UK signs security pact with Sweden; Russian forces ‘pushed back’ from second-largest city Kharkiv – CNBC

Boris Johnson signs security declaration with Sweden

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson signed a security declaration with Sweden, pledging to support the Nordic country if it comes under military attack. The security pact can also mean intelligence sharing or joint military drills, Johnson said.

“The declaration makes clear, it’s upon request of Sweden that the U.K. will of course provide assistance,” the U.K. leader said. “What matters primarily is what Sweden decides to request.”

The news comes as Sweden and Finland, the latter of which borders Russia, are set to make their decisions on whether to apply for membership to the NATO alliance, breaking a long-held position of neutrality when it comes to the alliance and Russia. Moscow has threatened consequences if the countries were to join NATO.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Sweden’s Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson sign documents as they meet at the Swedish Prime Minister’s summer residence in Harpsund, Sweden May 11, 2022. 

Christine Olsson | Tt News Agency | Via Reuters

Public support for joining the defensive alliance in both Sweden and Finland has soared following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Speaking in Sweden alongside Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, Johnson stressed the rights of sovereign countries to chart their own courses of action.

“The war in Ukraine is forcing us all to make difficult decisions, but sovereign nations must be free to make those decisions without fear or influence or threat of retaliation,” he said. Johnson is scheduled to visit Finland as well to sign a similar security agreement.

— Natasha Turak

UN chief does not see Ukraine peace negotiations in the near future

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres does not foresee Ukraine peace negotiations happening soon, he told a press conference.

“This war will not last forever. There will be a time when peace negotiations will take place,” Guterres said, speaking alongside Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen.

“I do not see that in the immediate future. But I can say one thing. We will never give up,” he added.

Guterres has traveled to both Moscow and Kyiv following criticism that the U.N. was not taking an active role in mediating the conflict that began in late February. He has held talks with both Ukrainian President Zelenskyy and Russian leader Vladimir Putin, and has stressed to Putin the need for dedicated humanitarian corridors in areas of heavy Russian shelling in Ukraine.

Guterres visited Russia before visiting Ukraine, a move that was met with frustration and disappointment from many Ukrainians.

— Natasha Turak

Ukraine’s forces are gradually pushing Russians back from Kharkiv, officials say

Ukrainian soldiers next to a destroyed Russian tank on the outskirts of Kharkiv, Ukraine, 8 May 2022.

Diego Herrera Carcedo | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Ukrainian forces are recapturing territory in the region surrounding Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city which is located near the northeastern border with Russia, according to Ukrainian officials.

Ukrainian forces have managed to recapture four settlements north of Kharkiv, a press officer with the main Ukrainian force in the area said Tuesday, while Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly address that Russian forces are “gradually being pushed back from Kharkiv.”

“I am grateful to all our defenders who are holding the line and demonstrating truly superhuman strength to drive out the army of invaders,” Zelenskyy said. But he added: “I also want to urge all our people, and especially those in the rear, not to spread excessive emotions. We shouldn’t create an atmosphere of specific moral pressure, when certain victories are expected weekly and even daily.”

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, a spokesman for Ukraine’s armed forces said in a Facebook update that Russian forces were trying to prevent Ukrainian troops from moving further toward the border in the Kharkiv region and trying to fully capture the town of Rubizhne.

“The occupiers continue to focus their efforts on preventing the further advance of our troops towards the state border of Ukraine, conducting reconnaissance units of the Defence Forces north and north-east of the city of Kharkiv,” the spokesman noted.

Holly Ellyatt

Ukraine’s Eurovision lifts spirits and wins public affection

Ukraine’s entry in the annual Eurovision song contest this year is one of the favorites to win the competition amid a swell of global sympathy for the country after Russia’s invasion.

Ukrainians celebrated last night as the Kalush Orchestra, a folk-rap band that’s Ukraine’s entry for Eurovision, qualified for the final taking place in Turin, Italy, on Saturday night.

The Kalush Orchestra from Ukraine performs the song “Stefania” at the first semi-final of the Eurovision Song Contest. The international music competition is taking place for the 66th time.

Picture Alliance | Picture Alliance | Getty Images

The band’s song, “Stefania,” has had mixed reviews from critics, but most say that doesn’t really matter this year.

With Eurovision’s global audience of millions of people (in 2016, the show’s semi-final and final drew 204 million viewers, according to its broadcaster, the European Broadcast Union) set to watch the contest, much of the global public is likely to vote for Ukraine if only to show support and solidarity for the country.

Holly Ellyatt

Fighting at ‘Snake Island’ could determine who controls chunk of Black Sea, UK says

Fighting continues at Zmiinyi Island, also known as “Snake Island,” with Russia repeatedly trying to reinforce its exposed garrison there, according to the British Ministry of Defence in its latest intelligence update.

“If Russia consolidates its position on Zmiinyi Island with strategic air defence and coastal defence cruise missiles, they could dominate the north-western Black Sea,” the ministry said on Twitter this morning.

“Russia’s current efforts to augment its forces on Zmiinyi Island offer Ukraine more opportunities to engage Russian troops and attrit materiel,” the ministry added, saying Ukraine has successfully struck Russian air defenses and resupply vessels with Bayraktar drones.

In addition, the ministry noted that Russia’s resupply vessels have minimum protection in the western Black Sea, following the Russian Navy’s retreat to Crimea after the loss of the Moskva, the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.

Holly Ellyatt

Ukraine gas operator to stop transporting almost a third of Russian gas to Europe

Pipes, valves and tanks with liquefied petroleum gas are seen in Poland on April 28, 2022. Ukraine’s gas transmission operator says it will stop transporting almost a third of Russian gas to Europe.

Beata Zawrzel | Nurphoto | Getty Images

Ukraine’s gas transmission operator says it will stop transporting almost a third of Russian gas to Europe.

Moscow’s invasion has rendered the operator unable “to carry out operational and technological control” of its facilities to ensure their stability and safety, particularly in Russian-controlled territory such as the Luhansk region, Gas TSO of Ukraine said.

In a statement, GTSOU said it would stop transporting gas through its Novopskov hub from 7 a.m. on Wednesday. Almost a third of the natural gas coming from Russia to Europe (up to 32.6 million cubic meters per day) is transited through the hub.

The company claimed force majeure, which are unforeseeable circumstances that prevent someone from fulfilling a contract.  

GTSOU also said it is possible to temporarily reroute gas to another crossing in Ukrainian-controlled territory, but said Russia’s state-controlled gas giant Gazprom has ignored appeals to do so.

“The company repeatedly informed Gazprom about gas transit threats due to the actions of the Russian-controlled occupation forces and stressed stopping interference in the operation of the facilities, but these appeals were ignored,” GTSOU said.

Sergei Kupriyanov, a spokesman for Gazprom, said Ukraine’s request would be “technologically impossible” and that the company sees no grounds for the decision, the Associated Press reported.

— Chelsea Ong

U.S. House passes $40 billion aid package to Ukraine

Rescue workers walk past debris and carsunder ruins in front of the shopping and entertainment center in the Ukrainian Black Sea city of Odessa on May 10, 2022, destroyed after Russian missiles strike late on May 9, 2022.

Oleksandr Gimanov | AFP | Getty Images

The U.S. House passed a bill that’s set to deliver $40 billion in military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine, according to a NBC News report.

The House voted 368-57 after President Joe Biden urged quick congressional action in stepping up support for Kyiv in its war against Russia, the report said.

All 57 no votes came from Republicans, according to NBC News.

Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., who opposed the measure, tweeted: “I oppose Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but we can’t help Ukraine by spending money we don’t have.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., praised the largely bipartisan vote, saying on Twitter that the package would build “on robust support already secured by Congress” and “help Ukraine defend not only its nation but democracy for the world.”

— Weizhen Tan

U.S. has committed more than $4.5 billion to Ukraine since Biden became president

Ukrainian servicemen unload missiles provided by U.S. to Ukraine as part of a military support on Feb. 11, 2022. The U.S. has committed more than $4.5 billion on security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden Administration.

Sergei Supinsky | Afp | Getty Images

Russian forces are at least two weeks behind schedule in Donbas goals, U.S. Defense official says

A Ukrainian serviceman stands guard at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Barvinkove, eastern Ukraine, on April 15, 2022. Fighting in the Donbas is “intensifying” and Russia’s military build-up on Ukraine’s eastern border continues to increase, the British defense ministry said

Ronaldo Schemidt | Afp | Getty Images

The Pentagon said Russian forces are about two weeks behind schedule in their assault of the Donbas in eastern Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin “has not achieved any of the success that we believe he wanted to achieve, certainly not on a timeline,” a senior U.S. Defense official said on a call with reporters.

The official, who declined to be named per ground rules established by the Pentagon, said that the U.S. assesses Putin’s forces are “easily two weeks or even maybe more behind.”

“We would not assess that the Russians have made any appreciable or significant progress,” the official added.

— Amanda Macias

US spy chief says Putin is preparing for prolonged war

Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Avril Haines testifies during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on “Worldwide Threats” at the U.S. Capitol in Washington May 10, 2022. 

Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

The United States believes that Russian President Vladimir Putin is preparing for a long conflict in Ukraine, and a Russian victory in the Donbas in the east of the country might not end the war, U.S. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said.

“We assess President Putin is preparing for a prolonged conflict in Ukraine, during which he still intends to achieve goals beyond the Donbas,” Haines told lawmakers.

She added that Putin was counting on the Western resolve to weaken over time.

— Reuters

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