Vladimir Putin warns Finland that joining Nato would be a 'mistake'

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Ukrainian Army soldiers walk past a burning natural gas terminal on May 13, 2022 on the northern outskirts of Kharkiv - Photo by John Moore/Getty Images
Ukrainian Army soldiers walk past a burning natural gas terminal on May 13, 2022 on the northern outskirts of Kharkiv - Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

Vladimir Putin has warned his Finnish counterpart that it would be a "mistake" for Helsinki to abandon its neutral status and join Nato.

According to the Kremlin, Putin said in a phone call that "abandoning the traditional policy of military neutrality would be a mistake, since there are no threats to Finland’s security".

Sauli Niinisto spoke with Putin on Saturday regarding the Nordic country's application for Nato membership, which is expected to be announced this weekend.

"The conversation was direct and straight-forward and it was conducted without aggravations. Avoiding tensions was considered important," Mr Niinisto was quoted as saying in a statement by his office.

"The phone call was initiated by Finland."

02:58 PM

What happened today

Here are the latest developments from the Russia-Ukraine war:

Analysts said that Ukraine has "likely won the battle of Kharkiv", the country's second-largest city.

Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin warned his Finnish counterpart that it would be a "mistake" for Helsinki to abandon its neutral status and join Nato.

It came as the two leaders spoke regarding the Nordic country's application for Nato membership.

US Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell visited Kyiv, where he met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

It emerged that Russia suspended electricity supplies to Finland overnight after its energy firm RAO Nordic threatened to cut off supplies over payment arrears.

And the head of Ukraine's military intelligence claimed that the war will be over by Christmas and Vladimir Putin could soon be removed from power in a coup.

02:47 PM

Turkey has offered sea evacuation for wounded Ukrainian fighters - Erdogan adviser

Nato member Turkey has proposed carrying out a sea evacuation of wounded fighters holed up in a steel works in the southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol, President Tayyip Erdogan's spokesman said on Saturday.

Ibrahim Kalin told Reuters in an interview that he had personally discussed the proposal with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv two weeks ago and that it remains "on the table" although Moscow has not agreed to it.

Under the plan, people evacuated from the vast Azovstal steel plant would be taken by land to the port of Berdyansk, which like Mariupol is on the Sea of Azov, and a Turkish vessel would take them across the Black Sea to Istanbul, he said.

"If it can be done that way, we are happy to do it. We are ready. In fact our ship is ready to go and bring the injured soldiers and other civilians to Turkey," said Mr Kalin, who is also Mr Erdogan's top foreign policy adviser.

Ukraine and Russia did not immediately comment on the possibility of an evacuation by sea.

02:21 PM

Hungary's new president condemns Putin's 'aggression'

Hungary's President Katalin Novak at her inauguration ceremony on Saturday condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine and said her first trip would take her to Poland, in an apparent gesture to mend relations with Warsaw.

Hungary's rejection of sending weapons shipments to neighbouring Ukraine and its opposition to a planned European Union embargo on Russian oil imports has weighed on relations between Budapest and Warsaw, whose two nationalist governments have been long-time allies in the EU.

Ms Novak, a former Fidesz party lawmaker and ally of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, was elected to the largely ceremonial post of president in March, shortly before Orban won another landslide victory in elections on April 3.

Hungary's first woman president, Ms Novak has served as deputy chair of Fidesz and was family affairs minister in Mr Orban's previous government.

"On Tuesday, 17 May, I am travelling to Warsaw to meet the President of the Polish people. Mr. President, dear Andrzej (Duda), I thank you for the opportunity to talk as befits friends!," Ms Novak said in her inauguration speech.

"We condemn Putin's aggression, the armed invasion of a sovereign state. We say eternally no to every effort aiming at the restoration of the Soviet Union," she added.

01:10 PM

Mitch McConnell visits Kyiv

US Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has visited Kyiv, where he is meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Mr Zelensky shared a video of himself meeting with Mr McConnell and his delegation of Republican senators on the Telegram app.

01:03 PM

Turkey 'not closing door' to Sweden, Finland Nato entry, Erdogan advisor says

Turkey has not shut the door to Sweden and Finland joining Nato but wants negotiations with the Nordic countries and a clampdown on what it sees as terrorist activities especially in Stockholm, President Tayyip Erdogan's spokesman said on Saturday.

"We are not closing the door. But we are basically raising this issue as a matter of national security for Turkey," Ibrahim Kalin, who is also the president's top foreign policy advisor, told Reuters in an interview in Istanbul.

Mr Erdogan surprised Nato members and the two Nordic countries seeking membership by saying on Friday it was not possible for Turkey to support enlarging the alliance because Finland and Sweden were "home to many terrorist organisations".

Any country seeking to join the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance needs the unanimous support of the members of the military alliance. The United States and other member states have been trying to clarify Ankara's position.

12:48 PM

Ukraine presses counteroffensive on key Russian line of assault - governor

Ukrainian forces are on the counteroffensive near the Russian-held town of Izium, the governor of Kharkiv region said on Saturday, striking at a key axis of Russia's assault on eastern Ukraine.

A major and successful counteroffensive on that Russian line of advance would deal a serious setback for Moscow in the Battle for the Donbas, a region in Ukraine's east that Russia has said it wants to capture completely.

Moscow's forces have been trying to fight their way south from the town of Izium, the northern part of a Russian pincer movement aimed at outflanking battle-hardened Ukrainian forces dug in to defend the eastern front line.

"The hottest spot remains the Izium direction," regional governor Oleh Sinegubov said in comments aired on social media.

"Our armed forces have switched to a counteroffensive there. The enemy is retreating on some fronts and this is the result of the character of our armed forces," he said.

In a possible shift in momentum in the war, Ukraine has been recapturing territory in its northeast, driving Russia away from the second-largest Ukrainian city of Kharkiv in their fastest advance since Moscow's troops pulled away from Kyiv.

12:36 PM

Lavrov says hard to predict how long West's 'total hybrid war' on Russia will last

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Saturday that the West had announced a "total hybrid war" against Russia and it was hard to predict how long it would last.

He said that everyone would feel the consequences of this war. Efforts by the West to isolate Russia were doomed to fail, Lavrov said, in a reference to sanctions over Ukraine.

12:16 PM

Relatives of Ukraine's trapped Azovstal soldiers ask China for help

Relatives of Ukrainian soldiers trapped in Mariupol's Azovstal steel plant called on China's President Xi Jinping to "save" the encircled troops on Saturday, saying he was the last world leader that Moscow would listen to.

Five wives of the Ukrainian soldiers and one father gave a press conference in Kyiv, in another desperate appeal to help the soldiers, holed up in the underground tunnels of the huge factory that has been besieged by Russian forces for weeks.

"There is only one man left in the world that we can address, it is the Chinese leader," said Stavr Vychniak, the father of one of the trapped soldiers.

"China has a big influence on Russia and on (Russian President Vladimir) Putin personally. We ask for him to intervene," he sad.

He called on Xi to "take necessary measures for the extraction" of the soldiers.

"They are in hell, under constant bombardment," he said, calling on wounded soldiers and bodies of dead soldiers to be removed from the plant.

11:58 AM

Russian hackers plot to stop Ukraine winning Eurovision

Cybercriminals close to Vladimir Putin are plotting to hack the Eurovision Song Contest to prevent favourites Ukraine scooping a morale-boosting musical triumph, reports James Crisp.

The Killnet hacker group, which has close ties to the Kremlin, boasted it could overload the online voting system to prevent internet votes being cast for Kalush Orchestra.

“You can’t vote online”, it posted on the Telegram messaging service with a picture of the Eurovision logo.

The folk rap combo have won hearts and votes across Europe with their song Stefania and their defiant performances as Putin pursues his illegal war in their homeland.

Lyrics such as, “I will always walk to you by broken roads” have become a rallying cry in Ukraine, which has stunned the world with its fierce resistance to Putin’s troops.

The six piece, who perform in national dress, sailed through Eurovision semi finals this week and will take to the stage in Turin, Italy on Saturday night.

Read the full story here.

11:32 AM

G7 warns of Ukraine grain crisis

The Group of Seven leading economies warned Saturday that the war in Ukraine is stoking a global food and energy crisis that threatens poor countries, and urgent measures are needed to unblock stores of grain that Russia is preventing from leaving Ukraine. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, who hosted a meeting of top G-7 diplomats, said the war had become a "global crisis."

Ms Baerbock said up to 50 million people, particularly in Africa and the Middle East, would face hunger in the coming months unless ways are found to release Ukrainian grain, which accounts for a sizeable share of the worldwide supply.

In statements released at the end of the three-day meeting on Germany's Baltic Sea coast, the G-7 pledged to provide further humanitarian aid to the most vulnerable.

"Russia's war of aggression has generated one of the most severe food and energy crises in recent history which now threatens those most vulnerable across the globe," the group said.

"We are determined to accelerate a coordinated multilateral response to preserve global food security and stand by our most vulnerable partners in this respect," it added.

11:27 AM

Finnish president spoke with Putin about Nato membership

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto spoke with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Saturday regarding the Nordic country's application for Nato membership, which is expected to be announced this weekend, his office said.

"The conversation was direct and straight-forward and it was conducted without aggravations. Avoiding tensions was considered important," Mr Niinisto was quoted as saying in a statement by his office. "The phone call was initiated by Finland."

11:05 AM

Pictured: Rocket launched near Svyatohirsk, eastern Ukraine

A rocket is launched from a truck-mounted multiple rocket launcher near Svyatohirsk, eastern Ukraine, on May 14, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.  - YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP via Getty Images
A rocket is launched from a truck-mounted multiple rocket launcher near Svyatohirsk, eastern Ukraine, on May 14, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. - YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP via Getty Images

10:42 AM

Russian fighter jets take part in Baltic Sea drills - Interfax

Russian Su-27 fighter jets have taken part in drills to repel a mock air strike on Russia's Kaliningrad exclave, Interfax news agency reported on Saturday, citing the Baltic Sea fleet.

The drills took place two days after Finland announced plans to apply to join NATO, with Sweden likely to follow - moves that would bring about the expansion of the Western military alliance that Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he aims to prevent.

The Russian Baltic Sea fleet's press service said Su-27 fighter jets "destroyed" the planes of the simulated adversary during the drills, Interfax reported.

According to the report, more than 10 crews of the Baltic Sea fleet's Su-27 were involved in the exercises.

10:17 AM

G7 nations urge Belarus to 'stop enabling Russia's aggression'

The Group of Seven industrialised nations on Saturday urged Belarus to stop "enabling" Russia's war against Ukraine after three days of talks in northern Germany.

"We... call on Belarus to stop enabling Russia's aggression and to abide by its international obligations," the G7 foreign ministers said in a communique.

10:13 AM

G7 'will never recognise' borders changed by force by Russia

The Group of Seven industrialised nations on Saturday said they would never recognise the borders Russia is trying to shift in its war against Ukraine.

"We will never recognise borders Russia has attempted to change by military aggression, and will uphold our engagement in the support of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, including Crimea, and all states," the G7 foreign ministers said in a statement after three days of talks in northern Germany.

10:06 AM

G7 foreign ministers vow to continue economic pressure on Russia

Foreign ministers from the G7 group of nations vowed on Saturday to reinforce Russia's economic and political isolation, continue supplying weapons and work to ease global food shortages stemming from the war in Ukraine, a joint statement said.

"We reaffirm our determination to further increase economic and political pressure on Russia, continuing to act in unity," the foreign ministers said in a statement after meeting in northern Germany.

09:33 AM

Canada's Joly says Sweden, Finland accession to Nato should be quick

Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said on Saturday that there should be consensus at NATO for Sweden and Finland to join the alliance, but that their accession should be quick.

"It is important that we have a consensus," she told reporters on the sidelines of a G7 foreign ministers meeting in northern Germany when asked about Turkey possibly blocking their accession.

"We wish that there not only be an accession of Finland and Sweden, but a quick accession, which is fundamental in the circumstances as Finland and Sweden are looking for security guarantees."

09:26 AM

Ukraine seeks evacuation of wounded fighters as war rages on

Ukraine's president has said very difficult talks were underway on evacuating "a large number" of wounded soldiers from a besieged steelworks in the strategic southeastern port of Mariupol in return for the release of Russian prisoners of war.

Mariupol, which has seen the heaviest fighting in nearly three months of war, is now in Russian hands but hundreds of Ukrainian defenders are still holding out at the Azovstal steelworks despite weeks of heavy Russian bombardment.

Fierce Ukrainian resistance, which military analysts say President Vladimir Putin and his generals failed to anticipate when they launched the invasion on February 24, has also slowed and in some places reversed Russian advances around Ukraine.

"At the moment very complex negotiations are under way on the next phase of the evacuation mission – the removal of the badly wounded, medics," President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a late night address.

He said "influential" international intermediaries were involved in the talks, without elaborating. Russia, which initially insisted the defenders in the sprawling Soviet-era bunkers beneath the steel works give themselves up, has said little publicly about the talks.

09:07 AM

Russia suspends electricity to Finland: Finnish grid operator

Russia suspended electricity supplies to Finland overnight after its energy firm RAO Nordic threatened to cut off supplies over payment arrears, an official for Finland's grid operator told AFP on Saturday.

The supplies "are zero since midnight," Timo Kaukonen said. RAO Nordic had Friday said it would suspend supplies, citing problems with payments, as Helsinki prepares to announce its application for Nato membership in the wake of Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

09:00 AM

The latest images from Ukraine

hg - Photo by DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP via Getty Images
hg - Photo by DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP via Getty Images
Residents react after a Russian bombing hit the House of Culture in Derhachi, which was used to distribute aid - REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes
Residents react after a Russian bombing hit the House of Culture in Derhachi, which was used to distribute aid - REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes
Ukrainian children of Odessa draw drawings of chevrons for Ukrainian soldiers at a children center in Odessa, Ukraine on May 13, 2022. - Photo by Vladimir Shtanko/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Ukrainian children of Odessa draw drawings of chevrons for Ukrainian soldiers at a children center in Odessa, Ukraine on May 13, 2022. - Photo by Vladimir Shtanko/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

07:35 AM

Russia's Gazprom says gas transit via Ukraine up from Friday at 64.9 mcm

Russian gas producer Gazprom said it is continuing to ship gas to Europe through Ukraine via the Sudzha entry point, with volumes on Saturday seen at 64.9 million cubic metres (mcm), up from 61.97 mcm on Friday.

An application to supply gas via the main Sokhranovka entry point was rejected by Ukraine, Gazprom said. Russian gas flows to Europe via Ukraine fell by a quarter on Wednesday after Kyiv halted use of the Sokhranovka route.

07:20 AM

Moscow will respond if Nato moves nuclear forces closer to Russia's border - RIA

Moscow will take adequate precautionary measures if Nato deploys nuclear forces and infrastructure closer to Russia's border, RIA news agency quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko as saying on Saturday.

Moscow has no hostile intentions towards Finland and Sweden and does not see "real" reasons for those two countries to be joining the Nato alliance, Grushko added.

06:45 AM

Kherson annexation moves closer - MoD

The Russian-imposed military-civilian administration in Ukraine's Kherson region said it will ask Russia to include it in the Russian federation, the Ministry of Defence said on Saturday.

If Russia carries out an accession referendum in Kherson, it will almost certainly manipulate the results to show a clear majority in favour of leaving Ukraine, the MoD said.

05:48 AM

Ukraine intelligence chief: war will be over by Christmas

The head of Ukraine's military intelligence has claimed that the war will be over by Christmas and Vladimir Putin could soon be removed from power in a coup.

Major General Kyrylo Budanov has told Sky News that the war is going so well that it will reach a turning point by the middle of August.

Gen Budanov, who correctly predicted earlier this year that Russia would invade, also claimed that Putin is in a "very bad psychological and physical condition and he is very sick".

He said the war would "lead to the change of leadership of the Russian Federation" and claimed the "process has already been launched and they are moving into that way".

When asked if a coup was underway, he responded: "Yes. They are moving in this way and it is impossible to stop it."

05:37 AM

Deputy head of Duma visits Kherson - report

A senior Russian lawmaker has visited the Russian-occupied region of Kherson in Ukraine to discuss social and healthcare needs of the local population, according to the the state RIA news agency.

There have been sparse confirmed reports of Russian senior officials visiting areas of fighting since Russia invaded its neighbour on Feb 24.

Kherson is the first region set to be annexed after Moscow said in April it had gained full control of the region, which has seen sporadic anti-Russian protests.

Anna Kuznetsova, deputy head of Russia's Duma or lower house of parliament, discussed the supply of food as well as medical and other products needed for children, RIA reported.

A damaged auditorium in Kherson. Russia is set to annex the city - GETTY IMAGES
A damaged auditorium in Kherson. Russia is set to annex the city - GETTY IMAGES

05:12 AM

Ukraine's answer to Graham Norton

Plaster peels off the walls, a single bulb dangles from the ceiling and, at night, the temperature can sink precipitously, David Knowles writes.

The bomb shelter where Ukraine’s commentator for the Eurovision Song Contest will work from on Saturday night is a dank, gloomy space, worlds away from the contest’s glittering stage in Turin.

But the chance of Russian artillery thundering down on Kyiv once more makes the bunker necessary.

“We have to be underground because… you never know,” Timur Miroshnychenko told The Telegraph.

Read more: Inside the bunker where Ukraine’s answer to Graham Norton will host Eurovision

04:30 AM

The lost beauty of Mariupol

Before it became synonymous with war, the Ukrainian port was thronging with carefree crowds. This is what life was like before the siege.

Read our special report on the lost beauty of Mariupol.

Mariupol - PIERRE CROM
Mariupol - PIERRE CROM

03:39 AM

India blocks all wheat exports

The Indian government has blocked all exports of wheat with immediate effect in a move that could intensify the global shortage exacerbated by the war in Ukraine.

India, which is the world's second-largest wheat producer, has seen a sharp rise in local prices.

Exports of wheat from the Black Sea region have plummeted since Russia invaded Ukraine in February and global buyers had been hoping to rely on supplies of grain from India.

In 2020, Ukraine was the world’s fifth largest exporter of wheat, with low-income countries such as Bangladesh and Lebanon among the beneficiaries.

On Thursday, G7 ministers discussed urgent measures to break the Russian blockade of grain exports from Ukraine’s ports.

02:20 AM

'200th Russian aircraft shot down'

Volodymyr Zelensky said on Friday night that Ukraine has shot down the 200th Russian aircraft of the war and he noted Russia's heavy losses in tanks, armoured vehicles, helicopters and drones.

"And for what?" he said in his nightly address. "So that the Lenin statue can stand for a bit longer in temporarily occupied Genichesk? There is and can be no other result for Russia."

Russian forces in April restored the Lenin statue in Genichesk, a town in the southern Kherson region.

Mr Zelensky said Ukraine was engaged in "very difficult negotiations" to try to evacuate the wounded fighters trapped in the Mariupol steelworks. "We're talking about a large number of people. Of course, we are doing everything to evacuate all of the rest, each of our defenders. We have already brought in everyone in the world who can be the most influential mediators."

On Friday, new footage emerged from inside the besieged steelworks in Mariupol showing utter devastation as Ukrainian fighters launch grenades to force back a Russian attack, in the first direct evidence that Moscow is trying to storm the plant.

Read more: Ukrainian troops fire grenades to fight off Russians storming Azovstal steelworks

01:28 AM

Resurgence of Russian shelling in Kharkiv

For four days this week, the people of Dergachi were able to relax, Roland Oliphant writes.

Ukrainian forces had cleared the Russian artillery from nearby hills, and for the first time in two months this quiet country town north of Kharkiv was not under fire.

But in the early hours of Friday morning, the war returned with a vengeance.

“I was in bed. There was an enormous noise, an explosion and I was covered in wood and bits of concrete from the ceiling,” said Vladimir Malakhov, a security guard at the town cultural centre.

“I began to dig myself out. It took me 20 minutes, and I did it with my eyes closed because of the dust. When we got outside, they started shelling again.”

Mr Malakhov was one of 21 people sheltering in the basement of the cultural centre, which was also an aid distribution centre, when it was destroyed by a missile at about 2am on Friday.

Read more: Resurgence of Russian shelling reminds Kharkiv’s residents: Don’t get too comfortable

An apartment block damaged in Russian shelling of Kharkiv - EPA
An apartment block damaged in Russian shelling of Kharkiv - EPA

12:15 AM

No one knows when war will end, says Zelensky

Volodymyr Zelensky said on Friday night that although Ukrainians are doing everything they can to drive out the Russians, "no one today can predict how long this war will last."

"This will depend, unfortunately, not only on our people, who are already giving their maximum," he said in his nightly video address to the nation. "This will depend on our partners, on European countries, on the entire free world."

He said he was thankful to all those who are working to strengthen the sanctions on Russia and increase military and financial support to Ukraine. "This is the only recipe for protecting freedom in the face of the Russian invasion. And for Western countries, this is not simply an expense. This is not about accounting, it's about the future."

Mr Zelensky said Ukraine on Friday shot down the 200th Russian aircraft of the war and he noted Russia's heavy losses in tanks, armored vehicles, helicopters and drones.

11:59 PM

Today's top stories

  • The Turkish president spoke out on Friday night opposing Finland and Sweden’s attempts to join Nato, in a blow to their hopes for rapid accession to the military alliance

  • Brussels is considering shelving its plans for an embargo on Russia oil imports because of mounting opposition from Hungary

  • President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Emmanuel Macron of offering Vladimir Putin concessions on Kyiv's sovereignty to help the Russian save face

  • Washington on Friday made a request for an immediate ceasefire and open dialogue between the West and Moscow in a phone call between US secretary of defence Lloyd J Austin and Sergei Shoigu, Russia's defence minister, in the first call between the pair since Feb 18

  • New footage from inside the besieged steelworks in Mariupol shows utter devastation as Ukrainian fighters launch grenades to force back a Russian attack, in the first direct evidence that Moscow is trying to storm the plant

  • The UK has imposed sanctions on Vladimir Putin’s alleged girlfriend, as well as his ex-wife and several close friends who are believed to be holding lucrative assets on his behalf

  • Ukraine opened its first war crimes trial of the war on Friday, putting a Russian soldier in the dock for allegedly shooting an unarmed 62-year-old civilian in the head as he rode his bicycle home

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