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Ukraine latest: Slovakia to seek exemption from EU oil embargo

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is in its third month, with casualties mounting on both sides.

Ukraine’s forces continue to resist, while its President Volodymyr Zelenskyy regularly calls on the world to do more to help. Governments around the globe have imposed heavy sanctions against Moscow but have stopped short of direct intervention for fear of sparking a wider conflict.

Meanwhile, rising geopolitical risk and volatile energy and financial markets are rocking Asia.

For all our coverage, visit our Ukraine war page.

Read our in-depth coverage:

India says Ukraine crisis ‘wake-up call’ for Europe to look at Asia

How Russia spread its fabricated pretexts for invading Ukraine

Germany, Japan tap hydrogen to reduce Russia dependence

Japan drops plan to send Ukraine refugees aid supplies via India

Entries include material from wire services and other sources.

Note: Nikkei Asia on March 5 decided to temporarily suspend its reporting from Russia until further information becomes available regarding the scope of the revised criminal code.

Here are the latest developments:

Tuesday, May 3 (Tokyo time)

4:20 p.m. Slovakia will seek an exemption from any embargo on Russian oil decided by the European Union in its next set of sanctions against Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine, Slovakia’s economy ministry says.

3:07 p.m.  A Fijian court rules that the U.S. can seize a Russian-owned superyacht 21 days after the luxury vessel Amadea arrived in the Pacific island nation and was detained by police. U.S. authorities assert that the Amadea is ultimately owned by Russian oligarch Suleiman Kerimov, who has been sanctioned by the U.S. and the European Union. Fiji’s High Court will grant an order to register a U.S. seizure warrant, Fiji Broadcasting Corporation reports.

3:00 p.m. Russian forces shell Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, and have devastated several towns in eastern Ukraine. Ukraine’s general staff says its forces were defending the approach to Kharkiv from Izyum, a town on the Donets River, some 120 km (75 miles) to the southeast, as the enemy left a trail of destruction around Luhansk. 

Ukraine’s military says Russian forces are trying to take the frontline Luhansk town of Rubizhne and prepare an assault on nearby Sievierodonetsk. The heaviest clashes were taking place around Popasna to the south. Shelling has been so intense it has not possible to collect bodies, says Serhiy Gaidai, the regional governor.

​”I don’t even want to speak about what’s happening with the people living in Popasna, Rubizhne and Novotoshkivske right now,” Gaidai says. “These cities simply don’t exist anymore. They have completely destroyed them.”

1:00 a.m. The European Union will likely propose ending purchases of Russian crude oil by the 27-country bloc before the end of 2022, Nikkei and other media report.

The proposal is expected to be announced Tuesday. This follows the EU’s coal import ban agreed on in April.

The oil embargo will be the centerpiece of a sixth package of EU sanctions on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.

Monday, May 2

11:15 p.m. Hungary has moved its embassy in Ukraine back to Kyiv from Lviv as the capital’s security situation continues to improve, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto says.

9:07 p.m. Efforts to evacuate more civilians from the devastated Ukrainian port city of Mariupol run into delays, and hundreds of people remain trapped in the Azovstal steel works, the last stronghold of resistance to the Russian siege. The cause of the holdup is unclear, though a city official says Russian forces resumed shelling the plant on Sunday after a convoy of buses had left.

5:30 p.m. Russia’s defense ministry says that the Russian military has shot down a Ukrainian MiG-29 fighter jet near Sloviansk in eastern Ukraine. The ministry says in a briefing it has hit 38 military targets in Ukraine, including ammunition depots and control centers.

4:37 p.m. A Ukrainian Bayraktar drone destroyed two Russian Raptor-class patrol ships in the Black Sea on Monday, Ukraine’s military chief says. “Two Russian Raptor-class boats were destroyed at dawn today near Zmiinyi (Snake) Island,” Chief of General Staff Valeriy Zaluzhniy wrote on the Telegram messaging app. There was no immediate reaction from Moscow to the claim.


Ukraine says it has used a Bayraktar drone to destroy two Russian Raptor-class patrol ships in the Black Sea on Monday.

  © Reuters

4:03 p.m. Finland will decide to apply for NATO membership on May 12, Finnish newspaper Iltalehti reported late on Sunday, citing anonymous government sources. The decision to join will come in two steps on that day, with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto first announcing his approval for the Nordic neighbor of Russia to join the Western defense alliance, followed by parliamentary groups giving their approval for the application, the paper reported. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has pushed Finland and Sweden to the verge of applying for NATO membership.

3:45 p.m. Ukraine could lose tens of millions of tons of grain due to Russia’s blockade of its Black Sea ports, triggering a food crisis that would affect Europe, Asia and Africa, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says. “Russia does not let ships come in or go out. It is controlling the Black Sea,” Zelenskyy told the Australian news program 60 Minutes. “Russia wants to completely block our country’s economy.” Ukraine is a major exporter of grain and other food products and also of metals.

3:04 p.m. Ukraine will be able to go on the offensive against Russia between late May and mid-June, thanks to weapons supplied by the U.S. and European countries, Oleksiy Arestovich, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in an online interview with Nikkei Asia. His remark suggests an acceleration in the pace of the war, as experts predict Russia will stage all-out attacks before its May 9 Victory Day, which commemorates the Soviet Union’s beating back Nazi Germany in World War II.

1:26 p.m. Russia’s unprovoked military aggression against Ukraine has come as a dire security warning for many countries. The horrifying destruction and huge casualties Ukraine has suffered have prompted political leaders around the world to start rethinking their security policies and strategies. Japan cannot remain insulated from the seismic shift triggered by the war in Ukraine. Nikkei commentator Hiroyuki Akita describes how the war underscores the urgency of buttressing the nation’s defense system and alliances. Read more.

6:30 a.m. The upcoming anniversary of Russia’s liberation at the end of World War II will have no bearing on Moscow’s military operations in Ukraine, the country’s foreign minister said on Italian television. “Our soldiers won’t base their actions on a specific date,” Sergey Lavrov said when asked whether the May 9 anniversary would mark a turning point in the conflict. “We’ll commemorate our victory in a solemn manner but the timing and speed of what is happening in Ukraine will hinge on the need to minimize risks for civilians and Russian soldiers,” he added.

6:00 a.m. About 70% of Asia’s biggest companies lost value in the first two months of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with investors spooked by the economic fallout from the war and the impact of tough new COVID-19 lockdowns in manufacturing powerhouse China.

The market capitalization of prominent firms such as Tencent Holdings, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. and Samsung Electronics dropped as high raw material costs and supply chain concerns weigh on manufacturers. But the value of energy and commodity companies in India, Thailand and Malaysia rose as their output commands higher prices. Read more.

5:55 a.m. Germany expects to completely wean itself off Russian crude oil imports by late summer, the Associated Press reports a German minister as saying.

Europe’s largest economy has cut its share of Russian energy imports to 12% for oil, 8% for coal and 35% for natural gas, according to Robert Habeck, who heads Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action. Berlin has faced strong calls to reduce its reliance on Russian fossil fuels over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.


Civilians who left the area near the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol look out of a bus near temporary accommodations in Ukraine on May 1.

  © Reuters

12:35 a.m. More on the Mariupol evacuation from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Sunday, May 1

11:03 p.m. A “safe passage operation” for civilians from the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol is underway, a U.N. spokesperson confirms. The operation in the besieged Ukrainian city is being carried out in coordination with the International Committee of the Red Cross, Russia and Ukraine, having begun on Friday.

5:56 p.m. Russia’s defense ministry says it has struck at weapons supplied to Ukraine by the United States and European countries and destroys a runway at a military airfield near the Ukrainian city of Odesa. The ministry says it uses high-precision Onyx missiles to strike the airfield, after Ukraine accuses Russia of knocking out a newly-constructed runway at the main airport of Odesa. Odesa regional governor Maksym Marchenko says Russia had used a Bastion missile, launched from Crimea.

5:30 p.m. A Ukrainian fighter inside a shelter in the city’s bombed out Azovstal steel works says that 20 women and children had made it out of the sprawling plant. “We are getting civilians out of the rubble with ropes — it’s the elderly, women and children,” says the fighter, Sviatoslav Palamar. Palamar says Russia and Ukraine were respecting a local ceasefire and he hoped the evacuated civilians would be taken to the city of Zaporizhzhia to the northwest.

Two groups of civilians left the residential area around the Azovstal steel works in the southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol on Saturday, Russian news agencies cites the defense ministry as saying on Sunday. The ministry says a total of 46 civilians had left the area and were provided with food and shelter, RIA and TASS reports.


Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy welcomes U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in Kyiv, Ukraine on April 30. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via Reuters) 

4:20 p.m. U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi makes an unannounced visit to Kyiv. Second in the line of succession to the president, Pelosi is the highest-ranking U.S. official to meet with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy since the start of the war. Zelenskyy releases a video of the visit on Twitter.

7:55 a.m. Hollywood actress and U.N. humanitarian Angelina Jolie makes a surprise visit to the western Ukrainian city of Lviv.

On Telegram, Lviv Gov. Maksym Kozytskyy says Jolie came to speak with displaced people who have found refuge in Lviv, including children undergoing treatment for injuries sustained in the missile strike on the Kramatorsk railway station in early April.

Jolie has been a UNHCR Special Envoy for Refugees since 2011.


Actress and UNHCR goodwill ambassador Angelina Jolie poses for photo with children in Lviv, Ukraine on April 30.

  © AP

1:07 a.m. Peace talks seem to be at a standstill as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says lifting Russia sanctions is part of negotiations with Ukraine, a claim denied by senior Ukrainian negotiator Mykhailo Podolyak. “The talks’ agenda … includes, among other things, the issues of denazification, the recognition of new geopolitical realities, the lifting of sanctions, the status of the Russian language,” Lavrov says in comments to China’s official Xinhua news agency published on the Russian Foreign Ministry’s website.

But Podolyak is dismissive of those comments, saying Lavrov had not attended a single negotiating round, and Ukraine did not need lessons in “denazification” or use of the Russian language from those who had attacked and occupied Ukrainian towns and cities, according to Reuters.

Saturday, April 30

11:57 p.m. The Ukrainian military says a Russian missile strike on Odesa airport has damaged the runway and it can no longer be used.

11:25 p.m. Ukraine and Russia carry out a prisoner exchange, with seven soldiers and seven civilians coming home to Ukraine, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk says. One of the soldiers was a woman who is five months’ pregnant, she adds.

9:00 p.m. French President Emmanuel Macron says France will step up military and humanitarian support to Ukraine during a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. According to Reuters, Macron reiterates his “strong concern” over Russia’s bombing of Ukrainian cities and the “unbearable situation” in the southeastern port city of Mariupol.

3:09 p.m. Russian forces have stolen “several hundred thousand tons” of grain in the areas of Ukraine they occupy, Ukraine’s deputy agriculture minister says. Speaking to Ukrainian national TV, Taras Vysotskiy expressed concern that most of what he said was 1.5 million tons of grain stored in occupied territory could also be stolen by Russian forces. Ukraine’s foreign ministry on Thursday accused Russia of stealing grain in territory it has occupied, an act it said increased the threat to global food security.

2:20 a.m. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is on a five-nation tour framed as “protecting peace” as Russia’s war against Ukraine divides the Group of 20.

On his first stop, in Indonesia, Kishida stood beside Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo on Friday to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Unilateral changes to the status quo by force are unacceptable, and we affirmed that we will urge a peaceful resolution to conflict based on international law,” Kishida said at a joint news conference in Jakarta. He is also visiting Vietnam, Thailand, Italy and the U.K. before returning to Japan next Friday. Read more.

1:57 a.m. Russia appears close to averting an expected debt default after claiming it made two overdue dollar-bond payments Friday totaling $649 million, sent in dollars.

After U.S. authorities this month stopped American banks from processing such payments, Russia said it would pay in rubles, which is not permitted by the terms of the bonds. It may now be taking a different approach. Russia could dodge default if investors get their dollars before a 30-day grace period that expires May 4.

1:30 a.m. Japan’s foreign minister calls on Kazakhstan to side with members of the international community taking a stand against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Yoshimasa Hayashi made the request at a meeting with Kazakh counterpart Mukhtar Tileuberdi in Nur-Sultan, following Kazakhstan’s abstention last month from the U.N. General Assembly resolution condemning Russia.

Friday, April 29

10:00 p.m. Russia has not decided whether President Vladimir Putin will attend the Group of 20 summit in Indonesia in person or virtually, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov says.


Indonesia has invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to the November G-20 summit in Bali, despite protests from some Western countries.

  © Reuters

9:00 p.m. Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo says Russian President Vladimir Putin accepted his invitation to the Group of 20 summit.

Widodo says he emphasized the importance of ending the war immediately in a phone conversation with the Russian leader. “I also emphasize that a peaceful solution can continue to be put forward, and Indonesia is ready to contribute to the peace effort,” he says.

The Indonesian leader also says he turned down a request for arms from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in a separate phone call, and urged both Zelenskyy and Putin to end the war in Ukraine.

Indonesia, the current chair of the Group of 20 major economies, has invited both Zelenskyy and Putin to the November leaders summit in Bali, despite pressure from some Western countries to exclude the latter. Ukraine is not a member of the G-20, but chairs of the group have previously invited guest countries.

8:07 p.m. The Bank of Russia cuts its key interest rate by 300 basis points for the second time this month, to 14%, looking to stimulate more lending in the economy amid high inflation, surprising analysts who had forecast a smaller reduction.

The Russian ruble strengthens to 74.0525 against the euro, the highest in more than two years, and reaches 70.3075 to the dollar in Moscow trade before paring some gains, supported by capital controls.


U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy shake hands at a joint news conference in Kyiv on April 28.

  © Reuters

7:00 a.m. Efforts to create a humanitarian corridor for civilians trapped in a Mariupol steel plant continue after United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres meets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv, with Guterres calling the situation in the besieged city an “apocalypse.”

“I can only tell you we are doing everything we can to make it happen,” Guterres tells reporters after the meeting. “I am not going to enter into any comments that would undermine that possibility, because my first and only priority is the people that suffer and the people that must be rescued.”

Zelenskyy later says five Russian missiles flew into Kyiv “immediately after the end” of his talks with the U.N. chief.

2:40 a.m. U.S. President Joe Biden asks Congress for $33 billion to support Ukraine — a dramatic escalation of American funding for the war with Russia — and for new tools to siphon assets from Russian oligarchs.

1:00 a.m. China’s biggest oil refiner, Sinopec Group, has been unloading excess liquefied natural gas to European buyers, the company says, in transactions that appear to run counter to China’s objections to Russian sanctions.

Sinopec’s Hong Kong-listed subsidiary confirms during a first quarter earnings call that it is reselling part of its LNG stockpile on the “international market” in commenting on sales to Europe.

“These are pure market transactions,” a Sinopec representative says. “We are trading LNG on a global scale based on commercialization and diversification principles.” Read more.

Thursday, April 28

11:00 p.m. As Western energy groups pull out of Russia, Chinese oil driller CNOOC says the company has “no plan to exit from any particular region.”

All of CNOOC’s overseas projects are operating smoothly, and the company has felt no impact from the Russia-Ukraine war or any related sanctions, Chief Financial Officer Xie Weizhi tells an earnings conference.

Xie says CNOOC “neither has a plan nor has taken specific actions” regarding assets in Russia being departed by Western energy groups. Read more.

10:30 p.m. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Thursday is dominated by how to respond to Russia’s aggression and the economic impact of its war on Ukraine. The two leaders discuss help for Ukraine and agree that Scholz’s flight home on the government plane also will carry aid items from Japan to Ukraine.

Earlier, Scholz tells Japanese business leaders: “In the future, hydrogen will be an alternative to today’s gas and coal. By promoting the development of hydrogen through Japan-Germany cooperation, we can bring about prosperity on a wide scale.” Read more.

10:21 p.m. The U.S. accuses Moscow of planning to stage fake independence votes in captured areas of southern and eastern Ukraine to justify the Russian invasion.

10:18 p.m. Finland will not pay for Russian gas in rubles despite Russia’s request for European countries to do so, says Tytti Tuppurainen, the Finnish minister in charge of European affairs.

5:52 p.m. A Russian court has fined social media network Twitter 3 million rubles ($41,000) for not removing banned content from its site, Interfax news agency reports. The fine was imposed after Twitter failed to delete content banned in Russia, including posts with instructions on how to make Molotov cocktails, Interfax said, citing the court. Earlier, Interfax reported that Russia fined U.S. internet giant Google the same amount for refusing to remove banned content from video-sharing site YouTube.

5:00 p.m. British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace says it would be legitimate for Ukrainian forces to target Russian logistics, but they were unlikely to use British weapons. Moscow has accused London of provoking Ukraine to strike targets in Russia, saying there would be an immediate “proportional response” if it continued. “If Ukraine did choose to target logistics infrastructure for the Russian army, that would be legitimate under international law,” Wallace told BBC TV. He said any long-range weapons were unlikely to come from Britain however, because Ukrainian forces tend to use mobile launchers, while the British Army would deliver them from the air or sea.

4:19 p.m. Japan Tobacco says it is considering selling off its Russian operations, JT International Russia, in response to the country’s invasion of Ukraine. The company controls nearly 40% of the Russian cigarette market, but stated that it is “continuing to evaluate various options for its Russia business, including a potential transfer of ownership.”

12:52 p.m. Russian President Vladimir Putin warns of “lightning-fast” retaliation if countries intervene in Ukraine. Russia has told the United States to stop sending arms to Ukraine, saying large Western deliveries of weapons are inflaming the conflict. Addressing lawmakers in St. Petersburg on Wednesday, Putin said, “If someone intends to intervene in the ongoing events from the outside, and create strategic threats for Russia that are unacceptable to us, they should know that our retaliatory strikes will be lightning-fast,” according to video of his address supplied by Russian media. “We have all the tools for this, things no one else can boast of having now. And we will not boast — we will use them if necessary. And I want everyone to know that.”

12:36 p.m. In the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson, which has been occupied by Russian forces since early in the war, a series of explosions boomed near the television tower late Wednesday and at least temporarily knocked Russian channels off the air, Ukrainian and Russian news organizations report. The Russian state news agency RIA Novosti said missiles and rockets were fired at the city from the direction of the Ukrainian forces to the northwest. Russian channels began broadcasting from Kherson last week.


U.S. President Joe Biden will visit South Korea and Japan from May 20 to 24 to strengthen ties with Washington’s two main Asian allies.

  © Reuters

11:20 a.m. U.S. President Joe Biden will visit South Korea and Japan from May 20 to 24 to advance a “free and open Indo-Pacific” and strengthen ties with the two Asian allies, the White House says. It will be his first trip to the region since taking office last year. Through a series of meetings, including the Quad summit of the United States, Japan, Australia and India, Biden is likely to affirm with Indo-Pacific nations their responses to Russia’s war in Ukraine, China’s assertiveness in the region and North Korea’s nuclear and missile ambitions.

10:00 a.m. U.S. President Joe Biden will deliver remarks on Thursday morning “on support for Ukrainians defending their country and their freedom against Russia’s brutal war,” the White House says.

6:29 a.m. Canadian lawmakers vote unanimously to call Russia’s attacks in Ukraine “genocide,” with members of parliament agreeing that there is “ample evidence of systemic and massive war crimes against humanity” being committed by Moscow.

4:38 a.m. The European Commission proposes a one-year suspension of import duties on all Ukrainian goods not covered by an existing free trade deal to help the country’s economy during the war with Russia. The measures apply in particular to fruit and vegetables, subject to minimum price requirements, agricultural products facing quotas and certain industrial goods.

The European Union also would exempt Ukraine from safeguard measures that limit steel imports, and lift anti-dumping tariffs the EU currently imposes on Ukrainian steel tubes, hot-rolled flat steel products and ironing boards. The proposal needs to be agreed on by the European Parliament and EU governments to come into force.

12:12 a.m. Exxon Mobil’s Russian unit Exxon Neftegas declares force majeure for its Sakhalin-1 operations, Reuters reports. The Sakhalin-1 project produces oil off the coast of Russia’s Far East, exporting crude mostly to South Korea but also to Japan and other countries.

Project stakeholders including Exxon and India’s Oil and Natural Gas are having difficulty chartering tankers to ship oil out of a region that generally needs ice vessels to navigate the journey, as shippers fear reputation risk, Reuters reports.

Wednesday, April 27


Group of 20 finance ministers and central bank governors met at the Jakarta Convention Center in February.

  © Reuters

11:21 p.m. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy tweets that Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has invited him to attend the summit of Group of 20 major economies in the Southeast Asian country in November.

Zelenskyy did not confirm whether he would accept the invitation. Russia has said President Vladimir Putin plans to attend. Officials from Indonesia, the current G-20 chair, did not immediately respond to requests for confirmation.

10:20 p.m. The U.S. and Russia announce a prisoner swap that has freed a former U.S. Marine in an unexpected diplomatic breakthrough. Trevor Reed was released in exchange for Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot sentenced to a lengthy term in the U.S. on cocaine-trafficking charges.

“Trevor, a former U.S. Marine, is free from Russian detention,” President Joe Biden said in a statement. “I heard in the voices of Trevor’s parents how much they’ve worried about his health and missed his presence. And I was delighted to be able to share with them the good news about Trevor’s freedom.”

6:31 p.m. Greece will offer help to Bulgaria, which had its gas supplies cut off by Russia, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told his Bulgarian counterpart. The leaders discussed the matter by phone. “The prime minister said that Greece will help Bulgaria to deal with the new situation caused by the Russian decisions on energy,” Mitsotakis’ office said in a statement, without elaborating.

6:07 p.m. Russia expects its economy to contract by 8.8% in 2022 in its base case scenario, or by 12.4% under a more conservative scenario, an economy ministry document shows, giving apparent evidence that international sanctions are taking a toll. The conservative forecast is in line with that of former Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin, who said earlier this month the economy was on track to contract by more than 10%, which would be its biggest decline since 1994.

5:09 p.m. Russia’s defense ministry says Kalibr missiles struck an arms depot in Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region housing weapons from the United States and European countries. The ministry said its air force destroyed 59 Ukrainian military targets overnight. It added that “hangars with a large batch of foreign weapons and ammunition supplied to Ukrainian troops by the United States and European countries” were destroyed. Russia’s report could not be independently confirmed.

4:25 p.m. Russian energy giant Gazprom halted gas supplies to Bulgaria and Poland for failing to pay for gas in rubles, the Kremlin’s toughest response yet to the crippling sanctions imposed by the West for the invasion of Ukraine. Poland and Bulgaria are the first countries to have their gas cut off by Europe’s main supplier since the Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine that has killed thousands of people, displaced millions more and raised fears of a broader conflict.

For earlier updates, click here.

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