The Russian invasion of Ukraine that began on Feb. 24 continues, with casualties mounting on both sides.
Ukrainian forces are putting up resistance in the east, where the focus of the war has shifted, and 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.
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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:
Monday, May 30 (Tokyo time)
4:05 p.m. Russia appears to have suffered devastating losses of mid- and junior-ranking officers in its invasion of Ukraine, raising the prospect of weaker military effectiveness in the future, Britain’s defense ministry says. Brigade and battalion commanders have likely been deployed to the most dangerous positions while junior officers have led low-level tactical actions, the ministry says.
“With multiple credible reports of localized mutinies amongst Russia’s forces in Ukraine, a lack of experienced and credible platoon and company commanders is likely to result (in) a further decrease in morale and continued poor discipline,” it says.
3:00 p.m. The Russian-controlled Ukrainian region of Kherson has begun exporting grain that was harvested last year to Russia, the TASS news agency cited a senior local official as saying. “We have space to store (the new crop) although we have a lot of grain here. People are now partially taking it out, having agreed with those who buy it from the Russian side,” said Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the Military-Civilian Administration.
2:41 p.m. French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Catherine Colonna will meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv later on Monday to express France’s solidarity with Ukraine and offer more support for the country, the French foreign affairs ministry says. Colonna’s trip to Ukraine comes amid criticism from some diplomats and political analysts that France is not doing enough to support Ukraine in its fight with Russia.
7:00 a.m. Russian forces intensified their attacks with barrages of heavy artillery to capture a key Ukrainian city in the southeastern region of Donbas, whose full takeover Moscow’s top diplomat said was now an “unconditional priority.” Constant Russian shelling has destroyed all of the critical infrastructure in Sievierodonetsk, the largest city Ukraine still controls in Luhansk, one of the regions in Donbas, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says, pledging to do everything to hold off the advance. “Some 90% of buildings are damaged. More than two-thirds of the city’s housing stock has been completely destroyed. There is no telecommunication,” he said in a televised speech. “Capturing Sievierodonetsk is a fundamental task for the occupiers … We do all we can to hold this advance,” he added.
Sunday, May 29
11:30 p.m. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said talks with Finland and Sweden about their joining NATO were not at the “expected level” and Ankara cannot say yes to “terrorism-supporting” countries, state broadcaster TRT Haber reported on Sunday. Turkey has objected to Sweden and Finland joining the Western defense alliance, holding up a deal that would allow for a historic enlargement following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “For as long as Tayyip Erdogan is the head of the Republic of Turkey, we definitely cannot say ‘yes’ to countries which support terrorism entering NATO,” he was cited as telling reporters on his return from a trip to Azerbaijan on Saturday.
1:19 a.m. Sri Lanka agrees to buy 90,000 tons of Russian oil docked at Colombo’s port for weeks for $72 million, the energy minister says, as the nation works to restart its only refinery and address a crippling energy crisis.
“I have reached out to multiple countries, including Russia, for support to import crude and other petroleum products,” Reuters quotes Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera as saying.
Saturday, May 28
8:30 p.m. Russian President Vladimir Putin tells French and German leaders that Russia was willing to discuss ways to make it possible for Ukraine to resume shipments of grain from Black Sea ports, the Kremlin says. Russia and Ukraine account for nearly a third of global wheat supplies, while Russia is also a main global fertilizer exporter and Ukraine is a major exporter of corn and sunflower oil.
“For its part, Russia is ready to help find options for the unhindered export of grain, including the export of Ukrainian grain from Black Sea ports,” the Kremlin says.
4:15 p.m. Russian forces intensify their assault on the Ukrainian city of Sievierodonetsk after claiming to have captured the nearby rail hub of Lyman, pressing their offensive in the eastern Donbas.
Russian gains in recent days indicate a shift in momentum in the war, now in its fourth month. The invading forces appear close to seizing all of the Luhansk region of Donbas, a main Kremlin war goal, despite Ukrainian resistance.
Friday, May 27
9:00 p.m. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says he will participate remotely in the Group of 20 economies’ summit to be held in November in Bali, Indonesia.
In an online speech hosted by the Foreign Policy Community of Indonesia, the wartime leader urges pro-Russian elements to not blame Ukraine for wanting to join NATO.
Zelenskyy does not mention Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s decision to also invite Russian President Vladimir Putin to the summit. But he asks “politicians, diplomats of the world’s biggest economies” to “join forces” to stop Russia’s aggression, “rather than supporting the Russian Federation and its businesses, rather than continuing trading with them.” Read more.
Jokowi held a call with Zelenskyy in late April, and the Ukrainian leader said then that he appreciated the president’s invitation to the event. Indonesia holds the rotating presidency of the G-20 this year.
7:00 p.m. Sweden intends to increase defense spending to at least 2% of its gross domestic product by 2028, Swedish Finance Minister Mikael Damberg said in a May 25 interview with Nikkei. The country currently spends about 1.3% of its GDP on defense.
Sweden has applied to join NATO, which requests that member states spend at least 2% of GDP on defense. Sweden will increase its spending to that level over the next six years. Read more.
3:00 p.m. At Nikkei’s Future of Asia conference, former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad warns of the risk of escalation following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“I am afraid that wars have a habit of beginning small and then grow into world wars,” he says on Day 2 of the event in Tokyo. Read more.
2:11 p.m. The U.S. has won the latest round of a legal battle to seize a $325 million Russian-owned superyacht in Fiji, with the case now appearing to be heading to the Pacific nation’s top court. The case highlights the thorny legal ground the U.S. finds itself on as it tries to seize assets of Russian oligarchs around the world. Those intentions are welcomed by many governments and citizens who oppose the war in Ukraine, but some actions are raising questions about how far U.S. jurisdiction extends. Fiji’s Court of Appeal on Friday dismissed an appeal by Feizal Haniff, who represents the company that legally owns the superyacht Amadea.
7:06 a.m. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy complains about divisions inside the European Union over more sanctions against Russia and asks why some nations were being allowed to block the plan. The EU is discussing a sixth round of punitive measures, including an embargo on Russian oil imports. Such a move requires unanimity but Hungary opposes the idea for now on the grounds its economy would suffer too much. “How many more weeks will the European Union try to agree on a sixth package?” Zelenskyy said in a late night address, noting that Russia was receiving a billion euros a day from the 27-nation bloc for energy supplies.
4:00 a.m. The new owner of McDonald’s restaurants in Russia, Alexander Govor, plans to start rebranding them next month, Russian media report. “We can confirm that we’re striving to open for our guests on June 12,” Interfax and Tass quote a statement from the chain’s press service as saying. “We’ll present the updated brand separately in the near future,” the statement adds.
3:40 a.m. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi hold a phone call on developments in the Ukraine war and on efforts to ease the ongoing food crisis, Rome says in a statement. Moscow says of the call, “Vladimir Putin emphasized that the Russian Federation is ready to make a significant contribution to overcoming the food crisis through the export of grain and fertilizers, provided that politically motivated restrictions from the West are lifted.”
1:20 a.m. The U.S. remains focused on the long-term threat China poses to the international order, even as the war in Ukraine draws global attention, Secretary of State Antony Blinken says in a speech laying out the Biden administration’s policy toward Beijing. “Even as President Putin’s war continues, we will remain focused on the most serious long-term challenge to the international order, and that’s posed by [China],” says Blinken at the Asia Society Policy Institute in Washington. “China’s the only country with both the intent to reshape the international order and increasingly the economic, diplomatic, military and technological power to do it,” he adds. Read more.
Thursday, May 26
8:15 p.m. China should not take any cues from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to attempt further advances in the disputed South China Sea, Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob says in an exclusive interview. “We hope China doesn’t take advantage of what is happening between Russia and Ukraine,” Ismail Sabri tells Nikkei in his first interview with international media since he became prime minister last August. “Not only China but all other major powers should not take advantage in the South China Sea.” Read more.
7:00 p.m. Turkey is in negotiations with Russia and Ukraine to open a corridor via the Bosphorus for grain exports from Ukraine, a senior Turkish official told Reuters. Ukraine’s Black Sea ports have been blocked since Russia invaded in February and more than 20 million tons of grain are stuck in silos there.
“Turkey is negotiating with both Russia and Ukraine for the export of grains from Ukraine,” the official said, requesting anonymity because the talks were confidential.
The Kremlin rejects U.S. and European Union claims that Russia had blocked grain exports from Ukraine, and accused the West of creating such a situation by imposing sanctions.
“We categorically do not accept these accusations. On the contrary, we blame Western countries of taking actions that have led to this,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said in a conference call with reporters. Moscow calls for the West to remove the sanctions which it says are blocking grain exports from Ukraine.
5:00 p.m. Russia’s central bank lowers its key interest rate to 11% and says it sees room for more cuts this year, as inflation slows from more than 20-year highs and the economy is about to contract. It announced the move at an extraordinary meeting after cutting the key rate to 14% in April, weeks after an emergency rate increase to 20% triggered by Russian invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24. The central bank said it “holds open the prospect of key rate reduction at its upcoming meetings.”
3:11 p.m. The leader of Russian-backed separatists in the breakaway Donetsk region calls for the military operation in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine to be accelerated, Russia’s state-owned RIA Novosti news agency reports. Denis Pushilin, head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, said Kyiv had blocked water supplies to key cities in the north of the region and called for military action to be stepped up.
12:30 p.m. Russian forces shelled more than 40 towns in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, Ukraine’s military says, threatening to shut off the last main escape route for civilians trapped in the path of the invasion, now in its fourth month. After failing to seize Ukraine’s capital Kyiv or its second city Kharkiv, Russia is trying to take full control of the Donbas, comprised of two eastern provinces Moscow claims on behalf of separatists. “The occupiers shelled more than 40 towns in Donetsk and Luhansk region, destroying or damaging 47 civilian sites, including 38 homes and a school. As a result of this shelling five civilians died and 12 were wounded,” the Joint Task Force of Ukraine’s armed forces said on Facebook.
10:03 a.m. South Korea’s central bank continues to tighten policy in the face of soaring inflation, raising its key interest rate by 25 basis points to 1.75% on Thursday. The Bank of Korea’s second straight hike came in the first meeting under new Gov. Rhee Chang-yong, the International Monetary Fund’s former Asia-Pacific director who took the helm of the bank last month.
9:14 a.m. Russian President Vladimir Putin has issued an order to fast track Russian citizenship for residents of parts of southern Ukraine largely held by his forces, while lawmakers in Moscow passed a bill to strengthen the stretched Russian army. Putin’s decree applying to the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions could allow Russia to strengthen its hold on territory that lies between eastern Ukraine, where Moscow-backed separatists occupy some areas, and the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia seized in 2014.
4:16 a.m. World Bank President David Malpass suggests that Russia’s war in Ukraine and its impact on food and energy prices — as well as the availability of fertilizer — could trigger a global recession. “As we look at the global GDP … it’s hard right now to see how we avoid a recession,” Malpass says at an event in Washington hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
12:40 a.m. The head of Russia’s lower parliamentary house has slammed Japan as an “unfriendly nation” that is benefiting from its interests in the Sakhalin-2 energy project.
Vyacheslav Volodin, the chairman of the State Duma, singles out Japan, the U.K. and the Netherlands for receiving “huge profits” from the Sakhalin-2 oil and gas project in Russia’s Far East, according to an article on the Duma’s website.
He insists stakes in the project held by companies in those countries should be sold to Russia’s state-owned energy company Gazprom or to enterprises from friendly nations.
Japanese resources traders Mitsui & Co. and Mitsubishi Corp. own 12.5% and 10% of Sakhalin-2, respectively. Gazprom owns about 50% while U.K.-based Shell controls roughly 27.5%. Read more.
Wednesday, May 25
11:00 p.m. Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki has apologized for introducing himself as “Zelenskyy” at a panel discussion, in what he called an ill-advised “joke.”
“I had absolutely no intention of belittling the situation in Ukraine,” Tamaki tells reporters, explaining that he had been talking about the Ukrainian president before the start of his remarks.
9:55 p.m. While the conflict in Ukraine has hit the brakes on M&A activity and private equity fundraising for now, there are still positives to be found, according to Carlyle Group CEO Kewsong Lee.
“The best CEOs and the companies in the industries around the world are starting to try to think through what are the opportunities that are being created. That’s the mindset that Carlyle has,” says Lee, who talked with Nikkei about the promise he sees in the energy sector and in Asia. Read more
3:42 p.m. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Wednesday that he was only willing to talk directly to Russian President Vladimir Putin, not intermediaries. He added that if Putin “understands reality,” there is a possibility of finding a diplomatic way out of the conflict.
Zelenskyy, speaking to an audience at the World Economic Forum in Davos, also said that Ukraine would fight until it recovered all of its territory. He said Moscow should withdraw its troops back to the lines in place before Russia began its invasion on Feb. 24. “That might be a first step towards talks,” he said, adding that Russia has been playing for time in its talks with Ukraine.
12:15 p.m. Australian tennis player Daria Saville says she can no longer return to Russia, the country of her birth, after protesting the military intervention in Ukraine. Saville wore yellow and blue, the colors of Ukraine, at the Paris Open in March and urged President Vladimir Putin to stop the war and the Russian army to return home in a post on social media.
“Already I can’t really go back to Russia, no,” she told Australian media at the French Open. “I definitely do support the Ukrainian players. … Imagine not having a home.” Saville, whose parents live in Moscow, represented Russia in tennis until emigrating to Australia seven years ago.
5:36 a.m. The United States will not extend a key waiver set to expire on Wednesday that allows Russia to pay U.S. bondholders, which could push Moscow closer to the brink of default as Washington ramps up pressure on the country following its invasion of Ukraine.
The U.S. Treasury Department will not extend a license, set to expire at 12:01 a.m. EDT (04:01 GMT), allowing Russia to make payments on its sovereign debt to U.S. persons. The waiver had allowed Moscow to keep paying interest and principal and avert default on its government debt. Russia has almost $2 billion worth of payments on its international bonds falling due up to the end of the year.
12:45 a.m. The U.S. Department of Energy announces a sale of up to 40.1 million barrels of crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, part of President Joe Biden’s plan to release more oil into the market in an attempt to bring down gasoline and diesel prices.
Tuesday, May 24
10:30 p.m. In unprecedentedly strong language, the leaders of the Quad expressed opposition to coercive, provocative or unilateral actions that seek to change the status quo in the Indo-Pacific.
The joint statement, issued after the leaders of Japan, Australia, India and the U.S. met for a summit in Tokyo on Tuesday, did not mention China by name, but the finger-pointing was clear.
But the leaders were less clear when it came to Russia. The joint statement avoided blaming Russia directly for the war in Ukraine and only described the situation there as a “tragic crisis.” Read more.
9:26 p.m. The Chinese and Russian air forces conduct a joint patrol over the Sea of Japan, East China Sea and the Western Pacific, China’s Defense Ministry says. The patrol, the first since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, was part of an annual military exercise, the ministry says. Moscow says Tuesday’s patrol involved Russian Tu-95 and Chinese Xian H-6 strategic bombers. Japanese and South Korean air force planes shadowed the Russian and Chinese jets for part of the exercise, Russia says.
5:44 p.m. The United States is confident Finland and Sweden will be able to resolve Turkey’s concerns as they seek NATO membership, Deputy U.S. Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks says. We are “confident that Finland and Sweden will be able to resolve those [concerns] with the Turks directly,” Hicks said while speaking alongside her Norwegian counterpart in Oslo.
5:33 p.m. Jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny lambastes President Vladimir Putin in a live court hearing, casting him as a madman who started a “stupid war” in Ukraine based on lies. “This is a stupid war which your Putin started,” Navalny told an appeals court in Moscow via video link from a corrective penal colony. “This war was built on lies. … One madman has got his claws into Ukraine, and I do not know what he wants to do with it — this crazy thief.”
12:30 p.m. Nearly 50 defense leaders from around the world met on Monday and agreed to send more advanced weapons to Ukraine, including a Harpoon launcher and missiles to protect its coast, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin tells reporters. Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, added that a “low level” discussion is underway on how the U.S. might need to adjust its training of Ukrainian forces and on whether some U.S. troops should be based in Ukraine. The U.S. withdrew its few troops in Ukraine before the war and has no plans to send in combat forces. Milley’s comments opened the possibility troops could return for embassy security or other noncombat roles.
12:00 p.m. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida says the Indo-Pacific region should avoid acts of aggression similar to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, opening a Quad nations meeting in Tokyo. At the outset of the summit attended by U.S. President Joe Biden, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and new Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, Kishida said, “There is great significance in demonstrating the four countries’ solidarity and our strong commitment to the shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
11:19 a.m. A veteran Russian diplomat to the U.N. Office at Geneva says he handed in his resignation before sending out a scathing letter to foreign colleagues inveighing against the “aggressive war unleashed” by Russian President Vladimir Putin in Ukraine. Boris Bondarev, 41, confirmed his resignation in a letter delivered Monday morning after a diplomatic official passed on his English-language statement to The Associated Press. “For twenty years of my diplomatic career I have seen different turns of our foreign policy, but never have I been so ashamed of my country as on Feb. 24 of this year,” he wrote, alluding to the date of Russia’s invasion.
9:21 a.m. A captured Russian soldier who pleaded guilty to killing a civilian was sentenced by a Ukrainian court Monday to life in prison — the maximum — amid signs the Kremlin may, in turn, put on trial some of the fighters who surrendered at Mariupol’s steelworks. In the first of what could be a multitude of war crimes trials held by Ukraine, Russian Sgt. Vadim Shishimarin, 21, was sentenced for the killing of a 62-year-old man who was shot in the head in a village in the northeastern Sumy region in the opening days of the war.
Shishimarin, a member of a tank unit, had claimed he was following orders, and he apologized to the man’s widow in court. His Ukraine-appointed defense attorney, Victor Ovsyanikov, argued his client had been unprepared for the “violent military confrontation” and mass casualties that Russian troops encountered when they invaded. He said he would appeal.
9:00 a.m. The European Union will likely agree an embargo on Russian oil imports “within days,” according to its biggest member Germany. Many of the EU’s 27 member states are heavily reliant on Russian energy, and Hungary stuck to its demands on Monday for energy investment before it agrees to such an embargo. “We will reach a breakthrough within days,” Germany’s Economy Minister Robert Habeck told broadcaster ZDF.
Monday, May 23
7:30 p.m. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy tells a meeting of global business leaders in Davos that the world is at a critical juncture, and must ratchet up sanctions against Russia as a warning to countries contemplating the use of brute force.
“History is at a turning point… This is really the moment when it is decided whether brute force will rule the world,” Zelenskyy tells the conference, Reuters reports.
1:45 p.m. Japan, the U.S. and five other countries condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in a statement after Asia-Pacific trade ministers failed to agree on a stance on Russia at a meeting held in Bangkok over the weekend, the Japanese Foreign Ministry says. Accusing Moscow of an “unprovoked war of aggression,” the statement said the seven countries “strongly urge Russia to immediately cease its use of force and completely and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces from Ukraine.” The seven nations — which also include Australia, Canada, Chile, South Korea and New Zealand — also expressed “grave concern” about the impact of the Russian actions on food and energy security.
12:50 p.m. Ukraine has ruled out a cease-fire or any territorial concessions to Russia. Moscow has stepped up its pounding of the Donbas and Mykolaiv regions with airstrikes and artillery fire, in what Ukraine has described as a “scorched earth” strategy to win control of the eastern front. “The war must end with the complete restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty,” Andriy Yermak, Ukraine’s presidential chief of staff said in a Twitter post on Sunday.
10:03 a.m. More than 100 million people have been driven from their homes around the world, the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) says, citing new data about those escaping violence, conflict, persecution and human rights violations. The war in Ukraine has been one of the factors propelling millions of people to flee, the UNHCR said, adding that protracted conflict in places like Ethiopia and Democratic Republic of Congo were other factors behind the high numbers.
6:00 a.m. U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy have discussed Russia’s blockade of Ukraine’s shipping port Odesa, a Downing Street spokesperson says. Johnson resolved to redouble efforts to provide vital food and humanitarian aid to the people of Ukraine and ensure the country was able to export to the rest of the world, the spokesperson added.
5:42 a.m. Ukraine’s parliament has banned the symbols “Z” and “V,” used by Russia’s military to promote its war in Ukraine, but agreeing to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s call to allow their use for educational or historic purposes. Yaroslav Zheleznyak, an opposition member, announced the decision on the Telegram messaging app, saying 313 deputies had voted in favor in the 423-member Verkhovna Rada assembly.
Sunday, May 22
11:13 p.m. Polish citizens in Ukraine will be granted the same rights that Ukrainian refugees in Poland are receiving, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says during a visit to Kyiv by his Polish counterpart, Andrzej Duda. Poland has granted the right to live and work and claim social security payments to over 3 million Ukrainian refugees fleeing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
11:01 p.m. Only Ukraine has the right to decide its future, Polish President Andrzej Duda tells lawmakers in Kyiv, as he becomes the first foreign leader to give a speech in person to the Ukrainian parliament since Russia’s invasion. Duda also says he will not rest until Ukraine becomes a European Union member.
“Worrying voices have appeared, saying that Ukraine should give in to Putin’s demands,” Duda says. “Only Ukraine has the right to decide about its future … nothing about you without you.”
10:05 p.m. The Russian-appointed head of the occupied Ukrainian town next to Europe’s largest nuclear plant was injured in an explosion on Sunday, a Ukrainian official and a Russian news agency say. Andrei Shevchuk, appointed mayor of Enerhodar following the Russian army’s occupation of the town, was in intensive care following the attack.
Many residents work at the two power plants next to the town, one of which is the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, the largest nuclear power station in Europe. Reuters was unable to independently confirm the attack.
5:15 a.m. Ukraine rules out agreeing to a cease-fire with Russia and says Kyiv would not accept any deal with Moscow that involved ceding territory. Admitting Kyiv’s stance was becoming more uncompromising, presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak says making concessions would backfire because Russia would hit back harder after any break in fighting. “The war will not stop” after any concessions, he tells Reuters. “It will just be put on pause for some time.”
Podolyak describes as “very strange” calls in the West for an urgent cease-fire that would involve Russian forces remaining in territory they have occupied in Ukraine’s south and east. Russian “forces must leave the country and after that the resumption of the peace process will be possible,” he says.
12:12 a.m. While in South Korea, U.S. President Joe Biden signs a bill to provide nearly $40 billion in aid for Ukraine, the White House says.
Saturday, May 21
11:35 p.m. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who has objected to Sweden and Finland joining NATO, holds phone calls with the leaders of the two countries and discusses his concerns about terrorist organizations. The two Nordic countries are seeking to join the alliance over concerns of Moscow’s aggression as Russia wages a war with Ukraine.
Turkey says Sweden and Finland harbor people linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group and followers of Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara accuses of orchestrating a 2016 coup attempt. Erdogan tells Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson that Ankara expected concrete steps to address its concerns, Reuters reports.
During his call with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, Erdogan says failing to deal with terrorist organizations that posed a threat to a NATO ally would not suit the spirit of alliance.
4:12 p.m. Representatives of five economies, including Japan and the U.S., walked out of a meeting by trade ministers from the Asia-Pacific region on Saturday, the opening day of a two-day conference in Bangkok, in protest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Japanese officials say. Ministers from Japan, the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand exited the room when Maksim Reshetnikov, Russia’s economic development minister, started delivering his remarks during a morning session.
2:00 p.m. Russia’s Gazprom has halted gas exports to neighboring Finland, the Finnish gas system operator says, the latest escalation of an energy payments dispute with Western nations. Gazprom Export has demanded that European countries pay for Russian gas supplies in rubles because of sanctions imposed over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, but Finland refuses to do so. “Gas imports through [the] Imatra entry point have been stopped,” Gasgrid Finland said in a statement. Imatra is the entry point for Russian gas into Finland.
8:00 a.m. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has proposed a formal deal with the country’s allies to secure Russian compensation for the damage its forces have caused during the war. Zelenskyy, who says Russia is trying to destroy as much of Ukraine’s infrastructure as it can, said such a deal would show nations planning aggressive acts that they would have to pay for their actions.
“We invite partner countries to sign a multilateral agreement and create a mechanism ensuring that everybody who suffered from Russian actions can receive compensation for all losses incurred,” he said in a video address. Under such a deal, Russian funds and property in signatory nations would be confiscated, and would then be directed to a special compensation fund, he said.
7:15 a.m. Russia claims to have captured Mariupol in what would be its biggest victory yet in its war with Ukraine, after a nearly three-month siege that reduced much of the strategic port city to a smoking ruin, with over 20,000 civilians feared dead. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reported to President Vladimir Putin the “complete liberation” of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol — the last stronghold of Ukrainian resistance — and the city as a whole, spokesman Igor Konashenkov said. There was no immediate confirmation from Ukraine.
4:00 a.m. Wimbledon is stripped of its ranking points by the ATP and WTA tours over its decision to exclude players from Russia and Belarus at the 2022 Championships due to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. The governing bodies of tennis have banned Russia and Belarus from international team competitions but let players from the two countries compete as neutrals.
Separately, 51 Ukrainian athletes have died since Russia’s invasion began, the International Olympic Committee reported at a meeting in Switzerland. They include a promising female gymnast in her teens.
2:30 a.m. Ukraine wants Japan to impose a total import ban on Russian oil and gas, and to more fully participate in the squeezing of funds that might otherwise flow into Moscow’s war chest
Ukrainian Finance Minister Sergii Marchenko also says Ukraine expects Japan and other developed nations to direct frozen Russian assets to the effort to rebuild his country.
“We need a full oil and gas embargo,” Marchenko says in an interview with Nikkei. “Russia receives money [from oil and gas exports] and can spend this money on military aggression toward Ukraine.” Read more.
12:20 a.m. Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has resigned as chairman of the board of Russian state-owned oil group Rosneft, the latest development in the controversy over his close relationship with Moscow.
Former German intelligence officer Matthias Warnig has also stepped down from the board, German and other media report, citing a statement from Rosneft.
Friday, May 20
10:24 p.m. Russia’s Gazprom will halt flows of natural gas to Finland starting Saturday, after Finnish state-owned gas wholesaler Gasum refused to pay its Russian supplier in rubles.
Gasum, which had warned Wednesday that Russian supplies could be cut, says it will continue to supply gas to Finnish customers from other sources through the Balticconnector pipeline linking Finland with Estonia. Most supply contracts are denominated in euros or dollars, but Gazprom Export has demanded that European countries pay in rubles because of sanctions imposed over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
Natural gas accounts for only a small part of Finland’s household energy use but a larger share of industrial power.
5:31 p.m. In a sign of Russia’s urgent need to bolster its war effort in Ukraine, its parliament says it will consider a bill to allow Russians over the age of 40 and foreigners over 30 to sign up for the military. The website of the State Duma, parliament’s lower house, said the move would enable the military to utilize the skills of older professionals. “For the use of high-precision weapons, the operation of weapons and military equipment, highly professional specialists are needed. Experience shows that they become such by the age of 40-45,” it said. Previously only Russians aged 18 to 40 and foreigners aged 18 to 30 could enter into a first contract with the military.
2:30 p.m. Russian shelling in Ukraine’s eastern region of Luhansk has killed 13 civilians over the past 24 hours, the regional governor, Serhiy Gaidai, says. 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.
2:26 p.m. Russia is likely to reinforce operations in the industrial Donbas region once they secure the city of Mariupol, British military intelligence says. As many as 1,700 soldiers are likely to have surrendered at the Azovstal steel factory in Mariupol, the report added. Moscow also said on Thursday that 1,730 Ukrainian fighters had surrendered from the steel factory so far, including 771 in the past 24 hours.
9:01 a.m. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken accuses Russia of using food as a weapon in Ukraine by holding “hostage” supplies for not just Ukrainians, but also millions around the world. Addressing the United Nations Security Council, Blinken appealed to Russia to stop blockading Ukrainian ports. “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,” he said. “The food supply for millions of Ukrainians and millions more around the world has quite literally been held hostage.”
5:56 a.m. The U.S. Senate approves roughly $40 billion in new assistance for Ukraine — the largest American aid package yet for the country — by a lopsided 86-11 vote, clearing the way for President Joe Biden to sign it into law. All of the “no” votes come from Republicans.
1:08 a.m. Finnish President Sauli Niinisto pledges to commit to Turkey’s security if his country joins NATO and says Finland is willing to discuss all of Ankara’s concerns over its membership “in an open and constructive manner.”
“Finland has always had broad and good bilateral relations to Turkey,” Niinisto said at the White House, where U.S. President Joe Biden was hosting the leaders of Finland and Sweden following their formal applications for NATO membership. “As NATO allies, we will commit to Turkey’s security, just as Turkey will commit to our security. We take terrorism seriously. We condemn terrorism in all its forms, and we are actively engaged in combating it.”
Discussions to address Turkey’s concerns have already taken place and will continue in the coming days, Niinisto said.
12:55 a.m. McDonald’s says it has agreed to sell its restaurant portfolio in Russia for an undisclosed sum to Alexander Govor, who since 2015 has been a licensee and operated 25 restaurants in Siberia.
The world’s largest burger chain owns about 84% of its nearly 850 restaurants in Russia.
The announcement comes days after McDonald’s said it would leave the country, while retaining its trademarks, in light of the Ukraine war. In March, the company had decided to temporarily close all its restaurants in Russia and pause all operations there.
For earlier updates, click here.