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Ukraine calls Putin's passport plan 'criminal'

May 25, 2022

Vladimir Putin has ordered the fast-tracking of Russian passports for residents of southern Ukraine. The governor of Luhansk Oblast has told DW Russia is "completely destroying" Sievierodonetsk.

Civilans in Luhansk
More than 40,000 people have been evacuated from Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk, but the chances of helping more are dwindlingImage: Mykola Berdnyk/DW
  • Ukraine's president calls for more weapons in nightly address
  • Ukraine says hundreds of bodies discovered beneath Mariupol apartment building
  • Zelenskyy says he will only consider direct talks with Putin with no mediation
  • Russia's Defense Ministry claims that the Mariupol port is functioning again

This article was last updated at 21:24 UTC/GMT

This live updates article has been closed. For our latest from May 26, click here.

Lithuanian crowdfunding campaign raises money to buy a drone for Ukraine

A Lithuanian crowdfunding campaign to buy a Turkish drone for Ukraine's armed forces has raised more than €1 million (just over $1 million) on the first day it was launched, the country's Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas said.

In a post on Twitter, he urged Lithuanians to donate more money saying €5 million was needed to buy the Bayraktar TB2 military drone for Ukraine.

The crowdfunding campaign was the brainchild of Lithuanian journalist and social media personality Andrius Tapinas.

In a post on Facebook, Tapinas said his idea had the blessing of the Lithuanian and Turkish defense ministries.

Ukraine already owns Bayraktar TB2 drones and has used them successfully in its campaign against Russia.

War in Ukraine could trigger global recession, warns World Bank

World Bank President David Malpass warned Russia's war in Ukraine and its impact on food and energy price 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 said.

He told the US Chamber of Commerce the economies of Ukraine and Russia were both expected to see a significant contraction, while Europe, China, and the United States were experiencing slower growth.

Despite positive growth rates in the main for 2021, most countries are still around, or even below, their pre-pandemic levels of output. Vast government spending to deal with the pandemic had already prompted inflation and cost-of-living issues even before Russia's invasion of Ukraine exacerbated the phenomenon.

Malpass said that developing countries were being hit even harder given shortfalls of fertilizer and food stocks, and energy supplies.

"The idea of energy prices doubling is enough to trigger a recession by itself," Malpass said.

NATO informally agreed not to supply certain tanks Ukraine says it now needs

NATO members have informally agreed not to supply certain weapons to Ukraine, sources from the military alliance told the German news agency dpa.

The disclosure comes as Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said his country wanted to acquire German Marder infantry fighting vehicles and ideally also Leopard main battle tanks.

"But we are not even close to, we are not there," he told a news conference on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

We understand it's more difficult for Germany than for others, so we decided to follow this development with strategic patience," Kuleba said, adding he still did not understand why it was so complicated.

On Sunday, German State Secretary for Defense Siemtje Möller told public broadcaster ZDF that NATO agreed not to supply Ukraine with any Western infantry vehicles or tanks.

"The Defense Committee was fully informed of this in mid-May," Germany's governing Social Democrat Party parliamentary group spokesperson Wolfgang Hellmich told dpa on Wednesday.

So far, however, all partners had kept to the informal agreement, he said. "Anyone who claims otherwise has either not been listening properly or is knowingly telling untruths."

Turkey demands 'concrete steps' from Sweden, Finland

Delegations from Sweden and Finland have been in Ankara seeking to address Turkish objections to their joining the NATO military alliance.

In a news conference after the talks that lasted about five hours, Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said Turkey required specific steps to be taken to address Ankara's concerns.

"We have made it very clear that if Turkey's security concerns are not met with concrete steps in a certain timeframe the process will not progress,'' Ibrahim Kalin told a news conference.

Turkey objects to the accession of the Nordic countries, citing their perceived support for the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, as well as the US-backed Syrian Kurdish militia, the YPG. Ankara claims such groups are a threat to its security.

The two countries' applications to join the alliance as a defense against feared aggression from Russia would end decades of military neutrality.

Finland — which shares a 1,300-kilometer (800-mile) border with Russia — and its neighbor Sweden have been disturbed by Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

AU to push Russia and Ukraine to unblock grain and fertilizer exports

Senegal's President Macky Sall will urge Russia and Ukraine to restore grain and fertilizer exports during a visit in the coming weeks.

Sall, also the current chairman of the African Union, warned further blockages could cause severe famine on the continent.

"The world would not be able to contain the consequences because it would be massive on immigration. It would be dramatic for African countries," he said.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, nearly half of Africa's 54 countries rely on Russia and Ukraine for wheat imports. Russia is also a significant supplier of fertilizer to at least 11 countries.

"We have pleaded for a ceasefire, for an end to the war, and for the release of all food products ... so that the world doesn't know a famine after two years of COVID and almost three months of war," said Sall.

Putin fast-tracks passports for residents of southern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered the procedure for residents of the southern Ukrainian regions of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson to get a Russian passport to be fast-tracked.

Russian forces largely controlled the two southern regions of Ukraine.

Russia already has a program to fast-track naturalizing people living in eastern Ukraine's self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics.

Ukraine accused Putin of "criminal" behavior.

"The illegal issuing of passports... is a flagrant violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as norms and principles of international humanitarian law," the Ukrainian foreign ministry said in a statement.

The ministry added the move was further evidence of Russia's plans to  integrate regions held by Moscow's army "into Russia's legal, political and economic field."

Russia 'destroying' last two cities under Ukrainian control in Luhansk region

The governor of the Luhansk region in eastern Ukraine has said at least six civilians have been killed by the latest Russian shelling. Serhiy Haidai added that another eight people had been wounded in the town of Sievierodonetsk over the previous 24 hours.

"We are witnessing the Russian army completely destroying Sievierodonetsk," Haidai told DW. "They are shelling the whole place, and they don't care whether there are civilians or whether there is a hospital or a school. They are destroying all the buildings."

Sievierodonetsk is at the epicenter of fighting in Ukraine's eastern industrial heartland of Donbas, where the Russian forces have been pressing their offensive despite stiff Ukrainian resistance.

Haidai accused the Russians of deliberately targeting shelters where civilians were hiding.

Roads out of Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk are also being blocked.

"The chances are getting less and less" that all citizens will be evacuated, he told DW. "Unfortunately this is the situation."

Wounded Ukrainian soldiers treated in German hospitals

The German military flew several wounded Ukrainian soldiers to Berlin for treatment, an air force spokesperson said.

The soldiers were picked up from Rzeszow in Poland. They would receive treatment in several hospitals in the German capital and surrounding areas, the spokesperson told the German news agency dpa.

It was the seventh mission of its kind.

The spokesperson did not have details about the number of soldiers being treated or the nature of their injuries.

Putin visits injured soldiers in hospital

Russian President Vladimir Putin visits soldiers wounded in Ukraine for the first time since the war started.

He chatted to soldiers at Moscow's Mandryka military hospital, wearing a white medical coat.

"These are people who are risking their health and lives for the sake of the people and children of Donbas, for the sake of Russia. They are all heroes," Putin told government officials after his visit.

The Russian leader still refers to the war as "a special military operation."

In late March, Russia said 1,351 soldiers had been killed and 3,825 wounded in the conflict. Ukraine and Western countries estimate the numbers to be much higher.

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu accompanied Putin on his visit. On Tuesday, Shoigu said Moscow was ready for a prolonged conflict in Ukraine to achieve the Kremlin's goals.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, shakes hands with Warrant officer Yuzbeg Kazitov, left, and Sgt. Ivan Petruk, second left, at the Central Military Clinical Hospital in Moscow
Vladimir Putin meets injured soldiers at the Central Military Clinical Hospital in MoscowImage: Mikhail Metzel, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP/picture alliance

Swiss seize assets of ex-Ukrainian leader's ally

The Swiss government plans to seize more than 100 million Swiss francs' (€97 million, $104 million) worth of assets from an associate of Ukraine's former president Viktor Yanukovych.

The assets of Yuriy Ivanyushchenko and his family were frozen after the 2014 revolution in Ukraine. The pro-Russian Yanukovych was deposed during the revolution.

The Swiss finance ministry would ask the Federal Administrative Court to approve confiscating the assets and their return to Ukraine.

Russia removes upper age limit for conscripts

The Russian parliament voted to abandon an upper age limit for military recruits, signaling Russia may need more soldiers for what it terms its "special military operation" in Ukraine.

Existing legislation provides that only Russians between the ages of 18 and 40 can enlist and foreigners between the ages of 18 and 30 are able to enter into a first military service contract.

After all the necessary readings, both houses of the Russian parliament backed the legislation. All that is required now is Russian President Vladimir Putin's signature.

The lower house, the Duma, quoted speaker Vyacheslav Volodin on its website saying Putin "is doing everything to make the army win and increase its effectiveness."

Heavy fighting around Severodonetsk

EU looks to make breaking Russian sanctions a crime

The European Commission has proposed to make breaking EU sanctions against Russia, a criminal offense. This would aid in confiscating assets of companies and individuals flouting the measures.

According to a statement from the Commission, a unified approach is being sought to deal with sanction evasion.

"Today's proposals aim to ensure that the assets of individuals and entities that violate the restrictive measures can be effectively confiscated in the future," the Commission said in a statement.

Currently breaking sanctions against Russia is a crime in 12 EU countries.

In 13 EU states it is treated as an administrative or criminal offense, with penalties for sanction breaking varying.

Russia to make foreign debt payments in rubles

Russia's Finance Ministry said on Telegram it would begin paying foreign debt in rubles after the US ended an exemption which allowed payments in dollars.

"Noting that the refusal to extend this license makes it impossible to continue servicing government foreign debt in US dollars, payments will be carried out in Russia's currency," the finance ministry said in a statement on Telegram.

Ukraine to receive more military aid from Lithuania

Lithuania's Defense Ministry said on Wednesday that it would be sending armored vehicles as part of its military aid to Ukraine.

According to the ministry, the Baltic country will provide 20 M113 armored personnel carriers (APCs), 10 military trucks and 10 mine-clearing vehicles. The value of the military aid being sent amounted to €15.5 million ($16.5 million).

The EU state and NATO member said it had already provided around €100 million worth of military aid since the start of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Mariupol sea port 'now operating' — Russian Defense Ministry

Russia's Defense Ministry said that following "demining and demilitarization" of Ukraine's port of Mariupol, it is "now operating on a daily basis."

Russian forces seized control of the strategic port after the remaining Ukrainian fighters, who had been holed up in the Azovstal steel plant, laid down their arms.

'Kill Russian exports' — Ukraine FM calls for complete halt in trade

Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has called for a complete suspension of trade with Moscow in a bid to cut off Russia's sources of income.

"The world should stop buying Russian goods and services and trading with Russia, because every dollar and euro Russia makes from this trade is then invested in upholding the Putin regime and in keeping the Russian machine of war crimes running," Kuleba said on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

"The concept of sanctions against Russia should be based on a very simple principle: Kill Russian exports... They should be cut off from major opportunities to make money on the global arena," he said.

Russia calls for end of sanctions to prevent food crisis

Russia’s deputy foreign minister said international sanctions on Moscow should be eased to avoid far-reaching threats to the global food supply.

"Solving the food problem requires a comprehensive approach, including the removal of sanctions that have been imposed on Russian exports and financial transactions," Andrey Rudenko said.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has resulted in a volley of sanctions on Moscow, disrupting the supply of fertilizer, wheat and other commodities from both countries, which account for 30% of the global wheat supply.

Rudenko said Ukraine would need to "de-mine" all of its seaports in order to avert the worsening global food crisis. The West has previously accused Moscow of using hunger as a weapon during its invasion of Ukraine.

'The pressure is very high on Ukrainian troops now': DW's Mathias Bölinger

War in Ukraine raised prices, increased risks in eurozone — European central bank

The European Central Bank (ECB) said on Wednesday that financial conditions in the euro area have worsened since Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

This has led to higher energy and commodity prices and has heightened risks to inflation and growth.

"The terrible war in Ukraine has brought immense human suffering," ECB Vice-President Luis de Guindos said. "It has also increased financial stability risks through its impact on virtually all aspects of economic activity and financing conditions."

Vulnerabilities could increase because of the uncertain nature of the conflict, according to the ECB.

The bank suggested "a more effective capital buffer framework" to help improve the ability of financial institutions to absorb losses.

'Ukraine’s got a good future if they can defeat Russia' – Kremlin critic Bill Browder

British investor and Kremlin critic Bill Browder believes Russian President Vladimir Putin is willing to stay the course it means holding on to power.

"I've never seen him in one instance back down in one way. He [Putin] only has a forward gear, no reverse gear," Browder told DW on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

The US-born British financier and political activist is the CEO and co-founder of Hermitage Capital Management, which was once the largest foreign portfolio investor in Russia.

Browder challenged large Russian firms, including Gazprom and was declared a threat to Russian national security more than 15 years ago.

"There's going to be a situation where, six months or a year from now, people are going to be suffering from higher oil prices, higher gas prices, and higher food prices, and they are going to be less concerned about watching these atrocities on their screen and more concerned about paying their bills," Browder said, adding: "Ukraine's got a good future if they can defeat Russia."

Zelenskyy wants direct talks with Putin, no mediation

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday said that he would be willing to negotiate only with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"I can only talk to the president directly, no intermediaries, no mediators," Zelenskyy told the World Economic Forum via videolink in Davos.

Zelenskyy also said that Moscow needed to pull back troops to where they stood before the invasion of February 24.

"That might be a first step towards talks," Zelenskyy said.

Zelenskyy pays tribute to resistance put up by Ukrainians

Russian Black Sea naval blockade impacting grain exports — British intelligence

According to the latest intelligence report from the United Kingdom's Ministry of Defence (MOD), Russia's blockade of key ports has resulted in "no significant merchant shipping activity in or out of Odessa since the start of the war."

The MOD briefing stated that "significant supplies of Ukrainian grain remain in storage unable to be exported," because overland options were unlikely to be an effective substitute, considering the Russian naval blockade.

The MOD said that the war had already placed pressure on global grain prices which could increase further due to supply shortfalls.

Russia to open humanitarian corridor for foreign ships from Mariupol

The Russian Defense Ministry said it would set up a naval corridor to facilitate the safe exit of foreign vessels from the port of Mariupol on Wednesday. The safe passage – 115 miles (186 kilometers) long and 2 miles wide – will lead the vessels toward the Black Sea. 

A Russian official said the country’s naval forces had eliminated the danger posed by mines along the designated path. 

Mikhail Mizintsev, head of the National Defense Management Center of Russia, said more than 70 foreign ships from 16 countries were blocked in six ports – Kherson, Mykolaiv, Chernomorsk, Ochakov, Odessa and Yuzhny.

Donbas: Too late to evacuate civilians?

Russian troops want Donbas destroyed, Zelenskyy says

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russian troops were targeting key cities in eastern Ukraine with an aim "to destroy everything there." 

In his nightly address, Zelenskyy said: "In fact, all the strength the Russian army still has was thrown there to attack. Lyman, Popasna, Severodonetsk, Slovyansk — the occupiers want to destroy everything there."

Mourning the loss of thousands of Ukrainian men and women, he renewed calls for heavy weapons from foreign partners to help end the conflict.

Zelenskyy said that the longer the war lasted, the higher the costs would be not only for Ukraine but also for the whole free world.

"Therefore, the supply of heavy weapons to Ukraine — MLRS [multiple launch rocket system], tanks, anti-ship and other weapons — is the best investment in maintaining stability in the world and preventing many severe crises that Russia is still planning or has already provoked," he said.

DW's Mathias Bölinger reports from Kramatorsk

Summary of events in Ukraine-Russia conflict on Tuesday

Workers found 200 bodies in a decomposed state in the basement of an apartment building that collapsed in Mariupol, according to a Ukrainian official. Petro Andryushchenko, an advisor to the Mariupol mayor, said the decomposing bodies had left a stench in the neighborhood.

German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said the European Union will likely "reach a breakthrough" on a ban on Russian oil imports "within days." With many member states heavily reliant on Russian energy, the 27-member bloc had failed to reach a consensus on the embargo, mainly because of objections from Hungary.

German chancellor: Building good relations key

Chancellor Olaf Scholz slammed Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision to pursue "a very brutal war" in Ukraine, calling it an "imperialistic approach." Speaking to DW, Scholz said he had told Putin directly that the war "will never have a good outcome" for Russia.

The United States will not extend a key waiver set to expire on Wednesday that allows Russia to pay US bondholders. The waiver had allowed Moscow to keep paying interest and avert a default on its government debt. Russia has almost $2 billion (€1.86 billion) worth of payments due up to the year-end on its international bonds.

During a summit with "Quad" leaders from Japan, Australia and India, US President Joe Biden said they were navigating "a dark hour in our shared history" as Russia wages war on Ukraine.  He urged Quad leaders to work to halt the conflict.

Why have Russian forces performed so badly?

The secretary of the Russian Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev, told the Russian publication Argumenty i Fakty that Russia will meet the objectives of its "special military operation" in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny criticized President Vladimir Putin during his court hearing for starting "a stupid war." Navalny told the court, "This war was built on lies."

To read Tuesday's live updates in full, click here. 

lo,see/dj (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)