Austin speaks with Russian counterpart for first time since Ukraine invasion
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin spoke Friday with his Russian counterpart for the first time since the invasion of Ukraine, the Pentagon said.
“Secretary Austin urged an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine and emphasized the importance of maintaining lines of communication,” a readout of the call said.
It was the first time that he had spoken with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu since Feb. 18, the readout added. Russia invaded Ukraine six days later.
The call lasted about an hour but did not result in any major breakthroughs, a senior U.S. defense official said.
“While the U.S. believes it was important to have lines of communication open with the Russians, the call itself didn’t specifically solve any acute issues or lead to a direct change in what the Russians are doing or what they’re saying,” the official said.
German police seize oligarch’s superyacht
A superyacht belonging to a Russian billionaire was seized in the port of Hamburg, Germany’s Criminal Police said Friday.
Farkhad Akhmedov, who has been listed by the U.S. Treasury as closely tied to Russian President Vladimir Putin, was identified as the “sole economic owner” of the Luna, police said on Twitter.
The force added that the vessel was subject to sanctions law. Akhmedov is on the European Union’s sanctions list.
Press reports had valued the boat at more than $400 million, the tweet said.
Austin, U.K’s defense minister discuss further help for Ukraine
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin discussed next steps to help Ukraine, including military aid, with his British counterpart when they met this week, the U.K.’s defense ministry said in a statement Friday.
Austin met with Ben Wallace at the Pentagon on Wednesday where they “discussed the ongoing drive to ensure NATO can deter and defend against any Russian aggression towards allies in Eastern Europe,” the statement said.
“We will continue to work with unity and resolve to provide Ukraine with what it needs to defend itself against Russia’s unprovoked invasion,” Wallace was quoted as saying in the statement.
Brittney Griner’s pre-trial detention in Russia extended by a month, lawyer says
WNBA star Brittney Griner’s pre-trial detention in Russia was extended by a month during a Friday court appearance, her lawyer told The Associated Press.
Griner’s lawyer Alexander Boikov told the outlet the short extension may indicate that her case will go to trial soon.
Griner, a star center for the Phoenix Mercury, was arrested in February on drug charges after a search of her luggage at the Sheremetyevo airport near Moscow turned up vape cartridges containing oil derived from cannabis, authorities said.
In March, Russian officials said Griner’s detention had been extended until May 19. At that time, Griner was said to be doing OK and was seeing her Russian legal team multiple times a week following her detention.
Earlier this month the State Department determined she was being “wrongfully detained by the Russian government,” a classification that would allow the U.S. government to more aggressively secure her release.
Russia expels 10 Romanian diplomats in tit-for-tat move
Russia on Friday expelled 10 Romanian diplomats in response to similar expulsions by Bucharest.
Moscow’s foreign ministry added that it rejected Romanian attempts to blame Russia for alleged war crimes in Ukraine.
In a separate statement, the ministry said a member of the Bulgarian embassy was also being expelled.
The moves are part of a series of tit-for-tat expulsions by Russia after more than 300 of its diplomats were kicked out of European capitals in the wake of its military campaign in Ukraine.
Russia’s sovereign assets should fund rebuilding, Ukraine’s foreign minister says
Ukraine’s president reiterates readiness to talk to Putin
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has reiterated his offer to hold direct talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.
Russia’s withdrawal from Ukraine should be the starting point for any discussions, Zelenskyy told Italy’s RAI 1 television in an interview shown in Ukraine on Friday.
“As president, I am ready to talk to Putin, but only to him. Without any of his intermediaries. And in the framework of dialogue, not ultimatums,” he said.
Ukraine and Russia have not held peace talks since March 29, although Russia’s chief negotiator Vladimir Medinsky was quoted by Interfax news agency on Monday as saying peace talks were being held remotely.
Putin told German Chancellor Olaf Scholz by telephone on Friday that peace talks had been “essentially blocked by Kyiv,” according to the Kremlin transcript. Kyiv blames Moscow for the lack of progress.
Putin tells German chancellor that Kyiv has ‘essentially blocked’ negotiations
Russian President Vladimir Putin has blamed Kyiv for blocking peace negotiations.
Speaking with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Friday via phone, Putin also continued to claim that there were “ongoing gross violations” of the norms of international humanitarian law by “militants professing the Nazi ideology,” according to a readout of the call published on the Kremlin’s official website. Moscow has falsely insisted that Ukraine is overrun by Nazis, as part of the justification for its invasion of the country.
Some peace talks were initiated in the early days of the war, but have effectively stalled after it emerged that the Russian forces were allegedly committing war crimes in Ukraine and the country’s allies committed to increasing amounts of military aid.
In a tweet about his “long” phone conversation with Putin, Scholz called Putin’s claim that Nazis are in power in Ukraine “false.” He also said there must be a cease-fire in Ukraine as quickly as possible, and that he reminded Putin about “Russia’s responsibility for the global food situation” amid Ukraine’s accusations that Moscow is blocking grain exports and stealing grain from occupied territories.
Turkish President Erdogan hints he could block Finland and Sweden’s bid to join NATO
Turkey’s president said Friday that he was not in favor of Sweden and Finland joining NATO, because both countries were “home to many terrorist organizations.”
“We are following the developments regarding Sweden and Finland, but we don’t hold positive views,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul, adding it was a mistake for NATO to accept Greece as a member in the past.
Finland’s prime minister and president set out plans to join the defense alliance Thursday, after public opinion swung strongly in favor of joining following decades of neutrality. Neutral Sweden is expected to also announce its intention to join in the coming days.
The move would double the length of Russia’s border with NATO states and provide a significant boost to NATO’s capabilities in northern Europe and around the Baltic Sea.
U.K. sanctions Putin’s network that funds his ‘luxury lifestyle’ including ex-wife
The U.K. has imposed fresh sanctions on family members of Vladimir Putin and his “inner network” that funds his lifestyle, foreign secretary Liz Truss said in a tweet Friday.
The list includes more than 10 individuals who the U.K. says have long benefited from positions of power and status in exchange for their wealth and loyalty to Putin, including ex-wife Lyudmila Ocheretnaya.
“We are exposing and targeting the shady network propping up Putin’s luxury lifestyle and tightening the vice on his inner circle. We will keep going with sanctions on all those aiding and abetting Putin’s aggression until Ukraine prevails,” Truss said.
Putin’s official assets are said to be “modest” since the president relies on his extended network for financial support. The new sanctions are expected to “compound” the pressure on Putin.
The U.K. has put a strong foot forward by sanctioning over 1,000 individuals and 100 entities, including Russian oligarchs with a net global worth of over $142 billion since the invasion began in February.
Biden looks to nudge ASEAN leaders to speak out on Russia
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is looking to nudge southeast Asian leaders to be more outspoken about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but the issue continues to be a delicate one for many members of the region’s 10-country alliance with deep ties to Moscow.
Biden welcomed leaders from Association of Southeast Asian Nations to the White House on Thursday night for an intimate dinner to kick off the two-day summit, the first meeting of the group to be held in Washington in its 45-year history.
The White House is also trying to demonstrate that it is stepping up in the Pacific even as the administration has been focused on the war in Ukraine. It announced that the United States would commit to more than $150 million in new projects to bolster Southeast Asia’s climate, maritime and public health infrastructure.
But Biden knows that finding consensus with ASEAN members on the Russian invasion could prove to be difficult.
Read the full story here.
Trial of Russian soldier in first war crimes case opens in Kyiv
The trial of a Russian soldier accused of killing a Ukrainian civilian opened Friday in the first war crimes trial since the war began.
Sgt. Vadim Shyshimarin, 21, appeared in a small glass cage in a Kyiv courtroom for the start of a trial that has drawn international attention amid allegations that Russian forces committed atrocities against the civilian population.
Shyshimarin is accused of shooting a 62-year-old Ukrainian man in the head in the northeastern village of Chupakhivka in the early days of the war. He could get up to life in prison if found guilty.
On Friday, Shyshimarin did not speak in court but said he agreed to the procedure. Shyshimarin’s attorney, Victor Ovsyanikov, said he could not comment on on whether his client admits guilt. He also did not disclose if Shyshimarin is cooperating with the investigation. Ovsyanikov told NBC News that Shyshimarin surrendered to the Ukrainian forces on his own.
Meanwhile, Prosecutor Andriy Syniuk said they had enough evidence to prove the defendant’s guilt.
The first full trial hearing in Shyshimarin’s case is scheduled to take place next Wednesday.
Ukrainian foreign minister tweets from G-7 meeting
E.U. plans to give Ukraine $500 million to buy heavy weapons
The European Union is planning to give Ukraine almost $520 million to buy heavy weapons that will help fend off Russia’s invasion.
The bloc’s foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell announced the funds at a gathering of top diplomats from the Group of Seven wealthy nations Friday. But E.U. diplomats cautioned that any disbursement still requires ratification by all member states. Some countries are expressing misgivings, and approval is unlikely before next week.
EU Council president Charles Michel, who represents the EU’s 27 governments in Brussels, threw his “full support” behind the plan. “Time is of the essence,” Michel wrote in a message posted on Twitter.
Borrell also expressed hope of soon getting the bloc’s member states to agree an oil embargo against Russia, despite the misgivings of some countries.
China says confidence in U.N. shaken by vote to investigate alleged Russian abuses in Ukraine
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Friday that a decision by the U.N. Human Rights Council to set up an investigation into alleged human rights abuses by Russian troops in Ukraine had shaken members’ trust in the body.
The U.N. Human Rights Council resolution to set up the investigation passed on Thursday by a strong majority, with 33 members voting in favour and two — China and Eritrea — against.
Zhao said during a Friday news briefing that China’s objection was due to the U.N. failing to look at some countries that wage war, while choosing to target others.
Restoring water supply in the east
‘Russia’s strategic defeat is obvious to everyone’: Zelenskyy
Russia’s strategic defeat is already obvious to everyone in the world, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly address to the nation late Wednesday.
“Russia simply lacks courage to admit it so far,” Zelenskyy said. “They are cowards. And they are trying to hide the truth behind missile, air and artillery strikes.”
Zelenskyy’s comments came on the day that Russia’s neighbor Finland announced its intention to join NATO, expanding the military alliance in a move that has angered Moscow as Russian President Vladimir Putin is increasingly confronted with lack of significant military progress in Ukraine.
E.U. to provide 500 million euro of military aid to Ukraine
The European Union will support Ukraine by providing military equipment worth 500 million euros, said foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell Friday ahead of the G7 meeting.
Borrell said that they aim to put more “pressure on Russia with economic sanctions,” counter the spread of misinformation and internationally isolate the country.
The diplomat is optimistic that the G7 will “present a united front” in dealing with Russia and stressed the urgency of an oil embargo on the country.
“I am sure we will have an agreement. We need it and we will have it. We have to get rid of the oil dependency from Russia,” he said.
Pussy Riot kick off ‘Anti-War Tour’ after member flees Russia in disguise
May 13, 202200:59
Russian commanders ‘under pressure’ to make progress, British military says
British military officials say the heavy losses suffered by Russia in a failed river crossing in eastern Ukraine demonstrate the pressure that the Kremlin’s commanders are under to make progress in the strategically important region.
The U.K. Ministry of Defence said in a tweet Friday that Ukrainian forces prevented a group of Russian troops from crossing the Siverskyi Donets river, west of Severodonetsk in the Donbas region, where the two armies have been clashing in recent weeks.
Russia lost “significant” elements of at least one battalion tactical group, as well as equipment used to quickly deploy a floating bridge, the ministry said.
“Conducting river crossings in a contested environment is a highly risky maneuver and speaks to the pressure the Russian commanders are under to make progress in their operations in eastern Ukraine,” the ministry said in its tweet.
It said Russian forces have failed to make any significant advances in the Donbas region, despite concentrating its forces here after withdrawing and redeploying troops from Ukraine’s north.
Satellite imagery shows aftermath of strikes on Azovstal plant
New satellite images by Earth observation company Maxar show the damage dealt by aerial and artillery attacks on the Azovstal steel plant compound in eastern Mariupol.
The picture was taken on May 12, 2022.
Russian soldier to stand trial in first Ukraine war crimes case
A Russian soldier is scheduled to appear in a Kyiv court Friday for killing a civilian in northern Ukraine, setting up what could beome the conflict’s first case of a member of the Russian armed forces being prosecuted for a war crime.
Sergeant Vadim Shyshimarin, 21, stands accused of shooting an unarmed 62-year-old man who was riding a bicycle in the northeastern village of Chupakhivka in the Sumy region, Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova said as she announced Shyshimarin’s case on Wednesday.
The man died on the spot just a few dozen meters from his home, according to Venediktova. The alleged murder is said to have happened on Feb. 28.
Shyshimarin faces up to life in prison if convicted, Venediktova said.
Shyshimarin’s attorney, Victor Ovsyanikov, acknowledged that the case against his client is strong, but said the final decision over what evidence to allow will be made by the court in Kyiv, the Associated Press reported. Ovsyanikov said Thursday that he and his client had not yet decided how he will plead, the agency said.
Venediktova said last week her office was looking into more than 9,800 potential war crimes and “it’s only the top of the iceberg.”
Snake Island strike
Maintain sanctions until the military is withdrawn, U.K. foreign minister says
Sanctions against Russia should only be lifted when the country’s troops leave Ukraine, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said to foreign ministers at the Group of Seven (G7) meeting Thursday.
Truss also implored her counterparts to help ramp up Ukraine’s defense. She said that more military equipment should be provided to the country to “keep up the pressure” on Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
“It is very important at this time that we keep up the pressure on Vladimir Putin by supplying more weapons to Ukraine, by increasing the sanctions,” the foreign secretary said at the meeting in Germany.
Big guns and small drones have become a devastating combo in Ukraine
PARIS — They were developed more than a century apart, but an unusual combination of decades-old and cutting edge technology — heavy artillery and remote-controlled drones — is helping Ukraine’s army make inroads into Russia’s eastern occupation.
The cannons, howitzers and other heavy guns provided by NATO members and allies are similar to the weapons that have been battlefield staples since World War I, lobbing explosive shells farther than the eye can see. They are being used to great effect to suppress Russian positions and allow Ukrainian infantry counterattacks in the Donbas region.
The importance of artillery is underscored by international efforts to ship more guns and ammunition to Ukraine, with many NATO members contributing some of the newest and most advanced versions of these weapons.
But experts say Ukrainian forces are going one better by harnessing widely available drone technology to provide real-time surveillance data on Russian targets and fire their heavy weapons with unprecedented accuracy.
“Each drone provides the opportunity to destroy enemy troops,” said Valerii Iakovenko, founder of DroneUA, a Ukrainian tech firm that advises the government on drone use.
Japan imposes more sanctions, bans high-tech export to Russia
Japan will ban the export of high-tech goods including quantum computers, printers and electron microscopes to Russia starting May 20.
Its Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said Friday that it will place an export ban as part of “its international efforts for ensuring peace in the whole world, for settling this issue.”
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Japan imposed various economic sanctions and froze the assets of influential Russian oligarchs. The fresh ban will restrict the export of oil refining equipment, equipment used in the production of microelectromechanical circuits, solar cells for hydrogen fuel and renewable energy, and vacuum pumps, among other goods.
Battling on in Bakhmut
Germany promises G-7 show of unity against Russia as ministers meet
Foreign ministers from the Group of Seven powerful economies aim to give what Germany called a “powerful sign of unity” as they meet on Friday to discuss the war in Ukraine, fears that the conflict could spill over into Moldova, and food security concerns.
The annual meeting running until Saturday brings together top diplomats from Britain, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, the United States and the European Union to a 400-year-old castle estate in the Baltic Sea resort of Weissenhaus.
They will defy Russian attempts to split the world over Ukraine, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said ahead of the meeting. “Never since the end of the Cold War have we G7 partners been more profoundly challenged. Never before have we stood more united,” she said in a tweet.
Ukraine claims it struck a Russian logistics ship in the Black Sea
Ukrainian officials say their forces took out another Russian ship in the Black Sea.
Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to the Ukrainian president, said late Thursday the Vsevolod Bobrov logistics ship was struck as it was trying to deliver an anti-aircraft system to Snake Island. He said the ship was badly damaged but was not believed to have sunk.
A spokesman for the Odesa regional military administration said the vessel caught fire after the strike. There was no confirmation from Russia and no reports of casualties.
The British Ministry of Defense said this week that Ukraine has been targeting Russian air defenses and supply vessels on Snake Island in an effort to disrupt Moscow’s efforts to expand its control over the Black Sea coastline.
Zelenskyy claims Russian forces destroyed 570 health care facilities
May 13, 202201:44