennikov, who has spoken out against the invasion of Ukraine, premiered his in-competition film “Tchaikovsky’s Wife” at the festival on Wednesday.

“When he’s here, he is part of the Russian propaganda, and they can use him,” Sukholytkyy-Sobchuk told Reuters.

The Russian director Serebrennikov had said earlier this week that Russian culture should not be boycotted, saying that his culture “has always promoted human values”.

The Ukrainian director Sukholytkyy-Sobchuk described the sensation of being in Cannes while his country fights against a Russian invasion as “alien”.


Women among Azovstal fighters now prisoners of Russia: TASS news agency

There are 78 women among the people captured by Russian forces from the besieged Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol, a pro-Russian separatist leader said.

Russia’s TASS news agency reported the Donetsk separatist leader Denis Pushilin as saying there were also foreigners among those taken prisoner from the Azovstal steelworks. He did not state how many foreigners were taken prisoner.

“They had enough food and water, they also had enough weapons,” Pushilin told TASS.

“The problem was the lack of medicine,” he said, referring to the Ukrainian forces that had held out at the steel plant.


Moscow may swap Ukraine prisoners for Putin ally Medvedchuk: Negotiator

Moscow will consider exchanging prisoners from Ukraine’s Azov battalion for Viktor Medvedchuk, a wealthy Ukrainian businessman close to President Vladimir Putin, a Russian negotiator has said.

“We are going to study the possibility,” said Leonid Slutsky, a senior member of Russia’s negotiating team on Ukraine, the RIA Novosti news agency reported.

Slutsky did not say the number of Azov fighters Moscow was considering for exchange.  A separatist leader in eastern Ukraine has said nearly 2,500 Ukrainian fighters were in custody and were sure to face tribunals.

Medvedchuk, 67, is a politician and one of Ukraine’s richest people and is known for his close ties to Putin. He escaped from house arrest after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February but was re-arrested by Ukrainian forces in mid-April.

Viktor Medvedchuk
Pro-Russian Ukrainian politician Viktor Medvedchuk in handcuffs after he was detained by security forces in Ukraine in April 2022 [Press service of the State Security Service of Ukraine/Handout via Reuters]

Russian troops responsible for 7 civilians’ deaths: Ukraine governor

Ukraine says Russian forces are responsible for the deaths of seven civilians in the area of Donetsk in the east of the country that is under Moscow’s control.

Three people were killed in the town of Lyman alone, regional governor Pavlo Kirilenko wrote on Telegram.

Meanwhile in Kherson, occupied by Russian forces, local administrators accused Ukraine of killing three civilians and injuring 10 in the village of Biloserka, in a statement on Telegram.


Ukraine ready to exchange its soldiers for Russian prisoners of war: Zelenskyy

Zelenskyy says his country is prepared to exchange its troops who surrendered at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol for Russian prisoners.

In an interview with a Ukrainian television channel, Zelenskyy said the most important thing for him was to save the maximum number of people and soldiers. “We will bring them home,” he said.

Russia claims to have taken full control of the besieged city of Mariupol after the last group of Ukrainian soldiers surrendered.​​


Zelenskyy talks to Italian PM, urges more Russia sanctions

Zelenskyy has said he talked to Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and stressed the importance of more sanctions on Russia and unblocking Ukrainian ports.

Zelenskyy tweeted that he had also thanked Draghi for his “unconditional support” of Ukraine’s bid to become a member of the EU. Draghi had initiated the call, he said.


Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the war in Ukraine.

Read all the updates from Saturday, May 21 here.





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US envoy meets Taliban foreign minister, raises women’s rights | Taliban News

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US special envoy on Afghanistan stresses international opposition to Taliban’s treatment of women and girls.

The US special envoy on Afghanistan has met the Taliban’s acting foreign minister in the Qatari capital Doha and stressed international opposition to the group’s expanding curbs on women and girls.

“Girls must be back in school, women free to move & work w/o restrictions for progress to normalised relations,” US Special Representative on Afghanistan Thomas West wrote on Twitter on Saturday after meeting Amir Khan Mutaqi.

Since returning to power last August, the Taliban has imposed a slew of restrictions on civil society, many focused on reining in the rights of women and girls, that are reminiscent of their last rule in the 1990s.

Girls’ schools are yet to open, more than eight months since the Taliban came to power. The group has insisted that it wants girls to get back to school, but justified the delay on reasons ranging from infrastructure to lack of resources due to the economic crisis.

When the Taliban took power in August, the armed group promised to uphold the rights of girls and women. But its actions since have worried the international community.
Earlier this month, Afghanistan’s supreme leader ordered women to cover up fully in public, including their faces, ideally with the traditional burqa.

 

During the last few months, Taliban leaders, particularly from the Ministry of Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, have announced many new restrictions, even as criticism and international pressure mounts against them.

In December, the ministry, which replaced the Afghan Ministry of Women Affairs, imposed restrictions on women from travelling further than 72km (45 miles) without a close male relative.

This restriction was further expanded to include travelling abroad, and several solo women travellers were reportedly stopped from boarding flights. Similar bans were also introduced in several healthcare centres across the country, forbidding women to access healthcare without a mahram (male chaperone).

In January, a group of 36 UN human rights experts said that Taliban leaders in Afghanistan are institutionalising large-scale and systematic gender-based discrimination and violence against women and girls.

A surprise U-turn in March, in which the group shuttered girls’ high schools on the morning they were due to open, drew the ire of the international community and prompted the US to cancel planned meetings on easing the country’s financial crisis.

A Ministry of Education notice said on March 23 that schools for girls would be closed until a plan was drawn up in accordance with Islamic law and Afghan culture, according to Bakhtar News Agency, a government news agency.

Economic stabilisation

West also said that the two discussed economic stabilisation in Afghanistan and concerns about attacks on civilians.

The country is teetering on the verge of economic disaster after the West froze Afghanistan’s assets held abroad and cut off aid.

“Dialogue will continue in support of Afghan people and our national interests,” West, the US envoy, said in his post.

The country has been reeling from a humanitarian crisis with more than half of the population facing hunger. The Taliban has struggled to revive the aid-dependent economy, which is in freefall due to sanctions and exclusion from international financial institutions.

In December, the Biden administration issued what it called “broad authorisations” to ensure that the United Nations, American government agencies and aid groups can provide humanitarian relief to Afghanistan without running foul of sanctions against the Taliban.





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Erdogan speaks to Stoltenberg over Finland, Sweden NATO bid | NATO News

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Turkey’s President tells NATO chief Sweden and Finland must address Ankara’s concerns before it could support their membership bid.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday said Ankara would not look “positively” on Sweden and Finland’s NATO bids unless its concerns were addressed, despite broad support from other allies, including the United States.

Turkey has long accused Nordic countries, in particular Sweden which has a strong Turkish immigrant community, of harbouring outlawed Kurdish rebels as well as supporters of Fethullah Gulen, the US-based preacher wanted over the failed 2016 coup.

Erdogan’s opposition has thrown a major potential obstacle in the way of the likely membership bids from the hitherto militarily non-aligned Nordic nations since a consensus is required in NATO decisions.

“Unless Sweden and Finland clearly show that they will stand in solidarity with Turkey on fundamental issues, especially in the fight against terrorism, we will not approach these countries’ NATO membership positively,” Erdogan told NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg in a phone call, according to the presidency.

On Twitter, Stoltenberg said he spoke with Erdogan “of our valued ally” on the importance of “NATO’s Open Door”.

“We agree that the security concerns of all Allies must be taken into account and talks need to continue to find a solution,” he said.

On Thursday, Stoltenberg said Turkey’s “concerns” were being addressed to find “an agreement on how to move forward”.

Erdogan speaks to leaders of Sweden and Finland

Erdogan, who refused to host delegations from Sweden and Finland in Turkey, held separate phone calls with the two countries’ leaders – Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson – on Saturday, urging them to abandon financial and political support for “terrorist” groups threatening his country’s national security.

Erdogan called upon Sweden to lift defensive weapons export restrictions it imposed on Turkey over Turkey’s 2019 incursion into northern Syria, a Turkish presidential statement said.

The Turkish leader also said he expected Stockholm to take “concrete and serious steps” against the Kurdish Workers’ Party, or PKK, and other groups which Ankara views as “terrorists”.

Andersson tweeted that Sweden looked “forward to strengthening our bilateral relations, including on peace, security, and the fight against terrorism”.

The PKK has waged a rebellion against the Turkish state since 1984 and is blacklisted as a “terrorist organisation” by Turkey and Western allies like the European Union – which includes Finland and Sweden.

Erdogan told Finish President Sauli Niinisto “that an understanding that ignores terrorist organisations that pose a threat to an ally within NATO is incompatible with the spirit of friendship and alliance”, the statement added.

In return, Niinisto praised “an open and direct phone call” with Erdogan.

“I stated that as NATO allies Finland and Turkey will commit to each other’s security and our relationship will thus grow stronger,” he tweeted.

“Finland condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. Close dialogue continues.”

Sweden and Finland, while solidly Western, have historically kept a distance from NATO as part of longstanding policies aimed at avoiding angering Russia.

But the two nations moved ahead with their membership bid in shock over their giant neighbour’s invasion of Ukraine, which had unsuccessfully sought to join NATO.

On Thursday, Niinisto and Andersson visited Washington, where they spoke with US President Joe Biden about their bids to join NATO in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Biden said “Finland and Sweden make NATO stronger”, and offered the “full, total, complete backing of the United States of America”.



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