A Ukrainian commander in Mariupol has appealed directly to Elon Musk on Wednesday, asking the world’s richest man to intervene on behalf of those trapped by Russian forces in control of the southern city, AFP reports.
The three-month-old war has devastated the strategic port, where Ukrainians have sustained a pocket of resistance from within the Azovstal steelworks after weeks of bloody battle.
Serhiy Volyna, commander of the 36th Separate Marine Brigade, said he created a Twitter account for the sole purpose of reaching out to Musk.
“People say you come from another planet to teach people to believe in the impossible,” Volyna tweeted at Musk.
“Our planets are next to each other, as I live where it is nearly impossible to survive. Help us get out of Azovstal to a mediating country. If not you, then who?”
He called on “every person on the planet Earth” to help ensure Musk saw his appeal.
Earlier this week, Kyiv said that more than 1,000 of its troops, many of them injured, remained in the sprawling Azovstal plant, sheltering in the labyrinth of Soviet-era bunkers and tunnels from the Russians who now control Mariupol.
Women, children and the elderly have been evacuated from the besieged site as part of a humanitarian mission coordinated by the United Nations and the Red Cross.
Twitter, which Musk is seeking to buy in a $44 billion deal, has seen an explosion of users due to the war in Ukraine, with people using the social media service to find news and support, according to the company.
Musk, who has more than 92 million followers, has previously used the platform to challenge Russian president Vladimir Putin to “single combat” over Ukraine.
Last month, the South African-born Tesla chief responded to a Ukrainian plea for internet service by activating his Starlink satellite broadband service and sending equipment to help bring connectivity to areas hit by Russian military attacks.
Finland is expected to announce its intention to join Nato on Thursday with Sweden likely to follow soon after, diplomats and officials have said, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine reshapes European security and the Atlantic military alliance.
Nato allies expect Finland and Sweden to be granted membership quickly, five diplomats and officials told Reuters, paving the way for increased troop presence in the Nordic region during the one-year ratification period.
In the lead-up to their Nato accession, British prime minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday promised to defend Sweden and Finland against potential Russian threats as he travelled to both countries to sign mutual security agreements.
In the wider Nordic region, Norway, Denmark and the three Baltic states are already Nato members, and the addition of Finland and Sweden would probably anger Moscow, which says enlargement of the organisation is a direct threat to its own security.
Russian president Vladimir Putin has cited the issue as a reason for his actions in Ukraine, which has also expressed a desire to eventually join the alliance. Moscow has also repeatedly warned Finland and Sweden against joining the alliance, threatening “serious military and political consequences”.
Asked on Wednesday if Finland would provoke Russia by joining Nato, president Sauli Niinistö said Putin would be to blame. “My response would be that you caused this. Look at the mirror,” Niinisto said.
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Russia “is today the most direct threat to the world order with the barbaric war against Ukraine, and its worrying pact with China,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has said after talks with Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida.
Von der Leyen and European Council president Charles Michel are in Japan for talks that have touched on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but also growing concerns about China’s role in Asia and beyond, AFP reports.
The annual summit comes with much of the international community rallying to pressure Moscow over Ukraine.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is not just a matter for Europe, but it shakes the core of the international order including Asia. This must not be tolerated,” said Kishida, whose government has joined tough sanctions on Moscow, including on energy.
Beijing’s increasingly muscular stance in Asia was also on the agenda, with the EU looking to take a more high-profile role in confronting China.
Our cooperation in Ukraine is critical in Europe, but it’s also important in the Indo-Pacific and we also want to deepen our consultation on a more assertive China,” said Michel.
China must stand up to defend the multilateral system that it has benefitted from in developing its country.
Japan and the EU have been working to strengthen ties, including with a landmark 2019 trade deal, and Tokyo has broken with past diplomatic postures to take a strong stand on Ukraine.
It has sanctioned Russian businesses and officials, sent humanitarian and financial aid to Ukraine and joined a G7 pledge to phase out or ban Russian oil.
Japan has, however, stopped short of measures on gas because of its reliance on energy imports.
Hello and welcome to the Guardian’s live coverage of the war in Ukraine with me, Helen Livingstone. A roundup of the latest developments:
- European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen warned that Russia “is today the most direct threat to the world order with the barbaric war against Ukraine, and its worrying pact with China.” The annual summit with Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida comes as much of the international community rallying to pressure Moscow over Ukraine.
- Finland’s president, Sauli Niinisto, is expected to give a green light on Thursday for the country to join the NATO military alliance, while Sweden is expected to do so in the coming days. UK prime minister Boris Johnson has promised to support Sweden and Finland against potential Russian threats in any way necessary.
- A Ukrainian commander in Mariupol has appealed directly to Elon Musk, asking the world’s richest man to intervene on behalf of those trapped by Russian forces in control of the southern city. “People say you come from another planet to teach people to believe in the impossible,” Serhiy Volyna tweeted at Musk. “Our planets are next to each other, as I live where it is nearly impossible to survive. Help us get out of Azovstal to a mediating country. If not you, then who?”
- The Russian-controlled administration in the Ukrainian city of Kherson has said it plans to request annexation by Moscow, a move that would confirm the Kremlin’s permanent occupation of Ukrainian territory captured since February. Kyiv said Moscow plans to hold a fake referendum on independence or annexation. The Kremlin responded that it was up to residents living in region to decide whether they wanted to join Russia.
- Russian and Ukrainian forces appear to be settling into a gruelling and deadly stalemate in Ukraine’s east. Despite claims from Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, that Ukrainian counteroffensives around Kharkiv and elsewhere were pushing invading Russian forces back, Ukrainian successes appeared to be confined for now to the far north-eastern and south-western flanks of the 300-mile frontline.
- Ukraine claimed it has recaptured Pytomnyk, a village north of Kharkiv, about halfway to the Russian border. “The occupying forces moved to the defence in order to slow down the pace of the offensive of our troops,” Ukraine’s general staff of the armed forces said in its latest report. “The settlement of Pytomnyk … was liberated.”
- Ukraine has said it will suspend the flow of gas through a transit point that it says delivers almost a third of the fuel piped from Russia to Europe through Ukraine. GTSOU, which operates Ukraine’s gas system, said it would stop shipments via the Sokhranivka route from Wednesday, declaring “force majeure”, a clause invoked when a business is hit by something beyond its control. Gas flows from Russia’s Gazprom to Europe via Ukraine fell by a quarter on Wednesday.
- Zelenskiy warned Kyiv was running out of patience to hold talks with Russia, given the mounting evidence of atrocities committed by Russian forces in his country. He said the possibility to negotiate “disappears” with “each new Bucha, each new Mariupol”.
- The war will end when Ukraine reclaims everything that Russia took from it, Zelenskiy maintained. “The war will end for the Ukrainian people only when we get back what’s ours,” he said in an online address with students of leading universities in France, representatives of academia and the media.
- Three Russian prisoners of war accused of targeting or murdering civilians, and a soldier who allegedly killed a man before raping his wife, are set to be in the dock in the first war crimes trials of the Ukraine conflict, the Ukrainian prosecutor general has revealed. More than 10,700 crimes have been registered since the war began by the office of Ukraine’s prosecutor general, led by Iryna Venediktova, and a handful of cases have now been filed or are ready to be submitted.
- Ukraine has proposed to Russia that badly injured defenders in the Azovstal steel plant in the southern port of Mariupol be swapped for Russian prisoners of war, deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on Wednesday. “There is no agreement yet. Negotiations are continuing,” she said in a post on Telegram.
- A Chinese former ambassador to Ukraine, Gao Yusheng, has strongly criticised Russia’s invasion. In a speech which was reported on by the Chinese press before quickly being taken down, Gao said Putin’s frequent “violations” of former Soviet states’ territory were “the greatest threat to peace, security and stability in Eurasia”.