Russia-Ukraine live news: Moscow, Kyiv trade blame as talks stall

Ukraine accuses Russia of failing to find areas for compromise as Moscow says Kyiv has ‘practically withdrawn’ from talks.

A car drives past in front of destroyed buildings, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine
A car drives past destroyed buildings, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Borodyanka outside Kyiv [Jorge Silva/Reuters]
  • Sweden and Finland announce they will submit their applications to join NATO on Wednesday but face a potential stumbling block to ascension after Turkey said it was opposed to them gaining membership.
  • Talks between Ukraine and Russia over ending the war have stalled, with both sides blaming each other for a breakdown in negotiations.
  • Ukraine’s military declares an end to the Azovstal operation in Mariupol after hundreds of soldiers were evacuated, having surrendered to Russian forces.
  • The Kremlin claims the fighters will be treated “humanely” but a Russian lawmaker says they “don’t deserve to live“, while the speaker of the Duma calls for them to stand trial.
  • The International Criminal Court deploys a team of investigators to Ukraine to probe possible war crimes.

INTERACTIVE Russia Ukraine War Who controls what Day 83

This live blog is now closed, thank you for joining us.

These were the updates on Wednesday, May 17:

Canada introduces bill to ban Putin from entering country

Canada has introduced a bill in the Senate that will ban Russian President Vladimir Putin and some 1,000 other members of his government and military from entering the country.

“Banning close associates and key supporters of Putin’s regime, including those responsible for this unprovoked aggression, from entering our country is one of the many ways in which we’re holding Russia accountable for its crimes,” Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said in a statement.

Where are people fleeing to?

INTERACTIVE_RefugeesDAY83- May17-2022

Cannes Film Festival opens with Zelenskyy

The 75th Cannes Film Festival has kicked off with a live satellite video address from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who called on a new generation of filmmakers to confront dictators as Charlie Chaplin satirised Adolf Hitler.

Zelenskyy, streamed live and dressed in his signature olive green shirt, drew a thunderous standing ovation and spoke at length about the connection between cinema and reality.

He quoted Chaplin’s final speech in The Great Dictator, which was released in 1940, in the early days of World War II: “The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people.”

“We need a new Chaplin who will demonstrate that the cinema of our time is not silent,” implored Zelenskyy.

McConnell urges Biden administration to ensure sustained aid to Ukraine

United States Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell urged the administration of US President Joe Biden to lead an effort to ensure broad, sustained international support for Ukraine and said Washington should remain a reliable supplier of advanced weaponry for the besieged country.

Russian attacks continue in eastern regions

Donetsk’s regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko says seven civilians have been killed due to Russian shelling, while six others were injured.

In neighbouring Luhansk, the regional military administration said that Russian forces were trying to make a breakthrough near the villages of Popasna and Severodonetsk. It added, in a Telegram message, that shelling in the area had intensified and that evacuation efforts continued.

INTERACTIVE Russia Ukraine War Who controls what in Donbas region Day 83

Ukraine removes fuel price restrictions to increase supply: minister

Ukraine’s government has lifted restrictions on fuel prices to enable traders to import more and make up the shortage Ukraine is experiencing after Russian forces destroyed many storage facilities and logistics chains, said the economy minister.

“We … suspended price regulation in order to enable market operators to saturate the market … so that they will be able to deliver all the resources available on the European market, and not only from the European market,” Yulia Svyrydenko said in an online interview with Ukrainian television.

Last Big Mac: Russians line up ahead of McDonald’s exit

Russians lined up in a Moscow train station for what may be their last Big Mac from one of the few McDonald’s restaurants still open in the country.

The world’s largest burger chain is rolling down the shutters in Russia after more than 30 years, becoming one of the biggest global brands to leave following Moscow’s actions in Ukraine.

The exit of McDonald’s ends a chapter in the United States company’s history that began when it started serving its burgers in Russia as a symbol of American capitalism.

Read the full story here.

People eat in a McDonald's restaurant near Kremlin in central Moscow, Russia
People eat in a McDonald’s restaurant near the Kremlin in central Moscow, Russia [File: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters]

More arms on their way: Macron

Arms deliveries from France to Ukraine will intensify in coming days, French President Emmanuel Macron told his Ukrainian counterpart, adding that Paris was ready to respond to additional demands for help.

In a phone call with Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Macron also said Ukraine’s European Union application would be examined by EU members at a summit in June and he repeated an idea about creating a new “political community” outside the EU to make it easier to integrate Ukraine.

Azovstal fighters brought to Russian-controlled Olenivka: Reuters

Seven buses carrying Ukrainian fighters who held out for weeks against Russian forces at the Azovstal steelworks arrived at a former penal colony in the Russian-controlled town of Olenivka near Donetsk, according to a Reuters witness.

The TASS news agency said the Russian Investigative Committee planned to question the soldiers, many of them members of the Azov Battalion, as part of an investigation into what Moscow calls “Ukrainian regime crimes”.

US launches new program to collect war crimes’ evidence

The US Department of State announced the launch of a new programne to capture and analyse evidence of war crimes and other atrocities perpetrated by Russia in Ukraine.

The so-called Conflict Observatory will encompass the documentation, verification and dissemination of open-source evidence of the actions of Russian forces in Ukraine, the department said.

Ukraine says negotiations with Russia ‘on hold’

An adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said that talks over ending the war are currently suspended and blamed Moscow for failing to find areas for compromise.

“The negotiation process is on hold,” Mykhaylo Podolyak said in a statement issued by the presidency.

Podolyak, who is also Kyiv’s lead negotiator in talks with Russia’s delegation, said Moscow was blind to its “extremely negative” role in the world.

“The strategic objective of the Russians is: all or nothing,” he added, accusing Moscow of failing to understand that the war is “no longer taking place according to its rules, its timetable, or its plans”.

His remarks came after a Russian official said earlier on Tuesday that talks were not being held “in any form” between the two sides.

Why does Turkey oppose Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership?

Ankara says it will not open NATO’s door to the two Nordic countries, accusing the Nordic countries of harbouring “terrorists” and citing issues concerning historic disagreements.

Read more here

Finnish President eyes fast NATO ratification by US

A quick ratification of Finland’s and Sweden’s applications for NATO membership by the United States would help the whole process go faster, Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto says.

“If you have a quick process there, it helps the whole process and the timetable for the whole process,” Niinsto told reporters at a joint news conference with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson in Stockholm.

“That is very important in this context,” he added.

Niinisto and Andersson are due to meet US President Joe Biden in Washington on Thursday.

Russia moves to declare Azov Regiment a ‘terrorist organisation’: Report

The office of Russia’s prosecutor general has asked the country’s Supreme Court to recognise Ukraine’s Azov Regiment as a “terrorist organisation”, the Interfax news agency reports, citing the Ministry of Justice website.

Russia’s Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the case on May 26, Interfax reported.

Sweden and Finland to hand in NATO applications on Wednesday

Andersson says Sweden and Finland will move together on Wednesday to hand in their respective applications to join NATO.

“In Sweden and Finland we also agree to go hand in hand through this entire process and we will tomorrow together file the application,” the Swedish prime minister told reporters in Stockholm.

She added Sweden was ready to talk to NATO member Turkey about her country’s membership bid and to seek to resolve any problems Ankara has over the issue.

“We are seeking contact with Turkey and we are prepared to … travel to Turkey to discuss and straighten out any question marks there may be,” Andersson said.


UN nuclear watchdog to deploy team of experts to Chernobyl

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says the UN’s nuclear watchdog plans to send another team of experts to the decommissioned Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine in “the coming weeks”.

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi, who led a first mission to the site in northern Ukraine late last month, said in a post on Twitter that the group would “provide support on radiation protection, waste management safety, [and] nuclear security”.

Russian forces took control of Chernobyl, the site of a 1986 nuclear disaster, at the beginning of Moscow’s invasion in late February before withdrawing a month later.

EU set to approve new military aid for Ukraine

European Union defence ministers are set to approve another 500 million euros ($527m) in military aid for Ukraine, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has said.

“We have to continue to support the Ukrainians with arms, that’s why we will pull 500 million euros more” from the European Peace Facility, Borrell told reporters on the way to the meeting of EU defence ministers.

Read more here.

Biden to meet Swedish, Finnish leaders at White House

The US president will host the leaders of Sweden and Finland at the White House on Thursday to discuss their NATO applications, the White House has said.

Biden, Andersson and Niinisto will also discuss “European security, as well as strengthening our close partnerships across a range of global issues and support for Ukraine,” White House Spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said.

ICC sends ‘largest-ever’ team of investigators to Ukraine

The International Criminal Court has deployed a team of 42 investigators, forensic experts and support staff to Ukraine to probe possible war crimes and crimes against humanity, its top prosecutor says.

“This represents the largest ever single field deployment by my office since its establishment,” Karim Khan said in a statement.

He added the team will improve the gathering of witness testimony as well as the identification of forensic materials and help ensure that “evidence is collected in a manner that strengthens its admissibility in future proceedings” at the Netherlands-based court.

Finland’s parliament approves NATO membership bid

Finland’s parliament has overwhelmingly voted in favour of approving a bid for NATO membership.

Matti Vanhanen, the legislative body’s speaker, said 188 lawmakers had voted in favour of the move. Eight voted against it.

Putin says it is impossible for some EU countries to ditch Russian oil

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said it is impossible for some European countries, which are heavily reliant on energy from Russia, to completely shun Russian oil.

Speaking at a televised meeting with domestic oil managers and government officials, Putin also said that Western sanctions and a proposed EU embargo on Russian oil imports had caused an increase in the commodity’s price.

Which countries have the most oil

Russian air raid kills eight in Chernhiv: Emergency service

A Russian air raid on the village of Desna in the northern Ukrainian region of Chernihiv has killed at least eight people and wounded 12 others, according to the state emergency service.

Chernihiv Governor Viacheslav Chaus said Russian forces had launched four missiles in the early hours of Tuesday morning. Two of the missiles hit buildings in the village, he added.

Chaus had earlier said there were “no more [Russian] occupiers” in the region but warned it was “easy for them to reach us”.

“Don’t ignore air raid warnings,” he cautioned.

Al Jazeera could not independently verify the reports.

German foreign minister expects quick Finnish, Swedish NATO accession

Germany’s foreign minister says she is confident that Finland and Sweden would rapidly join NATO despite reservations regarding their accession expressed by Turkey.

Annalena Baerbock said that if the transition phase between their application and full membership was more drawn out, the alliance’s members would give the two Nordic countries appropriate security guarantees.

“There are some outstanding issues from the Turkish side,” she said in Berlin on Tuesday. “They are being discussed but I am very confident there will be a quick accession because everyone knows this is a decisive, historic moment in a very dramatic situation.”

Mariupol defence changed course of war, Ukrainian official says

Ukrainian fighters who defended Mariupol from Russia’s offensive changed the course of the war by holding out for 82 days, Podolyak has said.

The adviser to Ukraine’s president said in televised comments that talks on evacuating more people from the city’s Azovstal steelworks, the last bastion of defence after weeks of Russian siege and bombardment, were difficult but that there was hope they would be successful.

Surrendered Azovstal fighters to be treated ‘humanely’: Kremlin

Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov says that Ukrainian fighters who surrendered at the Azovstal steel plant will be treated “humanely” and “in accordance with international standards”.

Peskov said that Putin had personally guaranteed that would be the case.

His remarks came after a lawmaker who acted as one of Moscow’s negotiators in now-stalled peace talks with Ukraine said earlier on Tuesday that Russia should consider the death penalty for what he called “nationalist” fighters from the Azov regiment who had been holed up at the steelworks.

“They do not deserve to live after the monstrous crimes against humanity that they have committed and that are committed continuously against our prisoners,” Leonid Slutsky said during a debate in Russia’s lower house of parliament, the State Duma.

Mini map showing Mariupol's location within Ukraine

Russia to expel two Finnish diplomats in tit-for-tat move

Russia’s foreign ministry says it is expelling two diplomats from the Finnish embassy in Moscow in retaliation against Helsinki’s decision to expel two of its own envoys.

In a statement, the ministry also said it protested against what it said was “Finland’s confrontational course towards Russia”, apparently referring to the country’s bid to join NATO.

Russian official calls for Azov Regiment fighters to ‘stand trial’: Report

The speaker of Russia’s State Duma has reportedly said that Azov Regiment fighters evacuated from Mariupol’s Azovstal steelworks should not be swapped for Russian prisoners of war and instead ought to stand trial as “war criminals”.

“Nazi criminals should not be exchanged. These are war criminals and we must do everything to make sure they will stand trial,” Vyacheslav Volodin was quoted by Russia’s TASS news agency as saying.

Moscow has long claimed that the Azov Regiment, a controversial volunteer battalion turned national guard unit with links to the far right, are “neo-Nazis”.

Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev in Kyiv.

Azov Battalion fighters are seen at a frontline position in eastern Ukraine in February, 2019
The Azov Regiment derives from a group called the Azov Battalion, which formed in 2014 as one of many volunteer brigades in the fight against Russia-backed separatists in Ukraine’s east [File: Gleb Garanich/Reuters]

Discussions with Turkey can ‘solve’ NATO objection issue: Finnish president

Finland and Sweden will be able to reach an agreement with Turkey over its objections to the two Nordic countries’ plans to join the 30-nation NATO alliance, Finland’s president has said.

“Statements from Turkey have very quickly changed and become harder during the last few days,” Sauli Niinisto said during an address to Sweden’s parliament. “But I am sure that, with the help of constructive discussions, we will solve the situation.”

Moscow targeting military leaders over war failures, Ukraine alleges

The Kremlin has demoted, dismissed or arrested at least six leading Russian military figures over failures during Moscow’s offensive, Ukraine’s defence ministry has claimed.

“To reduce the consequences of future political and criminal responsibility, the Kremlin tries blaming all of its failures and defeats on commanders of the occupation forces and units,” the ministry’s chief intelligence department said in a Telegram post.

It cited Igor Osipov, the head of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, as being among the officials targeted by the Kremlin. The ministry said Osipov was sacked and arrested over the sinking of Russia’s flagship Moskva guided-missile cruiser in the Black Sea in mid-April.

Al Jazeera could not independently verify the ministry’s claims.

Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev in Kyiv.

US urges allies to step up funding for Ukraine

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has called for Washington’s allies to step up financial support for Ukraine, saying that funds announced so far will not be sufficient for the country to meet its “basic needs” as it battles Russia’s offensive.

“Ukraine’s financing needs are significant,” Yellen said in remarks prepared for delivery to the Brussels Economic Forum.

“In the months until tax collection can resume at pace, Ukraine needs budget funding to pay soldiers, employees and pensioners, as well as to operate an economy that meets its citizens’ basic needs,” she added. “In short order, it will need to turn to repairing and restoring critical utilities and services.”

While Ukraine would eventually need “massive support” for reconstruction and recovery on the scale of the post-World War II Marshall Plan for Europe, the country would have to take this “one step at a time”, she said.

Russia says it destroyed arms shipments in western Ukraine

Russia’s defence ministry says its forces have fired missiles at arms shipments from Kyiv’s Western allies – including the US – in Ukraine’s western Lviv region, destroying the cargo.

The claim came after Lviv’s governor said Russian forces had again hit a major military facility in the region. There was no immediate response from Kyiv.

Al Jazeera could not independently verify the Russian defence ministry’s report.

Russian official says talks with Ukraine have stopped

Moscow and Kyiv are not holding talks over ending the war “in any form”, Russia’s Interfax news agency reported quoting the country’s deputy foreign minister.

“No, negotiations are not going on. Ukraine has practically withdrawn from the negotiation process,” Andrey Rudenko said.

Previous rounds of discussions in person and online have failed to produce any deal on halting the conflict.

Ukraine working on ‘further stages’ of Azovstal evacuation: Deputy PM

Ukraine is working on “further stages” of the evacuation of fighters from the Azovstal steelworks, the country’s deputy prime minister says.

“God willing, everything will be fine,” Iryna Vereshchuk said in a Telegram post. She gave no further details.

On Monday, more than 50 wounded Ukrainian soldiers were taken from the steelworks to a hospital in the Russian-controlled town of Novoazovsk, and more than 210 others were taken to the town of Olenivka in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatists.

Smoke rises above a plant of Azovstal Iron and Steel Works during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol.
The Azovstal steelworks was the last remaining holdout of Ukrainian forces defending Mariupol from Russia’s offensive [Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters]

Zelenskyy and Scholz discuss war, Russia sanctions

Ukraine’s president says he and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz have held talks on the current state of the conflict and the possibility of further sanctions on Moscow.

“Held productive talks with @Bundeskanzler. Discussed the situation on the frontline, further pressure on Russia, sanctions increase, the prospects of peace,” Zelenskyy wrote on Twitter.

He added that Ukraine counted on further German help for his country’s path to full membership in the European Union.

Finland, Sweden joining NATO makes ‘no big difference’: Lavrov

Russia’s foreign minister has said Finland and Sweden joining NATO would probably make “not much difference” as the two countries had long participated in the alliance’s military drills.

“Finland and Sweden, as well as other neutral countries, have been participating in NATO military exercises for many years,” Sergey Lavrov said,

“NATO takes their territory into account when planning military advances to the East. So in this sense there is probably not much difference. Let’s see how their territory is used in practice in the North Atlantic alliance,” he added.

Israel treads careful line as public blames Russia

While Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is trying to mediate peace between Russia and Ukraine, many Israelis with links to former Soviet nations are against Moscow’s invasion.

Read more here.

Separatists say 256 Azovstal fighters ‘surrendered’

Moscow-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine say 256 Ukrainian fighters who had been holed up in Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant “have surrendered”.

Ukraine’s military said earlier on Tuesday that it was working to evacuate all remaining troops from their last stronghold in the southeastern port city, ceding control of it to Russia after months of bombardment.

About 600 Ukrainian fighters were believed to have been inside the sprawling, Soviet-era plant. It is unclear exactly how many remain there now.

Ukrainian FM: ‘100% we will win, and Russia will be defeated’

Al Jazeera’s Diplomatic Editor James Bays sat down with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba over the weekend in a wide-ranging interview covering issues such as the expansion of NATO, sanctions and how the war is likely to end.

Read more here.

Mariupol mayor urges residents not to return

The mayor of Mariupol has urged its evacuated residents not to return to the Russian-occupied city.

“You can get in, but leaving is very complicated,” Vadym Boychenko, who has left the city, said in televised remarks. He referred to a Russian system of “filtration” that allegedly includes interrogations, searches and torture for anyone suspected of being a Ukrainian serviceman, official or sympathiser.

He said that pledges made by the Russians to pay compensation for lost housing and killed relatives were nothing but a “trap” and a “propaganda” ploy to lure back as many Mariupol residents as possible.

Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev in Kyiv.

Ukraine’s military says Russian losses approaching 28,000

At least 27,900 Russian soldiers have been killed since the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine, including some 200 in the past 24 hours, Ukraine’s military has said.

On Facebook on Tuesday, the General Staff of Armed Forces said Russian forces have also lost 1,235 tanks, 3,009 armoured vehicles, 201 planes and 167 helicopters since February 24.

It said the figures are “being updated” because of ongoing hostilities. The most recent death toll provided by Russia, in late March, put the death toll at just above 1,350 soldiers.

Al Jazeera could not independently verify the figures provided by either side.

Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev in Kyiv.

Russia Ukraine
Destroyed Russian tanks and military vehicles are seen dumped in Bucha amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine [File: Jorge Silva/Reuters]

Heavy shelling kills 10 in Luhansk: Governor

Intense Russian bombardment has killed 10 people and wounded three throughout the Luhansk region, its governor says.

The shelling also damaged a large hospital in the town of Severodonetsk that stands next to a strategic river Russians have been trying to cross for days, Serhiy Haidai said on Telegram.

Apartment buildings, private housing, and shops have also been damaged or destroyed in 10 more towns and villages amid Russia’s attempts to advance in Luhansk, he added.

Al Jazeera could not independently verify Haidai’s report.

Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev in Kyiv.

Ukraine’s air defence shot down missiles over Lviv

Ukraine’s air defence shot down three cruise missiles in the Lviv region, the country’s air force says.

“At midnight on May 17, the enemy launched a missile strike on the infrastructure of the Lviv region. Three cruise missiles were destroyed by air defence units of the West Air Command. According to reports, they attacked the Lviv region from the southeast with naval cruise missiles,” the air force said on Facebook.

Powerful blasts had been heard at the same time in Lviv, with the region’s governor saying that it seemed the air defences had done their job.

Missiles hit Sumy, injure five: Governor

Five Russian missiles struck “civilian targets” in the city of Okhtyrka, injuring at least five people, the governor of the Sumy region has said.

“Today at about five o’clock in the morning … five Russian missiles landed on civilian targets and caused a lot of damage. Warehouses caught fire,” Dmitry Zhivitsky said on Telegram.

He added many houses were affected, as well as a church and kindergarten.

Oleksiy Polyakov, right, and Roman Voitko, check the remains of a destroyed Russian helicopter in a field in the village of Malaya Rohan, Kharkiv region
Oleksiy Polyakov, right, and Roman Voitko, check the remains of a destroyed Russian helicopter in a field in the village of Malaya Rohan, Kharkiv, Ukraine, May 16 [Bernat Armangue/AP]

Russia says Ukraine shelled Donetsk residential areas

The Russian-backed administration of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic has said that Ukrainian troops twice shelled a residential area in the Petrovsky district on Tuesday, Russia’s state news agency RIA reports.

The report didn’t mention any casualties.

New Zealand sanctions 27 Belarus leaders

New Zealand has sanctioned 27 Belarusian officials, including President Aleksandr Lukashenko, and defence entities who support Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

“The Belarusian government military is enabling the illegal and unacceptable assault on Ukraine’s sovereignty,” Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta said on Monday.

Those sanctioned cannot travel to New Zealand, have aircraft or ships owned or controlled by them enter New Zealand, or hold assets or do business in New Zealand.

Japan signs $100m loan for Ukraine

Japan has signed a 13 billion yen ($100m) loan agreement with Ukraine.

The aid will be co-financed with the World Bank and incorporated into the Ukrainian government’s budget, the Japan International Cooperation Agency said on Monday. Ukraine will not use the funds for military purposes.

Japan’s welfare ministry also said it will offer specialised job assistance services for Ukrainians who have fled to Japan since Russia’s invasion.

Finland and Sweden already ‘as good as NATO members’: Analyst

An international relations expert says that while Sweden and Finland’s decision to join NATO is “historic”, there will be little practical change to the security of Europe and both countries.

Eoin McNamara told Al Jazeera’s Inside Story programme that Sweden and Finland have cooperated closely with NATO for years. “They’re as good as NATO members, without the Article 5 guarantee,” he said. Under NATO’s Article 5, an attack on one ally is considered an attack on all allies.

Membership would give the two countries an “added layer” of protection McNamara, visiting research fellow at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, added.

Russian governor says border village draws Ukrainian fire

A village in Russia’s western province of Kursk bordering Ukraine has come under Ukrainian fire, regional governor Roman Starovoit said, but there were no injuries, although three houses and a school were hit.

Russian border guards returned fire on Tuesday to quell the shooting from large-calibre weapons on the border village of Alekseyevka, Starovoit wrote on Telegram.

Russia likely to rely heavily on ‘indiscriminate’ attacks in Donbas: UK

Russia is prepared to use “artillery against inhabited areas with minimal regard to discrimination or proportionality”, the UK’s defence ministry has suggested, based on the scale of damage Russia caused to residential buildings.

Some 3,500 buildings have been destroyed or damaged in the Chernihiv region north of Kyiv in Russia’s previous advance towards the capital, the ministry said. It added that 80 percent of the damage was to residential buildings.

The ministry said Russia’s reliance on indiscriminate artillery bombardment was likely due to its “limited target acquisition capability” as well as its “unwillingness to risk flying combat aircraft routinely beyond its own front lines”.

In coming weeks, the ministry warned Russia “is likely to continue to rely heavily on massed artillery strikes as it attempts to regain momentum in its advance in the Donbas”.

Exchange planned for rescued Azovstal fighters taken to Russian territory

Ukraine’s deputy defence minister says an exchange will be worked out for the fighters evacuated from the Azovstal steel plant who have been taken to Russian-held territory.

In a video posted on social media, Anna Malyar said in the early hours of Tuesday that 53 seriously wounded fighters were taken from the Azovstal steelworks to a hospital in the Russian-held city of Novoazovsk, which is in the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic.

An additional 211 fighters were evacuated to Olenivka, also in Russian-held Donetsk, through a humanitarian corridor.

A service member of pro-Russian troops stands guard next to a combat vehicle, with the symbol "Z" seen on its side, before the expected evacuation of wounded Ukrainian soldiers from the besieged Azovstal steel mill
A pro-Russian fighter stands guard next to a combat vehicle, with a ‘Z’ seen on its side, before the expected evacuation of wounded Ukrainian soldiers from Azovstal – in Mariupol, May 16 [Alexander Ermochenko/AP]

Bodies of three civilians found near Kyiv: Police

Police have found the bodies of three civilians near a village in the Bucha region who they say were killed by Russians when Moscow’s troops had been stationed in the area.

“The burial was found on both sides of the road near Makariv, where … Russians were located during the hostilities,” the regional police service said on Facebook. Residents of Makariv, near Kyiv, spent a month under Russian occupation.

“Two people were killed in the head, one person in the stomach. Documents of one of the dead were found at the burial site – a citizen of the Czech Republic… The remaining two people have not been identified at the moment, but they were in civilian clothes,” said Andriy Nebitov, head of the Kyiv regional police.

Russians abduct local men in occupied town of Enerhodar: Interfax

Russians in the occupied town of Enerhodar, in the Zaporizhzhia region, have kidnapped several local men, taking them to an “unknown direction” with hands tied, the Interfax news agency reported, citing the Zaporizhzhia administration press service.

The regional press service said the Russian military came to the men’s apartments and kept the other residents at gunpoint while binding the men’s hands and taking them away, according to Interfax.

The press service also said that the Russian military was planning to stage a referendum on Enerhodar joining the Russian Federation.

Al Jazeera could not independently verify the reports.

Japan says it ‘respects’ Sweden’s NATO decision

Japan respects Sweden’s “serious decision” to apply for NATO membership, Japan’s chief government spokesperson has said.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is an issue affecting not only Europe but also the Indo-Pacific region, Japan Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said at a regular news conference on Tuesday.

Former FSB officer says Russia ‘failed’ in Donetsk

A Russian army veteran and former Federal Security Service (FSB) officer says Moscow’s operation to defeat the Ukrainian army in Donetsk has failed.

“[T]he operation to defeat the enemy’s Donetsk grouping, widely publicised in late April-early May, HAS FAILED,” Igor Girkin, also known under the alias Igor Strelkov, wrote on Telegram.

Strelkov said more than two weeks of “fierce fighting” had not “liberated” a single large settlement, except the town of Rubizhne, but the battle for it had started before Russia announced its new Donbas offensive.

Red Cross head accuses Europe of ‘double standard’ on Ukrainian refugees

The quick acceptance of fleeing Ukrainians puts a spotlight on Europe’s “double standard” for refugees, given its rejection of people fleeing violence in Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere, the head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies says.

Francesco Rocca, ICRC president, said his organisation hoped the Ukrainian refugee crisis would be a “turning point” in Europe’s migration policies. “But unfortunately, this was not the case.”

In contrast to Poland, Romania, Hungary, Moldova and Slovakia readily accepting Ukrainian refugees, Rocca said refugees, migrants, and asylum seekers trying to get to Europe are still dying, facing abuse and struggling to access essential services.

More than 48,000 refugees and migrants have died or disappeared since 2014 while travelling at sea, and the deadliest route is that taken by refugees across the central Mediterranean to Europe, with at least 19,000 such deaths, he said.

Emergency Situations Department employees talk to wheelchair-bound Katia, 90 years old, a refugee fleeing the conflict from neighbouring Ukraine.
Emergency department employees talk to wheelchair-bound Katia, 90, a refugee fleeing the conflict in Ukraine at the Romanian-Ukrainian border, in Siret, Romania, March 5 [Andreea Alexandru, AP File]

Putin backs off hard line on Sweden, Finland NATO bids

Vladimir Putin has appeared to climb down from Russia’s objections to Sweden and Finland joining NATO, saying Moscow had no issues with them entering the US-led military alliance.

“Russia has no problem with those states … So, in this regard, expansion by the addition of those countries poses no direct threat for us,” Putin said during a meeting with leaders of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

“But the expansion of military infrastructure into this territory would certainly provoke our response. What that [response] will be – we will see,” he added.

Missiles likely didn’t hit Lviv due to air defences: Officials

Air defences likely prevented missiles from hitting the city of Lviv on Tuesday morning, according to two officials.

Makysym Kozytskyy, the region’s governor, posted a message on Telegram saying: “according to preliminary information, air defences worked”. Andriy Sadovyi, Lviv’s mayor, said on Facebook there was no confirmation of the missiles hitting the city.

An Associated Press team in Lviv saw bright explosions that lit up the night sky to the west of the city shortly after midnight. AP said witnesses counted at least eight explosions accompanied by distant booms. An earlier report by Reuters said witnesses counted about 10 blasts.

Lviv governor says attacks hit a military base on Poland’s border again

Russia has again hit a major military facility in the Lviv region, near the border with Poland, Lviv’s regional governor said.

“A military infrastructure facility in the Yavoriv district … was shelled again,” Makysym Kozytskyy wrote on his social media channels, adding that more information would follow in the morning.

Kozytskyy’s posts came after reports of powerful blasts in the city of Lviv.

In mid-March, Russia drew warnings from NATO after it struck the Yavoriv district military base close to the alliance’s border, killing at least 35 people and injuring 134 more.

Al Jazeera could not independently verify Kozytskyy’s claims.

US Senate votes to advance $40bn Ukraine aid bill

The US Senate has voted to advance $40bn more in aid for Ukraine, the bill will possibly be voted on later this week.

The tally was 81 to 11 on the first of a potential three procedural votes, paving the way for the final Senate passage of the funding. All 11 “no” votes were from Republicans.

The House of Representatives approved the aid on May 10 but it stalled in the Senate after Republican Senator Rand Paul refused to allow a quick vote. Biden’s fellow Democrats narrowly control both the House and Senate, but Senate rules require unanimous consent for a final vote on most legislation.

Ukraine’s monthly deficit at $5bn: Zelenskyy

Ukraine faces a monthly budget deficit of about $5bn per month, Zelenskyy has said.

He mentioned this in his nighttime address in the context of his talks with IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva “on how to speed up the provision of financial assistance to Ukraine, given the state budget deficit during the war, which is about $5bn a month”.

A sports teacher stands in a destroyed gymnasium of a school after Russian shelling in the village of Druzhkivka.
A sports teacher stands in a destroyed school gym after Russian shelling in the village of Druzhkivka, Donetsk, May 16 [Andriy Andriyenko/AP]

Explosions heard in Lviv: Report

A series of explosions struck the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, the Reuters news agency has reported, citing a witness.

There was no word on casualties following the explosions. Some reports said about eight to 10 blasts occurred in quick succession.

Ukraine hopes to ‘save the lives’ of Mariupol troops: Zelenskyy

Zelenskyy has said he hoped the lives of service members in the besieged Azovstal steel plant will be saved.

“We hope that we will be able to save the lives of our guys,” Ukraine’s leader said in his nightly video address. “There are severely wounded ones among them. They’re receiving care. Ukraine needs Ukrainian heroes alive.”

Azovstal combat mission fulfilled, says Ukraine’s military

The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces has said that the troops defending the Azovstal steel plant have fulfilled their combat mission.

“The supreme military command ordered the commanders of the units stationed at Azovstal to save the lives of the personnel,” the General Staff said in a statement on its Facebook account. “Efforts to rescue defenders who remain on the territory of Azovstal continue.”

A wounded Ukrainian soldier is transported out of a bus.
A wounded Ukrainian soldier from the Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol is transported out of a bus, which arrived under the escort of the pro-Russian military in Novoazovsk, May 16 [Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters]

Ukraine says more than 260 soldiers evacuated from Mariupol plant

More than 260 Ukrainian soldiers have been evacuated from the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine’s Deputy Defence Minister Ganna Malyar has said.

“53 heavily wounded [soldiers] were evacuated from Azovstal to the medical [facility] near Novoazovsk for medical aid,” Malyar said in a statement.

Another 211 were taken out through a humanitarian corridor, she added.

Evacuated Mariupol service members arrive in Ukraine’s Novoazovsk: Report

Ukraine’s service members evacuated from the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol have arrived in Novoazovsk, Reuters has reported, citing a witness.

Some of the evacuees were carried out of the buses on stretchers, the witness said. Novoazovsk is now under the control of Russia-backed separatists who have held parts of eastern Ukraine since 2014.

US backs UN push to get Ukraine grain back to global market

The US supports efforts by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to get Ukrainian grain back into the international marketplace amid the war, the US ambassador to the United Nations has said.

“He has spoken to us about his plans and his discussions with the Ukrainians and the Russians on this issue,” Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield told reporters without giving further details.

Ukraine’s grain exports could be routed through Poland: Minister

Poland’s agriculture minister says Ukraine’s grain exports could be routed through Poland as long as Russia’s war prevents them from departing Black Sea ports.

Henryk Kowalczyk, the agriculture minister and a deputy prime minister, spoke in Warsaw alongside US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, as well as Ukraine’s agriculture secretary and the EU’s commissioner for agriculture, who is Polish.

Ukraine, a major grain producer, had warned that Russia is provoking a global food crisis by blocking the country’s Black Sea ports.

Russian attack targets training centre in western Ukraine: US official

A senior US defence official says Russian long-range attacks near the western city of Lviv appeared to target a Ukrainian military training centre in Yavoriv, less than 25km (15 miles) from the border with Poland.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the US military assessment at this point is that there were as many as six missiles fired and that a few small buildings were damaged.

There are no reports of casualties yet, the official said, adding that the missiles were fired from the Black Sea and likely came from a Russian submarine.

Ukraine says 20 civilians killed in Russian shelling

Ukraine’s Joint Forces Task Force has said 20 civilians, including a child, were killed in Russian shelling in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

The military task force said in a statement on its Facebook page that 25 communities in the regions were fired at, with 42 residential buildings and a school among the locations hit.

Buses carrying Ukrainian fighters leave Mariupol: Report

About a dozen buses apparently carrying Ukrainian fighters have left the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol, Reuters reports.

It was not possible to determine how many people were on board, the news agency reported. Reuters later published photos of the buses.

Approximately 600 fighters have been estimated to be inside the vast Soviet-era plant, including dozens of wounded.

Bus apparently carrying Ukrainian fighters
A bus carrying service members of Ukrainian forces from the besieged Azovstal steel mill drives away under escort of the pro-Russian military in Mariupol, May 16 [Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters]

Turkey will not say ‘yes’ to NATO bids of Sweden, Finland: Erdogan

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has ratcheted up his objection to Sweden and Finland joining NATO.

Erdogan accused the countries of failing to take a clear stance against Kurdish fighters and of imposing military sanctions on Turkey.

“Neither country has an open, clear stance against terrorist organisations,” Erdogan said at a joint news conference with the visiting Algerian president. “We cannot say ‘yes’ to those who impose sanctions on Turkey, on joining NATO which is a security organisation.”

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

Read all the updates from Monday, May 16 here.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies