Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russian forces have completely destroyed the eastern Donbas region, describing the area where the Kremlin has focused its latest offensive as "hell."
Elsewhere, Russia may have just made its first retaliatory move against Finland after lawmakers in Helsinki officially applied to join the military alliance NATO. Gasum, Finland's state-owned gas wholesaler, said in a statement that natural gas imports from Russia will be halted on Saturday.
U.S. President Joe Biden says Finland and Sweden both have his "full backing" in their bids to become members of the NATO military alliance.
Siege ends at Ukraine's Mariupol steelworks, Russia seeks control of Donbas
The last Ukrainian forces holed up in Mariupol's smashed Azovstal steelworks surrendered, Russia's defense ministry said, ending the most destructive siege of the war as Moscow fought to cement control over the Donbas region.
Hours before Russia's announcement on Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the last defenders at the steelworks had been told by Ukraine's military that they could get out and save their lives.
Russia said there were 531 members of the last group that had given up. "The territory of the Azovstal metallurgical plant... has been completely liberated," the ministry said in a statement, adding that a total of 2,439 defenders had surrendered in the past few days.
The Ukrainians did not immediately confirm those figures.
Russia also launched what appeared to be a major assault to seize the last remaining Ukrainian-held territory in the province of Luhansk, one of two southeastern Ukrainian provinces Moscow proclaims as independent states.
U.S. State officials urge Russia to grant access to detained U.S. citizens
The State Department called on the Kremlin to grant "consistent and timely consular access" to all U.S. citizens detained in Russia.
"One off visits are not sufficient, and we will continue to call on Moscow to uphold its commitments under the Vienna Convention for consistent and timely access as well," State Department spokesman Ned Price said during a daily press briefing.
Price said that a U.S. consular officer was granted permission to visit detained WNBA star Brittney Griner on Thursday.
"The consular officer found her continuing to do as well as could be expected under these exceedingly challenging circumstances. But again, our message is a clear and simple one we continue to insist that Russia allow consistent and timely consular access to all U.S. citizen detainees," Price added.
In February, the Olympian was arrested on drug charges after a search of her luggage at the Sheremetyevo International Airport near Moscow allegedly turned up vape cartridges with cannabis oil, Russian authorities said.
The offense could carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
— Amanda Macias
EU exploring ways to use Russian oligarchs' frozen assets to rebuild Ukraine
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.
The commission proposed on Wednesday a 9 billion euro loan to Ukraine to keep the country going as it struggles to fend off the Russian invasion and wants to set up a reconstruction facility for after the war.
"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.
Von der Leyen also said she favored coupling the long-term reconstruction of Ukraine with reforms needed for it to join the European Union. While Ukrainians see their future within the EU, certain standards have to be met for membership in areas such as the rule of law and in the economic and political spheres, she said.
Ukrainian PM says EU disburses 600 million euros to Ukraine
The European Union has disbursed 600 million euros ($634.98 million) to Ukraine as part of a macro financial assistance program, said Prime Minister Denis Shmyhal.
"Today, #EU disbursed a new tranche of €600 million under the emergency Macro-Financial Assistance Program to #Ukraine," Shmyhal wrote on his Twitter account.
Shmyhal also said he was grateful to the European Commission and its President Ursula von der Leyen. "We will win and rebuild Ukraine together," he said.
Airstrike on the cultural center in Lozova, Kharkiv region
Images show the impact of an airstrike on the cultural center, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Lozova, Kharkiv region, Ukraine in this screen grab taken from a handout video released May 20.
Italy submits peace plan for Ukraine to UN
Italy's foreign minister said that Italy has submitted a peace plan for Ukraine to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said during a Council of Europe meeting in Turin, Italy, that the plan submitted Thursday calls for local cease-fires to evacuate civilians along humanitarian corridors, and creating the conditions for a general cease-fire leading "to a long-lasting peace."
In Brussels, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said he was aware of the plan, adding the European Union is "putting all our efforts into trying to bring this conflict to an end."
Borrell said it's up to Ukraine to decide the terms of any negotiations. He said that he hopes that "when the time comes for negotiations to take place, Ukraine will be able to negotiate from a position of strength."
He called on all EU nations to remain united on all fronts in the war.
— Associated Press
UN says at least 3,838 killed in Ukraine since start of war
The United Nations has confirmed 3,838 civilian deaths and 4,351 injuries in Ukraine since Russia invaded its ex-Soviet neighbor on Feb. 24.
The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said the death toll in Ukraine is likely higher, because the armed conflict can delay reports.
The international body said most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multiple launch rocket systems, as well as missiles and airstrikes.
— Amanda Macias
G-7 mobilizes $19.8 billion for Ukraine
G-7 finance ministers and central bank governors said they have mobilized $19.8 billion for Ukraine at the end of their meeting in Germany this week.
"In 2022, we have mobilised 19.8 billion US dollars of budget support, including 9.5 billion US dollars of recent commitments ... to help Ukraine close its financing gap and continue ensuring the delivery of basic services to the Ukrainian people," the G-7 said in their communique.
"Furthermore, we welcome ongoing work across the G7 and international financial institutions on further substantial financing to Ukraine, notably including the proposal by the European Commission for up to 9 billion euros of additional macro-financial assistance," the statement said.
"We will continue to stand by Ukraine throughout this war and beyond and are prepared to do more as needed," the G-7 added.
Finnish gas supplies from Russia to be cut from Saturday
Gasum, Finland's state-owned gas wholesaler, said in a statement that natural gas imports from Russia will be halted on Saturday.
"Starting from tomorrow, during the upcoming summer season, Gasum will supply natural gas to its customers from other sources through the Balticconnector pipeline. Gasum's gas filling stations in the gas network area will continue in normal operation," Gasum's CEO Mika Wiljanen said in a statement.
"It is highly regrettable that natural gas supplies under our supply contract will now be halted. However, we have been carefully preparing for this situation and provided that there will be no disruptions in the gas transmission network, we will be able to supply all our customers with gas in the coming months."
Gasum gave no reason for the move, but Finland has also reportedly refused to pay for Russian gas in rubles. It also comes just two days after Finland formally applied to join NATO.
Read the full story here.
Russia's Parliament considers bill to let over-40s sign up for the army
Russia's Parliament has reportedly laid the ground for new legislation that would allow those over 40 to sign up for the military.
"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," the State Duma said, according to a Reuters translation.
The move is seen as Moscow attempting to bolster its armed forces after multiple setbacks and casualties in the war in Ukraine.
Foreigners over 30 would also be allowed to sign up for the military if the bill is passed.
War has revealed Europe’s complacency on energy security, oil CEO says
Meg O'Neill of Woodside Energy says Europe had become heavily dependent on gas from Russia, and now has to scramble to figure out how to wean itself off the country's hydrocarbons.
Images from the last 24 hours of life in Ukraine amid Russia’s war
— Getty Images
12 killed in Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk, Luhansk governor says
The governor of Ukraine's eastern Luhansk region said 12 people have been killed in Severodonetsk as a result of Russian attacks, with more than 60 homes destroyed.
Serhii Haidai, head of the Luhansk regional military administration, said via Telegram that at least five high-rise buildings were destroyed in Severodonetsk.
— Sam Meredith
Russia likely to swiftly redeploy Mariupol troops in Donbas, UK says
Once Russian forces have secured Ukraine's Mariupol, the U.K. Defense Ministry says it is likely the Kremlin will quickly move its forces to operations in the Donbas region.
The U.K. said as many as 1,700 Ukrainian soldiers are likely to have surrendered from the Mariupol Azovstal steel factory, according to its daily intelligence update.
"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," the ministry said.
"Russian commanders, however, are under pressure to demonstrably achieve operational objectives. This means that Russia will probably redistribute their forces swiftly without adequate preparation, which risks further force attrition," it added.
— Sam Meredith
Zelenskyy accuses Russia of committing genocide against Ukrainians
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has accused Russian forces of committing genocide against the Ukrainian people, describing the current situation in the Donbas region as "hell."
Speaking during his nightly address, Zelenskyy said Ukrainian forces continue to liberate the northeast Kharkiv region. "But in Donbas, the occupiers are trying to increase pressure. There's hell, and that's not an exaggeration."
"Donbas is completely destroyed — all this doesn't and cannot have any military explanation for Russia," Zelenskyy said.
"This is a deliberate and criminal attempt to kill as many Ukrainians as possible. Destroy as many houses, social facilities and enterprises as possible. This is what will be qualified as the genocide of the Ukrainian people and for which the occupiers will definitely be brought to justice," he added.
Russia's London embassy was not immediately available to comment.
— Sam Meredith
Failure to reopen Ukrainian ports would be a declaration of war on global food security: World Food Programme
A failure to open Ukrainian ports would be a declaration of war on global food security in this "unprecedented crisis," warned the World Food Programme's executive director, David Beasley.
"Food pricing is our number one problem right now, as a result of all this perfect storm for 2022," Beasley said. "But by 2023 it very well will be a food availability problem."
Ukraine is a major exporter of agriculture, feeding about 400 million people globally, according to WFP.
WFP's analysis found that 276 million people globally were suffering from acute hunger at the start of 2022. If the war continues, that number could rise by 47 million.
Because ports in Ukraine have been blocked as a result of the war, millions of metric tons of grain cannot be shipped out, the WFP said.
Ukrainian farmers won't have anywhere to store the next harvest in July or August if ports are not reopened, which means the grains will go to waste while the world struggles with a global food crisis, WFP said.
Food prices have soared since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February. Food prices are at the highest levels ever recorded by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, up 34% from this time last year.
— Chelsea Ong
U.S. approves 10th security assistance package for Ukraine worth $100 million
The Pentagon announced the authorization of a tenth U.S. security assistance package of up to $100 million for Ukraine.
"Capabilities in this package are tailored to meet critical Ukrainian needs for today's fight as Russian forces continue their offensive in eastern Ukraine," Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said during a daily press briefing.
The package includes:
- 18 155mm Howitzers
- 18 tactical vehicles to tow the 155mm Howitzers
- Three AN/TPQ-36 counter-artillery radars
- Field equipment and spare parts
— Amanda Macias