Senate GOP delegation meets Zelensky in Ukraine
Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has poured cold water on Sweden and Finland’s historic announcements that they will apply to join Nato in response to Russia’s war in Ukraine, as he warned that Ankara would not approve their bids.
Referring to a longstanding row over the Nordic countries’ hosting of members of groups outlawed by the Turkish regime, Mr Erdogan said Nato would become “a place where representatives of terrorist organisations are concentrated” if Sweden and Finland were allowed to join, adding: “How can we trust them?”
At a press conference, Mr Erdogan warned that delegations to Ankara – announced hours earlier by both nations – “should not tire themselves” if they were “coming to convince us”.
His remarks came as Russia’s Vladimir Putin appeared to back down somewhat over the matter, insisting that Moscow had “no problem” with their ascension to Nato but would take action if the alliance were to move more troops or military hardware onto the territory of its new members – steps Finland and Sweden have both already ruled out.
Mariupol fighters appear to signal possible end in sight to steelworks siege
A Ukrainian unit holed up beneath the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol has announced that its garrison was fulfilling orders to save the lives of troops, in an apparent indication that the long siege there was coming to an end.
Hours after Russia claimed it had agreed upon a “humanitarian corridor” to take wounded soldiers for medical treatment in a Russian-held town in Donetsk, the Azov Battalion said in a social media post: “In order to save lives, the entire Mariupol garrison is implementing the approved decision of the Supreme Military Command and hopes for the support of the Ukrainian people.”
In an accompanying video, one of the unit’s senior commanders, Denys Prokopenko, said: “The main thing is to realise all the risks, is there a plan B, are you fully committed to that plan which must allow for fulfilling the assigned tasks and preserve the lives and health of personnel?”
“This is the highest level of overseeing troops. All the more so when your decision is endorsed by the highest military command.”
Andy Gregory16 May 2022 20:09
France offers to defend Finland and Sweden if necessary
France stands ready to support Finland and Sweden politically and through “enhanced military interactions”, and protect the country against any threats or aggressions, Emmanuel Macron’s office has said.
“Whomever [sic] would seek to test European solidarity by threatening or attacking their sovereignty … must be certain that France will stand shoulder to shoulder with Finland and Sweden,” the Elysee said on Monday, after both nations declared they were applying to join Nato.
Iceland, Norway and Denmark also issued a joint statement on Monday declaring that they stand ready to defend their Nordic neighbours in the event of an attack.
While Russian officials had previously issued threats over the two countries’ moves to join the military alliance, Vladimir Putin appeared to back down significantly on Monday, insisting that Moscow had “no problem” with their ascension to Nato.
The Russian president instead warned that Moscow would take action if Nato were to move more troops or military hardware onto the territory of its new members – steps Finland and Sweden have both already ruled out.
Andy Gregory16 May 2022 19:42
‘I have died every day’: Ukraine wives of Mariupol fighters plead for help from Turkey
Our international correspondent Borzou Daragahi is reporting from Istanbul, where the wives of Ukrainian fighters holed up in Mariupol’s Azovstal steelworks have come to urge Turkey to persuade Russia to permit their partners’ to leave the Mariupol bunker complex:
Natalia Zarytska, a 36-year-old agriculture specialist who is married to one of the soldiers inside Azovstal, spent a long stretch of the war in a basement in Kyiv.
She told The Independent she last saw her husband on Valentine’s Day, when she briefly visited him in Mariupol just days before the Russian invasion began. During the war, they have traded messages on the Telegram app popular in eastern Europe, though she has not heard back from him for more than a week.
“I have died every day for the last 70 days,” said Ms Zarytska.
She said her 8-year-old son Olexander and the children of other fighters assemble Lego models of Mariupol to try to come up with ideas to get their fathers out of the city.
“I hope Erdogan with his humane actions can help us hug our husbands and children again,” she said. “Or at least bury them and say goodbye properly.”
You can read the full report, to which Aleksandra Zhirova also contributed, here:
Andy Gregory16 May 2022 19:27
Russia cannot enforce a ‘diktat peace’ upon Ukraine, Germany’s Scholz says
There “is only one way out of this for Russia”, Germany’s chancellor has said, warning that the West would not stand for a “diktat peace” forced upon Ukraine.
The French government was forced to deny Volodymyr Zelensky’s claim last week that he had been asked by Emmanuel Macron to consider trading territory for peace with Russia.
Speaking on Monday to the broadcaster RTL, Germany’s Olaf Scholz said that such stealth border changes would not be accepted by the West if Ukraine objected to them.
“There is only one way out of this for Russia and that is reaching an agreement with Ukraine,” Mr Scholz said. “And that doesn’t mean a diktat peace, taking a bit of territory and then saying ‘sign here’.
“And it also won’t work as in the case of Crimea, where the war is over in the sense that there is no more shooting, but a new border has been drawn, and then they wait until everything goes back to normal,” he added.
Andy Gregory16 May 2022 19:04
Erdogan tells Sweden and Finland not to bother sending delegations to Turkey
Turkey’s Tayyip Erdogan has told Swedish and Finnish delegations that they should not bother coming to Ankara to convince it to approve their Nato bid.
In a news conference, Mr Erdogan said Turkey would not approve their bids to join Nato, calling Sweden a “hatchery” for terrorist organisations, and claiming they had terrorists in their parliament.
Ankara says Sweden and Finland harbour people it says are linked to groups it deems terrorists, namely the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group and followers of Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara accuses of orchestrating the 2016 coup attempt.
Andy Gregory16 May 2022 18:46
Orban says Russia’s war in Ukraine will ‘pose permanent security threat to Hungary’
Viktor Orban has raised the spectre of an “era of recession” in Europe as he predicted that Russia’s war in Ukraine would “last for a long time … and will pose a permanent security threat to Hungary”.
Taking his oath of office in Budapest after being elected in April for a fourth consecutive term, Mr Orban said Hungary’s place was in the EU for the next decade – despite accusing Brussels of “abusing its power day by day” by pushing back member states’ sovereignty.
The most important task of his new government would be to steer Hungary’s economy through a European economic crisis, defending the tax breaks and benefits granted to families and defending households’ capped energy bills, Mr Orban said, adding: “The war and the European policy of sanctions given in response, has created an energy crisis.
“The energy crisis, and the interest rate hikes in the United States have jointly brought about the era of high inflation. All this will bring about the era of recession, when a decline in economic output, stagnation and years of slight increases in output will follow each other in Europe.”
But – speaking after the EU predicted that Hungary’s GDP growth would slow to to 3.6 per cent this year from 7.1 per cent in 2021 – Mr Orban said Hungary would not block EU sanctions against Russia as long as they posed no risk to Hungary’s energy security. Budapest has so far rejected the EU’s proposed sanctions on Russian oil, and is demanding hundreds of millions of euros from the bloc to mitigate the cost of ditching Russian crude.
Mr Orban said the National Bank of Hungary and the government would have to coordinate steps to curb inflation, taking “cautious but firm measures to regulate prices”. His government has already capped fuel prices, basic foodstuffs and mortgage rates, as well as households’ energy bills.
Andy Gregory16 May 2022 18:31
Canada ‘favours quick accession’ to Nato for Sweden and Finland
Canada is in favour of a “quick” accession to Nato for Sweden and Finland, according to the country’s foreign minister Melanie Joly.
“Canada not only favours their accession, I would say we favour a quick accession of these two countries,” Ms Joly told reporters.
It echoes comments by the US Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, who told a press conference in Stockholm that Washington will also move quickly to approve Sweden’s application.
“We anticipate moving this in a more rapid fashion than past applications for Nato,” Mr McConnell said, adding that while other countries in the alliance may be able to approve Sweden’s application sooner, “we hope to approve it before August”.
Andy Gregory16 May 2022 18:16
Nato exercises in Baltics under way
Nato has launched major military exercises in Estonia today involving 15,000 troops from 10 different countries, including Finland and Sweden who are expected to join the alliance within days.
Named “Hedgehog”, the drills will last until 3 June and were arranged before Russia launched its brutal invasion of Ukraine
The exercises in Estonia will be one of the largest military drills held in the country since 1991 and will take place just 64km (40 miles) from Russia’s nearest military base.
Emily Atkinson16 May 2022 17:55
US will release report into food security plans to G7, says top official
A top US official has said she will publish a fresh report on the work being done by international financial institutions to tackle soaring food insecurity in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Speaking from a World Central Kitchen facility in Warsaw feeding Ukrainian refugees, US treasury secretary Janet Yellen said: “Clearly Russia‘s war against Ukraine has exacerbated across the entire world the problem of food insecurity.
“The war’s having an impact beyond Ukraine and it’s something that we are very concerned about.”
She said the report would be released at the start of a meeting of finance leaders from the G7 in Germany.
Yellen said the report would outline how institutions such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development “are stepping up to provide surge support” to help countries increase food output, boost supplies and deal with surging costs.
Emily Atkinson16 May 2022 17:39
At least 10 killed in Sievierodonetsk shelling
At least 10 civilians were killed on Monday after Russian forces shelled the city of Sievierodonetsk in Ukraine’s Luhansk region, regional governor Serhiy Gaidai claimed
Gaidai said earlier today that that heavy shelling had caused fires in residential areas.
Emily Atkinson16 May 2022 17:15