Ukraine news – live: Russia’s Belgorod ‘shelled’, as Kyiv issues ceasefire warning

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Officials in the Russian border region of Belgorod have claimed that the area has been shelled from the direction of Ukraine over the past week.

The region’s governor Viacheslav Gladkov said that the village Solokhi was shelled “from the Ukrainian side” several times over a period of days. On Telegram on Wednesday, he said one man was wounded.

Earlier this week, on Tuesday, Mr Gladkov reported that Belgorod village Bezimeno was also shelled “from the Ukrainian side” and that there was one person who sustained “slight injury”.

On 13 May, he said an 18-year-old man – Ruslan Nefedov – was buried after he “died during the shelling of our border village of Solokhi by the Armed Forces of Ukraine.”

The first alleged Ukrainian attack on Belgorod amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was reported on 1 April, when two helicopters struck an oil depot.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian government adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said Ukraine should only be offered a ceasefire if Russian troops completely withdraw.

He added: “Ukraine is not interested in a new ‘Minsk (Protocol)’ and the war starting up again in a few years.”

Key Points

  • Russian region of Belgorod ‘shelled from the Ukrainian side'

  • President Zelensky says Russia is ‘trying to find its wunderwaffe'

  • Russian soldier pleads guilty to war crimes

  • Ukrainian civilians executed and tortured, says Human Rights Watch

  • Finland and Sweden ‘optimistic’ Turkey will approve Nato bids

US to arm Ukraine with anti-ship missiles

08:18 , Thomas Kingsley

US officials are considering arming the Ukrainian military with advanced anti-ship missiles, the Reuters agency has reported.

Citing Biden administration officials, the report says the White House could offer Kyiv Boeing Harpoon and Naval Strike missiles with which to target the Russian Black Fleet, which is currently blockading Ukrainian ports.

UK defence officials have said that around 20 Russian Navy vessels, including submarines, are active in the region.

Officials are said to believe the arms could help force Russian ships away from Ukrainian territory and allow shipments of grain and other agricultural products to resume.

But the missiles, which cost around $15m (£12m) per round and have a range of 300km, are mainly sea-based missiles, meaning Ukraine could face difficulty firing them from shore.

Germany could receive gasfrom Qatar as early as 2024, sheikh tells Handelsblatt

07:53 , Thomas Kingsley

Qatar hopes to start sending liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Germany in 2024, the Gulf state's deputy prime minister told the German daily Handelsblatt on Friday.

"We want to have our U.S. Golden Pass liquefied natural gas plant in Texas, in which Qatar Energy holds a 70% stake, ready to deliver to Germany as early as 2024," Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, who is also the Qatari foreign minister, was quoted as saying.

Later Friday, Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani is scheduled to hold talks with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin.

German plans to set up LNG terminals are picking up speed as the country scrambles to wean itself off cheaper gas imports piped from Russia in response to Moscow's attack on Ukraine

ICYMI: Russian soldier in Ukraine war crime trial pleads for forgiveness from victim’s widow

07:31 , Thomas Kingsley

A Russian soldier facing the first war crimes trial since the start of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has pleaded for his victim’s widow to forgive him.

During his testimony at a court in Kyiv, Sgt. Vadim Shishimarin, 21, told the court that he was ordered by two officers to shoot Ukrainian civilian Oleksandr Shelipov.

He claimed that he had initially disobeyed the order, but that he shot the 62-year-old because one of the officers insisted that Mr Shelipov, who was speaking on his mobile phone at the time, could pass on their exact location to Ukrainian fighters.

Read the full story below:

Russian soldier in Ukraine war crime trial pleads for forgiveness from victim’s widow

Russian shelling in Ukraine’s Luhansk kills 13, regional governor says

07:16 , Thomas Kingsley

Russian shelling in Ukraine's eastern region of Luhansk has killed 13 civilians over the past 24 hours, the regional governor, Serhiy Gaidai, said on Friday.

Twelve were killed in the town of Sievierodonesk, where a Russian assault has been unsuccessful, he said. The town and the city of Lysychansk are in an area where Russian troops have launched an offensive.

After capturing Mariupol, Russia to focus on Donbas - British MoD

06:40 , Arpan Rai

Russia will need to re-equip and refurbish its troops in Mariupol before deploying them in Donbas where it could look to reinforce operations, the British defence ministry said on Friday.

Once Russia has secured Mariupol, it is likely they will move their forces to reinforce operations in the Donbas, the ministry claimed.

“Staunch Ukrainian resistance in Mariupol since the start of the war means Russian forces in the area must be re-equipped and refurbished before they can be redeployed effectively. This can be a lengthy process when done thoroughly,” it said in its latest intelligence update.

However, Russian commanders are “under pressure to demonstrably achieve operational objectives”, the defence ministry said.

“This means that Russia will probably redistribute their forces swiftly without adequate preparation, which risks further force attrition,” it claimed.

According to the ministry officials, as many as 1,700 Ukrainian soldiers are likely to have surrendered from the Mariupol Azovstal steel factory.

An unknown number of Ukrainian forces remain inside the factory, the ministry said.

Kherson to join Russia soon, says Moscow-appointed governor

06:18 , Arpan Rai

The South Ukrainian city Kherson will soon become a part of Russia, the region’s self-proclaimed governor said.

The announcement was made at a first meeting in the city with the occupying forces backed by Russian collaborators, reported The Kyiv Independent.

Governor Volodymyr Saldo said: “We see the Russian Federation as our own country,” stating that the new budget for Kherson has been approved in Russian rubles.

Mariupol troops registered as POWs

05:52 , Arpan Rai

Hundreds of Ukrainians fighters from the Mariupol steel factory have been now registered as prisoners of war, officials said.

According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, personal details of hundreds of soldiers — name, date of birth, closest relative — have been recorded. They will be treated as prisoners and will be subjected to humane treatment of POWs under the Geneva Conventions.

The soldiers “must not be subjected to any form of torture or ill-treatment”, Amnesty International said.

Russian officials said that more than 1,700 defenders of the Azovstal steel plant have surrendered to Moscow since Monday, marking the end stage of the siege in the port city.

Troops who defended Mariupol steel mill registered as POWs

Nato military leaders say 42,000 troops and 120 jets on high alert

05:26 , Arpan Rai

Top Nato military leaders commended the Ukrainian response along with the alliance’s assistance and said that the coalition’s resolve and unity is “as great as it’s ever been”.

Air Force general Tod D Wolters, commander of European Command and the Nato supreme allied commander Europe said that in the last 84 days, “our focus is to support so that Ukraine can prevail.”

“With respect to the defence of the alliance, we’ve responded in all domains, in all regions, to shield all allies. We’ve deployed elements of the Nato Response Force to strengthen our forward defence,” Mr Wolters said on Thursday.

He added that there are now eight battle groups under Nato command deployed along the eastern flank. “There are now over 42,000 troops and 120 jets on high alert, with more than 20 ships ready to respond. Our land domain has seen a 10-fold increase, the air domain a 50 percent increase of fighters patrolling the skies,” the commander said.

More than 100,000 service members from the US are in Europe to “ensure deterrence works, and the alliance has re-started training Ukrainian service members”.

“The bottom line: Nato resolve and unity is as great as it’s ever been. The performance of our Ukrainian partners facing this aggression has been very, very impressive,” he said.

Russian soldier in Ukraine war crime trial pleads for forgiveness from victim’s widow

04:55 , Arpan Rai

A captured Russian soldier who is being tried for the first ever war crimes trial in Ukraine has asked his victim’s widow to forgive him during the court proceedings in Kyiv.

Vadim Shishimarin said he was ordered by two officers to shoot a 62-year-old civilian in Ukraine’s Sumy and he had initially refused the orders.

He asked the victim’s widow Kateryna Shelipova – who was present at the trial – to forgive him.

“I realise that you can’t forgive me, but I’m pleading with you for forgiveness,” he said.

Ms Shelipova said her husband – a pensioner and grandfather of two – had gone out to see a Russian tank that had been blown up. She added that she was “arguing with him, saying it was not safe to go out”.

Read the full story here:

Russian soldier in Ukraine war crime trial pleads for forgiveness from victim’s widow

Russia using food as weapon in Ukraine - Antony Blinken

04:42 , Arpan Rai

Russia has weaponised food in Ukraine by holding the produce and supplies “hostage” not just for Ukrainians but for millions around the world, US secretary of state Antony Blinken said on Thursday.

“The Russian government seems to think that using food as a weapon will help accomplish what its invasion has not - to break the spirit of the Ukrainian people,” Mr Blinken said in his address to the United Nations Security Council.

He added that the food supply for “millions of Ukrainians and millions more around the world has quite literally been held hostage”.

Marred by war for nearly three months now, the war in Ukraine has led to skyrocketing of prices of grains especially wheat, cooking oils, fuels and fertilisers. The UN officials and experts have sounded an alert for a looming food crisis.

Officials in Moscow snubbed the remarks by Mr Blinken and said that Russians were “not idiots” and would not export food while being subject to tough sanctions.

Situation in Ukraine’s Donbas is ‘hell’, says Zelensky

04:27 , Arpan Rai

Russian attacks pounding Ukraine’s industrial region Donbas have turned the area into hell, president Volodymyr Zelensky said on Thursday in his nightly address.

“The occupiers are trying to exert even more pressure. It is hell there - and that is not an exaggeration,” the Ukrainian president said.

“(There are) constant strikes on the Odesa region, on the cities of central Ukraine. The Donbas is completely destroyed,” Mr Zelensky said.

He added: “The brutal and absolutely pointless bombing of Severodonetsk... 12 dead and dozens wounded in just one day. The bombing and shelling of other cities, the air and missile strikes of the Russian army - all this is not just hostilities during the war.”

After failing to capture the capital city Kyiv, Russian soldiers have turned their focus to Donbas — which includes separatist territories of Donetsk and Luhansk on which Russia claims hold.

Russian troops have used massed artillery, air strikes and armour to gain as much territory as possible in Donbas.

EU considering using oligarchs’ assets to rebuild Ukraine

03:00 , Lamiat Sabin

The European Union is looking into ways of using the frozen assets of Russian oligarchs to fund the reconstruction of Ukraine after the war, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said.

Ursula von der Leyen (AFP via Getty Images)
Ursula von der Leyen (AFP via Getty Images)

“Our lawyers are working intensively on finding possible ways of using frozen assets of the oligarchs for the rebuilding of Ukraine. I think Russia should also make its contribution,” she told ZDF television.

Donbas region ‘completely destroyed,’ says Zelensky

02:00 , Lamiat Sabin

Russian forces had “completely destroyed” the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, said Volodymyr Zelensky.

“In the Donbas, the occupiers are trying to exert even more pressure. It is hell there – and that is not an exaggeration,” the Ukrainian president said in a late-night video address to Ukrainians.

Final stage of the war expected to be ‘bloodiest’ - Zelensky

01:00 , Lamiat Sabin

Volodymyr Zelensky said he cannot yet call on Ukrainian refugees to return home as he fears that the final stage of the Russian invasion will be the most bloody.

Volodymyr Zelensky during a speech to students on 19 May 2022 (The Presidential Office of Ukraine)
Volodymyr Zelensky during a speech to students on 19 May 2022 (The Presidential Office of Ukraine)

During a speech to students, the Ukrainian president said: “The final stage is the most difficult, the bloodiest, it really is.

“We can’t disengage ourselves and say, ‘that’s it, the war is over.’ I will tell you frankly that in Kyiv, since the end of the occupation of Kyiv Oblast, there is the feeling, that’s it, there is no war. Until the moment when the missiles don’t fly.”

He added: “I can’t shout ‘come home’ today to all those who are abroad, because the war is not over.”

Five Ukrainian civilians killed in Donetsk region - local official

Friday 20 May 2022 00:00 , Lamiat Sabin

Five civilians were killed and six were injured as a result of Russian military activity in the Donetsk region today, Ukraine reported.

Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of the administration of the Donetsk region, wrote on Facebook: “On 19 May, the Russians killed 5 civilians in the Donetsk region: 2 people in Bakhmut, 1 person in Krasnohorivka, 1 person in Avdiivka and 1 person in Khrestyshche.”

“Six more people were injured.”

It’s not currently possible to determine the exact number of victims in Mariupol and Volnovakha, Mr Kyrylenko said.

Putin’s daughter ‘flew to Germany 50 times in two years’

Thursday 19 May 2022 23:00 , Lamiat Sabin

One of Vladimir Putin’s daughters has flown from Moscow to Munich more than 50 times between 2017 and 2019, according to an investigation by Russian and German media.

Katerina Tikhonova – a scientist and former acrobatic dancer – had travelled on chartered flights with full state support and in the company of employees of Putin’s own presidential security service, a joint investigation by independent Russian media outlet iStories and German magazine Der Spiegel suggests.

Katerina Tikhonova, daughter of Russian president Vladimir Putin (Jakub Dabrowski/Reuters)
Katerina Tikhonova, daughter of Russian president Vladimir Putin (Jakub Dabrowski/Reuters)

The leaked cache of documents also includes the passports of a then two-year-old girl, which suggests Putin has a previously-unknown granddaughter.

Also found was the passport of Igor Zelensky, the former director of the Munich state ballet, according to a report by the Guardian, who is suspected to be Ms Tikhonova’s partner and the father of her child.

In case you missed it: George Bush’s Freudian slip-up

Thursday 19 May 2022 22:30 , Lamiat Sabin

George W Bush described the invasion of Iraq – which he led as commander in chief – as “brutal” and “wholly unjustified” before correcting himself to say he meant to refer to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The former US president said during a speech at his presidential centre in Texas: “The result is an absence of checks and balances in Russia, and the decision of one man to launch a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq – I mean of Ukraine.”

“Iraq, too,” he added.

The 75-year-old resorted to blaming his mistake on his age, while commentators described it as a Freudian slip.

His decision to launch a US invasion of Iraq in 2003 was on the basis of alleged weapons of mass destruction that have never been proven to exist.

Read the full report here by Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

Bush accidentally condemns ‘brutal’ Iraq invasion in Ukraine speech gaffe

Watch: Biden welcomes Sweden and Finland’s Nato bids

Thursday 19 May 2022 22:00 , Lamiat Sabin

US president Joe Biden has supported applications by Sweden and Finland to join Nato.

He rejected Turkey’s opposition to their bids to join the military alliance, insisting the two countries “meet every Nato requirement and then some”.

Mr Biden appeared in the White House Rose Garden with Swedish PM Magdalena Andersson and Finnish president Sauli Niinisto.

Number of Ukraine’s fighters still in Azovstal unknown

Thursday 19 May 2022 21:30 , Lamiat Sabin

It’s unknown how many Ukrainian fighters remain inside the steelworks in Mariupol while an evacuation process is ongoing.

Russia’s defence ministry said 771 fighters from the Azov Regiment of the Ukrainian armed forces had surrendered in the past day.

This brings the total of those who had given themselves up since Monday to 1,730.

Ukrainian officials declined to comment, saying it could endanger rescue efforts.

The Azov Battalion of the Ukrainian armed forces has had neo-nazis within its ranks – leading Russia to claim that its invasion was an attempt to “de-nazify” Ukraine.

Here’s more on the evacuation story by Emily Atkinson

Hundreds more fighters surrender in Mariupol, Russia says

Egypt thanked for rejecting Russia shipment Ukraine’s grain

Thursday 19 May 2022 21:00 , Lamiat Sabin

Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba has thanked Egypt for rejecting a Russian ship loaded with grain which he said had been stolen from Ukraine.

On Sunday, Egypt’s supply minister said that a ship had been turned away on the grounds that it did not have the proper paperwork. Ukraine’s embassy in Cairo alleged the ship was carrying grain from Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine.

Mr Kuleba tweeted: “Spoke with my Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry. Grateful to Egypt for turning away a Russian ship loaded with grain stolen in Ukraine.”

Ukraine and Egypt had agreed to coordinate efforts to make Russia unblock Ukraine’s food exports, he added.

Mr Kuleba also held talks with Cote d’Ivoire foreign minister Kandia Camara about the importance of unblocking Ukrainian food exports to “avert hunger and rising prices in Africa.”

It comes after UK PM Boris Johnson and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky spoke on the phone today about ways to export Ukrainian grains.

A Downing Street spokesperson said after the call: “They looked at options to open up critical sea and land supply routes for Ukrainian grain stocks, and committed to direct their teams to work urgently on the next steps.”

Kyiv official welcomes US Senate’s approval of $40bn aid

Thursday 19 May 2022 20:30 , Lamiat Sabin

A top aide to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky thanked the US Senate after it approved nearly $40 billion (about £32bn) in aid, saying this would help ensure the defeat of Russia.

Mr Zelensky’s chief of staff Andriy Yermak said in an online post minutes after the vote: “We are moving towards victory confidently and strategically. We thank our allies.”

He also tweeted: “Thanks US Senate for the historic decision to provide $40 billion aid package to Ukraine. Together, we'll win.”

The Senate voted 86-11 in favour of the package of military, economic and humanitarian aid.

US Senate approves $40bn aid for Ukraine

Thursday 19 May 2022 20:00 , Lamiat Sabin

The US Senate has voted overwhelmingly to approve a $40bn (£30bn) supplemental spending bill to provide further defence and financial aid to Ukraine’s government.

The bill passed with support from 86 senators – 47 Democrats and 39 Republicans – and was objected to by 11 senators.

Read the full story here by Andrew Feinberg

Senate approves $40b aid for Ukraine despite MAGA senators’ resistance

G7 countries commit $18.4bn for Ukraine – draft document

Thursday 19 May 2022 19:30 , Lamiat Sabin

G7 nations have committed $18.4 billion (almost £15bn) in transfers and loans to help Ukraine meet its immediate costs, according to a draft document seen by Reuters.

The finance ministers and central bankers – of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States – are meeting in Bonn, Germany, today and tomorrow.

In the draft document, they said: “We have mobilised 18.4 billion US dollars of budget support, including 9.2 billion US dollars of recent commitments in the lead up to the Petersberg meeting, to help Ukraine close its financing gap and continue ensuring the delivery of basic services to the Ukrainian people.”

British businessman ‘buys two fighter jets for Ukraine’

Thursday 19 May 2022 19:00 , Lamiat Sabin

A British businessman in London has reportedly bought two warplanes to help Ukraine’s armed forces against Russia.

Multi-millionaire Mohammad Zahoor, who is married to popular Ukrainian singer Kamalia, has been involved in mobilising funds and aid and helping to resettle refugees from the country in the UK and other parts of Europe.

Mr Zahoor, 66, purchased the aircraft, believed to be jet fighters, after holding talks with Ukrainian officials.

Read the full story here by Kim Sengupta

British businessman ‘buys warplanes to help Ukraine fight Russia’

Finland offers to discuss Turkey’s objection to its Nato bid

Thursday 19 May 2022 18:30 , Lamiat Sabin

Finland is open to discussing Turkey’s concerns over its application to join Nato, Finnish president Sauli Niinisto said.

Speaking at the White House, he added that Finland was ready to commit to Ankara’s security.

Sauli Niinisto [L], Joe Biden and Magdalena Andersson in the Rose Garden of the White House (Andrew Harnik/AP)
Sauli Niinisto [L], Joe Biden and Magdalena Andersson in the Rose Garden of the White House (Andrew Harnik/AP)

US president Joe Biden has been hosting Mr Niinisto and Swedish PM Magdalena Andersson after the two Nordic countries’ applications to join the US-led military alliance.

Mr Biden said his administration was submitting to Congress on Thursday reports on the two countries’ Nato accession.

Twelve people die in shelling of Severodonetsk - report

Thursday 19 May 2022 18:00 , Lamiat Sabin

At least 12 people have died and 40 were injured as a result of Russian shelling of the eastern Ukraine city of Severodonetsk, according to a local official.

The Luhansk regional governor Sergiy Gaiday said on social media that there were “12 dead and more than 40 injured in Severodonetsk”. He accused Russian forces of “randomly” targeting the city with heavy weaponry.

The attacks had begun early on Thursday and were continuing into the evening, he said.

Severodonetsk in eastern Ukraine (Google Maps)
Severodonetsk in eastern Ukraine (Google Maps)

Mr Gaiday wrote: “Information about the number of dead and injured is still being determined because it is impossible to examine the territory under shelling.”

Earlier this week, at least 10 people in Severodonetsk were killed due to Russian shelling of the city – he said on Monday.

Hundreds of troops in Mariupol steel plant registered as POWs

Thursday 19 May 2022 17:40 , Lamiat Sabin

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) says it has registered hundreds of Ukrainian fighters this week as prisoners of war (POWs) after they were evacuated from the Mariupol steel plant.

On Tuesday, the NGO began registering the Ukrainian troops – that had been holed up in the Azovstal steel factory for months – as they started to leave the site. The process has been ongoing since.

Red Cross have been observing the evacuation of Ukrainians from Azovstal steel plant (AP)
Red Cross have been observing the evacuation of Ukrainians from Azovstal steel plant (AP)

The registration process involves filling out a form with personal details like name, date of birth, and next of kin. This information allows the ICRC to track POWs and help them keep in touch with their families.

In accordance with the mandate given to the ICRC by the states parties to the 1949 Geneva Conventions, the ICRC must have immediate access to all POWs in all places where they are held.

Also, the ICRC must be allowed to interview POWs without witnesses, and the duration and frequency of these visits should not be unduly restricted.

Ukraine to seek damages from Russia for environmental ruin

Thursday 19 May 2022 17:20 , Lamiat Sabin

Ukraine will seek compensation in the international courts from Russia for the environmental damage it has caused, a minister said.

Ruslan Strilets, minister of environmental protection and natural resources, said Vladimir Putin’s war had destroyed ecosystems, deprived wildlife of its natural habitat and contaminated land in one of the world’s main grain producers.

Dozens of destroyed Russian armored vehicles on banks of Siverskyi Donets River (Ukraine Armed Forces)
Dozens of destroyed Russian armored vehicles on banks of Siverskyi Donets River (Ukraine Armed Forces)

He told a news conference: “Over the past 20 years, this is the first military conflict in the world that has caused such large-scale environmental damage.

“Russian missiles hit our oil depots, thermal power plants, chemical plants – this definitely affects the environment. Forests are burning, valuable protected things are being destroyed.”

Fighting near the defunct Chernobyl nuclear power station had caused fires over almost 12,000 hectares of land, Mr Strilets said.

Kyiv has recorded 1,500 cases of the destruction of ecosystems or contamination of land, he added.

Russian region of Belgorod ‘shelled from the Ukrainian side'

Thursday 19 May 2022 17:00 , Lamiat Sabin

Officials in the Russian border region of Belgorod have claimed that the area has been shelled from the direction of Ukraine over the past week.

The region’s governor Viacheslav Gladkov said that the village Solokhi was shelled “from the Ukrainian side” several times over a period of days. On Telegram on Wednesday, he said one man was wounded.

Earlier this week, on Tuesday, Mr Gladkov reported that Belgorod village Bezimeno was also shelled “from the Ukrainian side” and that there was one person who sustained “slight injury”.

On 13 May, he said an 18-year-old man – Ruslan Nefedov – was buried after he “died during the shelling of our border village of Solokhi by the Armed Forces of Ukraine.”

The region of Belgorod, close to Russia’s border with eastern Ukraine (Google Maps)
The region of Belgorod, close to Russia’s border with eastern Ukraine (Google Maps)

The first alleged Ukrainian attack on Belgorod – amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – was reported on 1 April, when two helicopters struck an oil depot.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian government adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said Ukraine should only be offered a ceasefire if Russian troops completely withdraw.

He added: “Ukraine is not interested in a new ‘Minsk (Protocol)’ and the war starting up again in a few years.”

Johnson and Zelensky discuss Ukraine’s security and exports

Thursday 19 May 2022 16:40 , Lamiat Sabin

Boris Johnson and Volodymyr Zelensky spoke on the phone today about long-term security proposals for Ukraine and ways to export Ukrainian grains.

Boris Johnson with Volodymyr Zelensky, during his visit to Kyiv in April (Ukraine Government/PA)
Boris Johnson with Volodymyr Zelensky, during his visit to Kyiv in April (Ukraine Government/PA)

A Downing Street spokesperson said after the call: “The leaders discussed progress in negotiations and agreed to step up work with allies, including the U.S., France and Germany, to define the longer-term security architecture for Ukraine.

“They looked at options to open up critical sea and land supply routes for Ukrainian grain stocks, and committed to direct their teams to work urgently on the next steps.”

Ceasefire ‘impossible’ without Russia’s total withdrawal

Thursday 19 May 2022 16:20 , Lamiat Sabin

Ukraine should only be offered a ceasefire if Russian troops totally withdraw from the country, a government adviser said.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to the Head of the Office of Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, tweeted: “Do not offer us a ceasefire – this is impossible without total Russian troop withdrawal.

“Ukraine is not interested in a new ‘Minsk (Protocol)’ and the war starting up again in a few years.

“Until Russia is ready to fully liberate occupied territories, our negotiating team is weapons, sanctions and money.”

McDonald’s sells Russia restaurants to Siberian oil tycoon

Thursday 19 May 2022 16:00 , Lamiat Sabin

McDonald’s has announced that it will sell its Russian restaurants to Siberian oil tycoon Alexander Govor – ending its 32 years of presence in Russia.

The co-owner of petroleum firm Neftekhim-Servis already operates 25 McDonald’s restaurants in Russia.

Once the deal is approved by regulators, the businessman will be in charge of all 850 branches in Russia – but under a new brand, according to the Russian business newspaper Vedomosti.

A closed-down McDonald’s branch in Podolsk, outside Moscow (EPA)
A closed-down McDonald’s branch in Podolsk, outside Moscow (EPA)

McDonald’s has not revealed the price of the sale, but the agreement ensures that the 62,000 Russian employees will keep their jobs for at least two years while Mr Govor takes responsibility for the existing supplies, rent and utilities.

Less than three weeks after Russia invaded Ukraine, McDonald’s temporarily closed its Russian branches.

However, 132 McDonald’s restaurants working semi-independently under franchises have continued to operate.

‘Not unusual’ for Nato members to disagree – Stoltenberg

Thursday 19 May 2022 15:40 , Lamiat Sabin

Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said it’s not unusual for Nato members to hold different opinions.

He was referring to Turkey’s objection to Sweden and Finland joining the military alliance.

Stoltenberg during a ceremony to mark Sweden and Finland’s bids for membership (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Stoltenberg during a ceremony to mark Sweden and Finland’s bids for membership (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

During a visit to Copenhagen, Mr Stoltenberg told reporters: “It is not uncommon in Nato to have differing opinions on major decisions.

“ We have much experience in Nato, when there is a difference of opinion, of sitting down and finding solutions.

“We are in close contact with Finland, Sweden and Turkey. We are addressing the concerns that Turkey has expressed.”

Biden meets leaders of Finland, Sweden on NATO expansion

Thursday 19 May 2022 15:11 , Matt Mathers

US resident Joe Biden met the leaders of Sweden and Finland on Thursday after the nations set aside their long-standing neutrality and moved to join the NATO alliance in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Hours before his first trip to Asia as president, Biden sat down with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Finnish President Sauli Niinisto at the White House to discuss their NATO applications.

"This is a historic event, a watershed moment in European security. Two nations with a long tradition of neutrality will be joining the world's most powerful defensive alliance," said White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan.

UK says there is a way through Turkey's concerns over Sweden, Finland joining NATO

Thursday 19 May 2022 14:58 , Matt Mathers

British defence minister Ben Wallace said on Thursday he believed there was a way to address Turkey's concerns over Sweden and Finland joining NATO.

Finland and Sweden formally applied on Wednesday to join NATO, a decision spurred by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, but Turkey has objected, accusing the countries of supporting groups that it deems terrorists.

"I think there is a way through. I think we will get there in the end and it is very important that we listen to all members and their concerns in that process and we will certainly be listening to Turkey," Wallace told parliament, adding he would be speaking to his Turkish counterpart.

ICYMI: Bush accidentally condemns ‘unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq’ in Ukraine speech gaffe

Thursday 19 May 2022 14:34 , Matt Mathers

Former US president George W Bush made a gaffe on Wednesday and condemned the “brutal” “invasion of Iraq”, before correcting himself to say he was denouncing the invasion of Ukraine.

My colleague Alisha Rahaman Sarkar reports:

Bush accidentally condemns ‘brutal’ Iraq invasion in Ukraine speech gaffe

Russian soldier at war crimes trial asks victim’s widow to forgive him?

Thursday 19 May 2022 14:10 , Matt Mathers

A Russian soldier facing the first war crimes trial since the start of the war in Ukraine has said he shot a civilian on orders from two officers and pleaded for his victim's widow to forgive him.

Sergeant Vadim Shishimarin told the court the officer insisted that the Ukrainian man, who was speaking on his mobile phone, could pinpoint their location to the Ukrainian forces.

The 21-year-old sergeant could get life in prison if convicted of shooting the Ukrainian man in the head through an open car window in a village in the north-eastern Sumy region on February 28, four days into the Russian invasion.

Looking subdued, Shishimarin said he at first disobeyed his immediate commanding officer's order to shoot the unarmed civilian but had no other choice but to follow the order when it was repeated forcefully by another officer.

Shishimarin pleaded guilty to the charges during Wednesday's hearing.

On Thursday, he asked the victim's widow, who also appeared at the trial, to forgive him for what he did.

"I realise that you can't forgive me, but I'm pleading you for forgiveness," Shishimarin said.

Espionage at cold war levels, German intelligence chief says

Thursday 19 May 2022 13:55 , Matt Mathers

The head of Germany's domestic intelligence service has said levels of espionage are as high as during the Cold War, or even higher.

Thomas Haldenwang, president of the BfV intelligence agency, also warned of the increased risk of sabotage against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine.

Germany has exposed a number of Russian spies operating in the country in recent years.

"Today we assess the level of espionage against Germany at least at the level of the Cold War - if not significantly higher," Mr Haldenwang said at an event in Berlin.

He predicted that "in a world of open hostilities and drastic sanctions, the inhibition threshold for espionage, sabotage and illegitimate influence will continue to fall".

Russian soldier asks Ukrainian widow for forgiveness over husband’s murder

Thursday 19 May 2022 13:18 , Jane Dalton

A 21-year-old Russian soldier asked a Ukrainian widow to forgive him for the murder of her husband, in the first war crimes trial arising from Russia’s invasion.

Vadim Shishimarin, a tank commander, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to killing an unarmed 62-year-old civilian in the northeast Ukrainian village of Chupakhivka.

“I acknowledge my blame ... I ask you to forgive me,” he told the widow, Kateryna Shalipova, at the Kyiv court on Thursday.

Boyish, dressed in a tracksuit and with his shaven head lowered, Shishimarin cut a forlorn spectacle in a glass booth for defendants. He spoke calmly, but looked frightened.

The Kremlin has said it has no information about the trial and that the absence of a diplomatic mission in Ukraine limits its ability to provide legal assistance.

The widow told the court she had heard distant shots fired from their yard and that she had called out to her husband.

“I ran over to my husband, he was already dead. Shot in the head. I screamed, I screamed so much,” she said.

Shalipova told the court she would not object if Shishimarin was released to Russia as part of a prisoner swap to get “our boys” out of the port city of Mariupol, a reference to hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers who have given themselves up to Russia.

Reporting by Max Hunder and Tom Balmforth of Reuters

Putin unleashes ‘Terminator’ tanks in Ukraine’s Donbas amid Russian military setbacks

Thursday 19 May 2022 12:11 , Jane Dalton

Russia has reportedly deployed armoured fighting vehicles known as the Terminator tanks in Ukraine as Moscow suffered military losses in the key Donbas region.

My colleague Shweta Sharma reports:

Putin unleashes ‘Terminator’ tanks in Ukraine’s Donbas amid Russian military setbacks

Ukraine war is fuelling global food crisis, says UN

Thursday 19 May 2022 11:47 , Matt Mathers

The world faces a global food crisis due to Russia’s war in Ukraine, with hunger levels already “at a new high”, the UN’s secretary general has warned.

Antonio Guterres, the former Portuguese prime minister who now heads the UN, said on Wednesday that he was engaged in “intense” discussions with Russia and Ukraine to improve the situation.

My colleague Rory Sullivan reports:

Ukraine war is fuelling global food crisis, says UN