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Diplomacy only way to end war, Zelenskyy says

May 21, 2022

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy believes a diplomatic solution is still possible, despite stalled negotiations with Moscow. Meanwhile, Russia has stopped gas deliveries to Finland.

 Ruined school in Merefa, Ukraine
Russia has been condemned for targeting civilian infrastructure, such as schools, hospitals and apartment buildingsImage: Ken Cedeno/newscom/picture alliance
  • Finland, Sweden strive to reassure reluctant Erdogan on NATO bids
  • Russia publishes full list of 963 Americans banned from entering
  • Diplomacy only way to end war, Zelenskyy says
  • Russia halts gas exports to Finland
  • UN refugee agency says over 6.4 million people have fled Ukraine

This article was last updated at 23:42 UTC/GMT

This live updates article has been closed. For the latest news on the war in Ukraine, please click here. 

Austria: Protesters occupy alleged Russian oligarch villa

Activists near Salzburg, Austria, occupied a lakeside villa thought to belong to a Russian businessman.

The property is located in the town of Unterburgau, near the city of Salzburg.

While protesters claimed 40 people were calling for the expropriation of the property, police said only 10 people were involved.

Austria's land register and Finance Ministry register said the villa does not belong to an oligarch subject to EU sanctions but instead to a company associated with one of the oligarch's family members.

Recently, 50 prominent Austrians published an open letter calling for an end to the country's military non-alignment. Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer said that Vienna has no intention of abandoning neutrality.

Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer at a press conference in Moscow in front of Austrian and EU flags; beside him is another official
On the 11th of April, Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer became the first EU leader to visit Moscow since the start of Russia's invasion of UkraineImage: DW

Ukrainian director criticizes Cannes for including Russian film

Ukrainian director Dmytro Sukholytkyy-Sobchuk criticized the Cannes Film Festival for including a Russian director in the festival's line-up.

Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov premiered his film "Tchaikovsky's Wife" at the festival on Wednesday. Serebrennikov has spoken out against the invasion of Ukraine.

Tschaikovsky's Wife director Kirill Serebrennikov alongside cast at Cannes red carpet
Kirill Serebrennikov premiered the film 'Tschaikovsky's Wife' at the Cannes festivalImage: Genin Nicolas/ABACA/picture alliance

Earlier this week, Serebrennikov said that Russian culture should not be boycotted, arguing that it has always promoted "human values."

"When [Serebrennikov]'s here, he is part of the Russian propaganda, and they can use him," Sukholytkyy-Sobchuk told Reuters.

The Cannes Film Festival has banned official Russian delegations from attending.

Locals look back on Cannes Film Festival

Six Ukrainian fighters died at Azovstal — separatists

Russia's TASS state news agency cited Donetsk separatist leader Denis Pushilin as saying that six Ukrainian fighters died in the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol "when they tried to blow up ammunition holdings before they were captured."

Mariupol is part of Ukraine's eastern Donetsk region, which has been contested by Kyiv and separatist forces since 2014.

Smoke billowing out of Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol
The Azovstal steelworks has been taken over by Russian forcesImage: Alexander Garmayev/TASS/dpa/picture alliance

The pro-Russian leader said that there were 78 women among the fighters captured at the plant. Pushilin said that there were foreign volunteers among the fighters, but did not specify how many.

"[Captured Ukrainian fighters] had enough food and water, they also had enough weapons," Pushilin said. "The problem was the lack of medicine."

7 civilians killed near Donetsk — Ukrainian authorities

Donetsk regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said that seven civilians in the region were killed by Russian forces. Three people were killed in the town of Lyman.

Another seven people were injured.

Kyrylenko said "every war criminal will be punished."

3 civilians killed in Kherson region — pro-Russian administration

Pro-Russian administrators in the Kherson region accused Ukrainian forces of killing three civilians and injuring 10 in the village of Biloserka.

Most of the Kherson region is under Russian occupation. Kyiv has accused Moscow of planning to annex the area to the Russian Federation.

The dpa news agency said it could not immediately verify the information.

Ukraine: No cease-fire, concessions with Moscow

Kyiv has ruled out a cease-fire with Russia, saying it would play into the Kremlin's hands.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said making concessions — like ceding territory — would backfire because Russia would hit back harder after any break in fighting.

"The war will not stop (after any concessions). It will just be put on pause for some time," Podolyak told Reuters.

He dismissed as "very strange" calls in the West for an urgent truce that would involve Russian forces remaining in territory they have occupied in Ukraine's south and east.

"It would be good if the European and US elites understand: Russia can't be left halfway because they will [develop] a 'revanchist' mood and be even more cruel ... They must be defeated, be subjected to a painful defeat, as painful as possible."

Both sides say peace talks have stagnated, with each blaming the other for the failure.

Negotiator: Moscow may swap Ukraine prisoners for Putin ally

Moscow could be open to exchanging Ukrainian fighters captured at the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol for pro-Russian politician Viktor Medvedchuk, a senior member of the Russian negotiating team has said.

"We are going to study the possibility," foreign policy expert Leonid Sluzki was cited by Russian news agencies as saying.

The idea was previously mooted by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Medvedchuk escaped from house arrest after Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February but was rearrested in mid-April, accused of treason and embezzlement.

The 67-year-old is considered Russian President Vladimir Putin's closest ally in Ukraine.

On Friday, Moscow said the last defenders of Mariupol, the strategic port city in southeastern Ukraine, had surrendered after holding out at the steelworks for weeks.

Former NATO chief calls for oil and gas embargo

Former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen says Europe should impose an energy embargo on Russia to quickly end the war.

In comments to German daily Handelsblatt, the former Danish prime minister called on Europeans to immediately stop importing oil and gas from Russia.

"Certainly, an energy embargo will have a price. But compared to the cost of a protracted war, that price would be small," Rasmussen said.

Rasmussen led the military alliance from 2009 to 2014 after being Danish prime minister from 2001 to 2009.

He said there was a risk of the conflict turning into a war of attrition, which would favor Russia.

"The Russians are experts at playing with unresolved conflicts. We see that in Georgia, in Moldova, and in the Donbas region of Ukraine, where they invaded back in 2014. We should do what it takes to end this conflict quickly."

He said the most effective way to do this would be an energy embargo.

He also criticized Germany for its hesitancy to supply heavy weapons and impose sanctions.

"Of course, Germany is highly dependent on Russian gas imports, but I think a clear stance by the German government would change the whole dynamic in Ukraine. We need German leadership."

He said the possible northern expansion of NATO was a historic step towards strengthening the alliance.

"Finland has one of the strongest armies in Europe, strong artillery, and the number of troops, not to mention the reserve, is incredibly high. Sweden has a powerful air force and significant naval capabilities." So both countries would "bring a lot to the table," Rasmussen said. "They will increase NATO's defense capability — especially with the Baltic in mind."

Scholz calls on Schröder to disavow all Russian links

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has called upon former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder to cease all support for Russian companies.

It comes after Schröder stood down from his role on the board of Russian energy company Rosneft under immense pressure in Germany.

Schröder is currently nominated for a supervisory role on the board of Russian energy company Gazprom, and is a lobbyist for its subsidiaries Nord Stream and Nord Stream 2. 

Schröder was ambiguous about his future at Gazprom in an interview with the New York Times — his only interview since Russia invaded Ukraine.

The Gazprom annual general meeting is scheduled for June 30. 

"We take note that it is now happening at one company, the others must still follow," Scholz said on Saturday on the sidelines of an SPD party conference in Germany.

On Friday, Schröder announced "the impossibility of extending his powers on the board of directors of the company."

The 78-year-old led Germany from 1998 to 2005, but has become increasingly isolated in recent months over his lobbyist work for Russian energy companies.

Earlier, SPD Secretary-General Kevin Kühnert criticized Schröder's resignation as coming too late. 

Scholz has rejected demands for sanctions on Schröder, saying the government's plans to remove his taxpayer-funded privileges — except his pension and his security staff — sufficed.

Mariupol’s capture frees up 'a few thousand Russian forces,' analyst says

Global risk analyst Justin Crump told DW that securing Mariupol would free Russia up for other military activity elsewhere, after having committed many troops to the lengthy siege of the vast underground steelworks.

"I'm sure most viewers have seen just quite how large the site was. And you think covering thousands of meters of frontage was tying up a lot of soldiers that can now be used," said Crump, CEO of global risk analysis consultancy Sibylline.

He said Russian soldiers were now needed on the country’s southern front and in the Donbas, as well as holding onto Mariupol itself and restoring order and facilities in a city which he described as a "shelled ruin" at this point.

Crump described the fight in Ukraine as "evenly matched" currently, yet acknowledged that Russia’s gains are on frontlines that had been "static for years."

The analyst also said reactions to the Mariupol capture were "split" inside Ukraine, between those who wanted the holdout to continue for longer, and others who just celebrated how long it lasted.

Finland, Sweden strive to reassure reluctant Erdogan on NATO bids

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said his country condemns "terrorism in all its forms" in a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Saturday, as Sweden and Finland work on easing Erdogan’s rejection of them formally joining the NATO alliance.

"I stated that as NATO allies Finland and Turkey will commit to each other's security and our relationship will thus grow stronger," Niinisto wrote on Twitter, saying that "close dialogue continues."

Erdogan told Niinisto that "overlooking threatening terrorist organizations" is not in line with the NATO alliance’s ethos, according to the Turkish presidency.

He reiterated the same line in a separate phone call with Sweden's Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, expecting Sweden to take "concrete" steps toward his country’s concern regarding terrorist groups.

Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan holds a news conference during the NATO summit at the Alliance's headquarters in Brussels, Belgium June 14, 2021
Erdogan has threatened to halt Sweden and Finland's bids to join the NATO allianceImage: Yves Herman/REUTERS

He also called on Sweden to lift the 2019 arms embargo it imposed in response to Ankara's military operations in Syria against Kurdish groups.

The Turkish president is trying to halt Sweden and Finland's bids to join NATO, over what he described as their countries’ harboring of "terrorists."

Erdogan is referring to Kurdish groups such as the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and the Syrian People's Defense Units (YPG) which Turkey has branded as "terrorists." The EU and US also classify the PKK as a terrorist organization. Turkey has fought a Kurdish insurgency, primarily in its southeast, for decades, displacing around 3 million people in total.

Ukraine military reports uptick in attacks in east

The daily situation report from Ukraine's military general staff said that 11 Russian attacks were repelled in the eastern region on Saturday. It also warned of the danger of air strikes from neighboring Belarus, which is not officially a combatant but which has let Russia station troops on its territory.

Ukraine accused Russian troops of preventing fleeing civilians from attempting to exit the Kherson area, also accusing them of blocking new humanitarian corridors.

Russia’s Defense Ministry meanwhile said on Saturday that its long-range missiles had destroyed a shipment of western weapons bound for Ukraine's troops.

Russia publishes full list of Americans banned from entering

Russia has issued a complete list of 963 Americans, including US President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and CIA chief William Burns, who are banned from entering the country.

The bans are an indication of the deterioration in ties between Moscow and Washington since Russian President Vladimir Putin began his invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

US President Biden signs $40 billion Ukraine funding bill

US President Joe Biden has signed a bill providing Ukraine with $40 billion (€38 billion) in aid to help fund its war effort amid the Russian invasion.

Half of that money goes toward the Ukrainian military.

Biden signed the bill after it was flown to him during a trip to Asia.

The bill, which includes funds to upgrade Ukraine's armored vehicle fleet and air defense system, was approved by the US Congress this week with bipartisan support 

Diplomacy only way to end war: Zelenskyy

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Saturday that diplomacy was the only way to end Russia's invasion of his country.  

"The end will be through diplomacy," he told a Ukrainian television channel. The war "will be bloody, there will be fighting but will only definitively end through diplomacy."

Negotiations between Kyiv and Moscow are at a standstill, with both countries accusing each other of intransigence.

A major issue hampering the talks is whether Russia should end up retaining territories it has seized in the war, or pull back to its internationally recognized borders.

Protest walkout at APEC meeting over Russian invasion

Representatives of the US, Canada, New Zealand, Japan and Australia walked out of an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in the Thai capital, Bangkok, in protest at Russia's invasion of Ukraine, according to the Reuters news agency.

The report said the walkout occurred while the Russian representative was speaking at the opening of the two-day meeting.

Although many Western nations have expressed outrage at Russia's illegitimate and brutal invasion of its neighbor and imposed tough sanctions on Moscow, several APEC member nations, especially in Southeast Asia and Latin America, have declined to take part in such moves.

UK wants to give Moldova arms to protect against Russia

Britain would like to see Moldova receive modern weaponry to NATO standards to protect it from a Russia that, under President Vladimir Putin, is seeking to enlarge its territory, the British daily The Telegraph has reported.

The paper cited the UK's foreign minister, Liz Truss, as saying that she wanted "to see Moldova equipped to NATO standard. This is a discussion we're having with our allies."

Moldova, which borders Ukraine to the southwest, is not currently a member of the NATO alliance. Many observers consider it to be a possible target for Putin's territorial ambitions.

"Putin has been absolutely clear about his ambitions to create a greater Russia. And just because his attempts to take Kyiv weren't successful doesn't mean he's abandoned those ambitions," she said.

Moldova applied for EU membership in early March in a move prompted by the invasion in neighboring Ukraine.

More than 6.4 million people flee Ukraine: UNHCR

The UN's refugee agency, UNHCR, says more than 6.4 million people have left Ukraine since Russia began its invasion on February 24.

Most have gone to neighboring Poland, which has taken in 3.4 million people from Ukraine, the UNHCR told the German daily Welt am Sonntag. Romania, Russia and Hungary were the other main destinations for refugees from Ukraine, the agency said.

Germany, the Czech Republic and Italy were the non-neighboring countries that had taken in the most Ukrainian refugees, it said.

Germany's Interior Ministry says that more than 700,000 refugees from Ukraine have already been registered, though the real number is thought to be higher.

Child refugees in Germany
Many children who have fled Ukraine are now attending German schoolsImage: Waltraud Grubitzsch/dpa-Zentralbild/picture alliance

Russia's military operation likely to be hampered by UAV losses: UK military intelligence

Russia's supply of Uncrewed Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) used for seeking out targets to strike could become increasingly limited as Western sanctions bite, according to an intelligence update from the UK's Ministry of Defence.

The use of UAVs has been "pivotal" for both sides in the war, the update says, but they are vulnerable to being shot down or disabled by electronic jamming, meaning that many have been lost.

According to the update, crewed Russian aircraft have been avoiding flying over Ukrainian territory because of the danger posed by Ukrainian air defense systems.

Russia stops gas deliveries to Finland

Russian energy giant Gazprom has ceased exporting gas to neighboring Finland, the gas system operator Gasgrid Finland said on Saturday.

"Gas imports through Imatra entry point have been stopped," it said in a statement.

Imatra is the entry point for Russian gas into Finland.

The move comes after Gazprom Export, which later confirmed the stoppage, demanded that European countries pay for Russian gas supplies in rubles because of sanctions imposed over Moscow's invasion of Ukraine. Finland has refused to comply.

The halt in gas exports from Russia also comes amid tensions with Moscow produced by Finland's application on Wednesday to join NATO.

Although most of the gas used in Finland comes from Russia, gas makes up only some 5% of its annual energy consumption.

Moscow already cut off gas to Bulgaria and Poland last month after they refused to pay in rubles.

40 countries to attend Pentagon-hosted Ukraine contact group

The US Defense Department is organizing a video conference for the Ukraine contact group with some 40 countries expected to attend the event hosted by US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, according to Pentagon spokesman John Kirby.

In late April, Austin hosted international partners at the Ramstein US air base in Germany to discuss how to provide defense aid to Ukraine. He proposed the monthly contact group at the time.

Kirby added that several countries not present back in April have since asked to join the Ukraine contact group.

Zelenskyy: Russia must compensate Ukraine for destruction

During his nightly video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said late Friday that Ukraine and its allies have formally proposed a deal to obtain financial compensation from Russia for the damage caused by Russian forces and munitions.

Zelenskyy added Russia has dedicated itself to destroying as much of Ukrainian infrastructure as possible and that a deal addressing compensation would make it clear to nations planning unwarranted acts of military aggression that they would be made to pay.

"Russia will feel the weight of every missile, every bomb, every shell which it has fired at us," he said.

What happened in Russia's war on Ukraine Friday

The Russian Defense Ministry said it fully controls the territory of the Azovstal steel plant in the southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol. According to the ministry, the last group of 531 Ukrainian fighters has now surrendered.

Since May 16, a total of 2,439 Ukrainian soldiers have laid down their arms, Russia said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in an interview with Ukrainian TV channels that the operation to ensure the withdrawal of Mariupol defenders from the Azovstal steel plant was carried out with the participation of Western partners. Zelenskyy also said that Ukraine lost many helicopter pilots supplying the Mariupol garrison. 

He lashed out against Russian airstrikes that destroyed a recently renovated cultural center in Lozova, in the eastern Kharkiv region. Seven people, including a child, were injured.

On Telegram, Zelenskyy wrote, "The occupiers have identified culture, education and humanity as their enemies."

Russian President Vladimir Putin called for "technological sovereignty," saying Russia has been hit by numerous cyberattacks since Moscow sent troops to Ukraine. According to Putin, the attacks are coming from different countries but are "clearly coordinated."

Moscow is nearing full control of the separatist region of Lugansk in eastern Ukraine, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said in remarks carried by Russian news agencies. Shoigu's announcement came after Russia's war on Ukraine shifted focus from Kyiv to eastern Ukraine due to losses and strategic defeats.

Russia's lower house of parliament is to debate allowing Russians over 40 and foreigners over 30 to sign up for the military, the State Duma website said on Friday. Up until now, only Russians aged 18-40 and foreigners aged 18-30 have been able to enter into a first contract with the military.

The UK Ministry of Defense said in an intelligence update that Russia is likely to move troops from Mariupol to support its military operations in Donbas after securing the Black Sea port despite stiff resistance by Ukrainian fighters.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is expanding its investigation into human rights violations committed during Russia's ongoing war in Ukraine. Observers have been sent to Ukraine to interview witnesses and survivors, the OSCE Office for Democracy and Human Rights (ODIHR) said in a statement.

Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said Friday that Italy had submitted a peace plan for Ukraine to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. According to Di Maio, the plan calls for local cease-fires to evacuate civilians along humanitarian corridors and create the conditions for a general cease-fire leading "to a long-lasting peace."

The EU's top diplomat Josep Borrell said he was aware of the plan, adding the EU is "putting all our efforts into trying to bring this conflict to an end." Borrell also reiterated warnings of global food shortages due to the war in Ukraine.

Germany will deliver the first 15 "Gepard" tanks to Ukraine in July, a German Defense Ministry spokesperson said following a conversation between German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht and her Ukrainian counterpart Oleksii Reznikov. The package also includes training support from the Bundeswehr, the provision of almost 60,000 rounds of ammunition and the delivery of a further 15 tanks in the summer.

Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has told Russia's state-owned oil company Rosneft that he cannot continue serving on its board of directors, a statement on the company's website says.  Former Dresden Stasi chief turned German businessman Matthias Warnig also ditched the Rosneft board.

Russian gas will stop flowing to neighboring Finland on Saturday morning, Finnish state-owned gas wholesaler Gasum has said in a statement.  The move comes amid a spat over Moscow's demand for countries to pay for gas in rubles and Finland's application for NATO membership in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Catch up on what happened Friday in Russia's war on Ukraine.

mm, ar/sms (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)