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Ukraine says 200 bodies found in Mariupol basement

May 24, 2022

The grim discovery came after neighbors complained of a smell that turned out to be the decomposing bodies. Russian dissident Alexei Navalny slammed Vladimir Putin and his "stupid war" before a court.

People stand amid newly-made graves at a cemetery in the course of Ukraine-Russia conflict in the settlement of Staryi Krym outside Mariupol
Newly-made graves outside Mariupol in the settlement of Staryi Krim are a grim reminder of the realities of war in UkraineImage: Alexander Ermochenko/REUTERS
  • US to allow Russian debt payment license to expire
  • German economy minister expects EU embargo on Russian oil 'within days'
  • Ex-Russian diplomat describes atmosphere within Foreign Ministry
  • Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte sharply criticizes the war in Ukraine

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

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

Ukraine's commander-in-chief says French 'Caesar' howitzers already on front line

Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Valerii Zaluzhnyi said in a Facebook post on Tuesday that French-made "Caesar" self-propelled howitzers were already being used at the front.

According to Zaluzhnyi, Caesar allows to attack the enemy with high accuracy at a distance of 20 kilometers and more from the front line. He also noted their wheeled chassis, making them mobile and maneuverable and allowing troops to relocate between firing.

"Our gunners quickly mastered the new self-propelled artillery system, actually in 2-3 hours," Zaluzhnyi wrote. "Sincere thanks to the partners for their assistance! It serves to bring our victory closer." 

Self-propelled howitzers of the CAESAR type Nexter System, shown at a security trade fair on October 6, 2021, in Brno, Czech Republic.
According to Zaluzhnyi, the 'CAESAR' has a range long enough to reach Russian 'artillery, reserves and command posts,' reducing their offensive capabilities Image: Vaclav Salek/CTK/dpa/picture alliance

Zelenskyy says that situation in Donbas is extremely difficult

In his nightly address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called the situation on the front line in Donbas extremely difficult.

"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," he said.

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, 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.

In his address, the president said that the Russian invasion began when Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. "This was not the first item on the list of mistakes of the Russian state towards Ukraine," he said.

Zelenskyy said he was certain that Russia would also have to leave Crimea, as well as Kherson, Melitopol and "all other cities and communities where they still pretend to be the masters."

US to allow Russian debt payment license to expire

The United States will not extend a key waiver set to expire on Wednesday that allows Russia to pay US bondholders.

The US Treasury Department said on its website on Tuesday it would not extend a license allowing Russia to make payments on its sovereign debt to US persons.

The waiver had allowed Moscow to keep paying interest and principal and avert default on its government debt.

Russia has almost $2 billion (€1.86 billion) worth of payments falling due up to the year-end on its international bonds.

Russia has so far managed to make its international bond payments despite Western sanctions over the Ukraine conflict and countermeasures from Moscow, which have complicated the movement of money across borders.

Soros: Civilization 'may not survive' war in Ukraine

Investor and philanthropist George Soros warned on Tuesday that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could either mean the start of another world war, or that the world loses track of other pressing threats.

"The invasion may have been the beginning of the Third World War and our civilization may not survive it," he said on the sidelines of the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

According to Soros, this also meant that other issues that concern all of humanity, such as fighting pandemics and climate change, avoiding nuclear war, maintaining global institutions, "have had to take a back seat to that struggle."

"That's why I say our civilization may not survive," he said.

Soros also said that Europe’s dependence on Russian fossil fuels remained excessive, "due largely to the mercantilist policies pursued by former Chancellor Angela Merkel".

"She had made special deals with Russia for the supply of gas and made China Germany’s largest export market. That made Germany the best performing economy in Europe but now there is a heavy price to pay", he said, as part of a speech that focused heavily on Russia and China as examples of "closed" societies in conflict with "open" ones.

Soros said that Germany’s economy needed to be reoriented, and that this would take a long time.

He concluded that "the best and perhaps only way to preserve our civilization is to defeat Putin as soon as possible."

Poland's president accuses Germany of breaking its word in arms deliveries

Polish President Andrzej Duda said on Tuesday that Germany had not provided Leopard tanks to his country to replace the Polish tanks Warsaw had sent to Kyiv to fight the Russian assault.

"They have not fulfilled this promise. And frankly, we are very disappointed about it," Duda told German news outlet WELT on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

According to Duda, a large part of the Polish tank arsenal consists of German Leopard tanks. "So if we had been supported by Germany, if we had received replacements in the form of a ring exchange, then we would have been very happy," said the Polish president.

In April, Poland said it had sent Soviet-era T-72 tanks to Ukraine without giving a number but media reports said over 200 had been sent.

The Polish army has around 250 German-made Leopard 2 tanks and according to media reports was hoping that Germany would furnish some more.

On Tuesday, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said the two sides were in talks about "how we can clear up the uncertainties that perhaps exist at the moment".

Russia took control of Svitlodarsk in Donetsk region

Russian forces have taken control of three Donetsk region towns including Svitlodarsk, regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said on Tuesday.

The town's capture has been confirmed by the head of the local Ukrainian military administration, Serhiy Hoshko.

Svitlodarsk is 80 kilometers southwest of Sievierodonetsk, the focus of Russian attacks in recent days. Ukraine's largest coal-fired power station lies near Svitlodarsk.

Canada purchased NATO standard ammunition for Ukraine

Canada has purchased 20,000 artillery rounds of NATO standard ammunition for Ukraine to support it in its defense against Russia's invasion, Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand said on Tuesday.

The ammunition was bought from the United States for about C$98 million ($76.32 million or €71 million) and would soon be delivered to Ukraine.

Earlier on Tuesday, speaking at the World Economic Forum's meeting in Davos, Dutch Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren said the European Union can join forces to provide complex systems that Ukraine needs.

At the same event, North Macedonia President Stevo Pendarovski said joint weapons procurement is important long term but that it's "critically important to help Ukraine now."

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Monday said that some 20 countries had announced new security assistance packages for Ukraine during a virtual meeting with allies aimed at coordinating arms for Kyiv.

Hungary's government to get emergency powers due to war in Ukraine

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban announced on Tuesday that his government will assume emergency powers in order to be able to respond more quickly to challenges created by the war in neighboring Ukraine.

Orban, who won a fourth consecutive term in the April election, has already used the special legal order in the past. The state of emergency empowers Orban's government to approve measures by decree.

"The world is on the brink of an economic crisis," Orban said in the Facebook video, reiterating that Hungary must stay out of the war in Ukraine and "protect families' financial security."

Orban also said his government's first measures would be announced on Wednesday.

EU suspends all duties on imports from Ukraine for one year

The Council of the European Union adopted on Tuesday a regulation allowing for temporary trade liberalization and other trade concessions with regard to certain Ukrainian products.

As a result, for one year import duties on all Ukrainian exports to the European Union will not be due.

“Thanks to these measures the EU will be able to significantly support Ukraine's economy," the press release of the Council of the EU said.

According to the press release, Russia's unprovoked and unjustified war of aggression against Ukraine has had a devastating impact on the country's production capacity, transport infrastructure and access to the Black Sea, as well as its wider ability to trade with the rest of the world.

The Council of the European Union has also decided to increase military aid to Ukraine by another €500 million, thus bringing the total amount allocated for Ukraine's defense needs under the European Peace Facility up to €2 billion.

Kissinger warns against 'crushing' defeat for Russia

Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has warned that the West should not seek a "crushing defeat" of Russian forces in Ukraine, as he claimed that could damage long-term stability in Europe.

Kissinger said at the World Economic Forum in Davos that negotiations to end the war in Ukraine should begin within the next couple of months, and that Ukraine should not try to recover territory lost before this year.

"Ideally, the dividing line should be a return to the status quo ante. Pursuing the war beyond that point would not be about the freedom of Ukraine, but a new war against Russia itself," the Daily Telegraph reported him as saying.

His comments were rejected by Ukrainians and others. Ukrainian MP Inna Sovsun dismissed the idea that Ukraine should compromise on its war aims.

"It's a pity that the former US Secretary of State believes that giving up on part of the sovereign territory is a way to [achieve] peace for any country!" tweeted Sovsun. Truly shameful!"

"It's good that Ukrainians in the trenches do not have time for listening to “Davos panickers"," tweeted Mikhail Podalyak, an advisor to the Ukrainian President. "They’re a little bit busy defending Freedom and Democracy."

Ukrainian MP Lesia Vasylenko speaks to DW

Russia to scrap upper age limit for soldiers

A draft bill set to be debated in Russia's parliament on Wednesday would eliminate the upper age limit on military recruits.

At present solders signing up to join the military should be aged between 18 and 40, or 18 and 30 if they are not Russian citizens.

The bill suggests that specialiyed skills are necessary for some military tasks, and people may only acquire them in the mid-30s and 40s.

Russia has lost large numbers of troops since its attack on Ukraine began in February, and western military analysts have suggested the offensive is running out of steam.

Germany's Scholz slams Putin's 'imperialistic approach'

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has 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. He also added that the international sanctions are hitting Russia's economic development hard and will have lasting effects.

With the war in Ukraine and sanctions on Russian energy imports contributing to a spike in global fuel prices, Scholz confirmed that the US and EU were working together to lower costs and increase fuel supply.

"We are now discussing with all these countries that are exploring oil and gas and trying to convince them to increase their capacities, so this would help the world market," the chancellor said.

Germany makes plans for Russia gas turn-off

Germany is making contingency plans in case Russia stops providing natural gas to the country.

Should there be a gas shortage, the Economy Ministry said, the amount of gas that is used to generate electricity would be replaced by solid fuels.

Coal and lignite-fired power plants are to be kept on standby — ready for use at shorter notice.

However, the ministry said the government was still committed to its overall plan to phase out coal power generation by 2030.

Germany imports about half its natural gas from Russia, and gas accounts for some 15% of electricity generation.

The ministry is circulating draft laws laying the groundwork for the reserve use of coal and lignite, also known as brown coal.

Meanwhile, the German government plans to expand capacity for liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals, allowing importation of gas from other regions of the world.

Germany starts building its own LNG terminal

Ukraine considers debt backed by seized Russian assets

Assets seized from Russia and leading Russians could underpin funding for reconstruction in Ukraine, according to a presidential advisor in Kyiv.

Oleh Ustenko, who advises President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on the economy, said that some €350 billion ($375 billion) of frozen assets held by the Russian central bank, and €150 billion of assets held by senior Russian officials could be used to guarantee the debt.

Ustenko said that Ukraine had suffered some $1 trillion of losses since Russia attacked on 24 February.

"There is a clear concept that the aggressor must pay for all the losses inflicted on us," said Ustenko.

Ukraine says 200 bodies uncovered in basement of collapsed building in Mariupol

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.

Russia recently claimed full control over Mariupol. The besieged city has seen some of the worst bombardments of the war and a recently concluded, weeks-long siege at the Azovstal steel plant saw Ukrainian forces surrender to be registered as prisoners of war.

Navalny criticizes war in Ukraine before Russian court

Alexei Navalny, the jailed Russian opposition leader, criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin during his court hearing for starting "a stupid war."

Navalny told the court, "This war was built on lies."

He added, "One madman has got his claws into Ukraine and I do not know what he wants to do with it — this crazy thief."

Russian Security Council chief says Russian war aims 'will be fulfilled'

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

"All goals set by the president will be fulfilled," Patrushev said.

He added, "We are not chasing deadlines."

Many Western allies speculate that Russia's original strategy was to overwhelm Ukraine's defenses and enact a quick regime change in Kyiv. However, Russia was apparently forced to switch focus to the east of the country once its blitzkrieg strategy failed. Russian President Vladimir Putin has sought to ensure the public that the operation was proceeding according to plan.

Ukraine says fierce fighting continues in the east

Ukraine's General Staff said Russian forces are attempting to encircle the strategically significant towns of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk. 

In a statement, Ukraine's General Staff said Russia had sustained considerable losses near Severodonetsk. Ukraine said there was also a fierce fight on near the town of Bakhmut in Donetsk.

Three months into the war, Russia has retooled its efforts and scope to focus on taking eastern Ukraine and blocking access to the country's Black Sea ports. Following the fall of the port city of Mariupol in recent days, Ukraine sees the fight increasing in the southeast.

Russia claims it struck an arms depot in Donbas

The Russian Ministry of Defense said Russian forces had struck an arms depot in eastern Ukraine. The ministry said the depot in the village of Razdolovka was being used to store US-made M777 howitzers with high-precision munitions.

"Thirteen tanks and armored fighting vehicles, four Grad multiple rocket launchers and three ammunition depots were destroyed," in the incident, Russian defense ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in his Tuesday briefing.

Konashenkov also said Russia had hit a Ukrainian mechanized brigade near Soledar and ammunition depots in Mikovka, Bakhmut, Nikolaevka,  Spornoe and Krasny Liman, all in Donetsk.

Ukraine's demining teams face a deadly task

UK in discussions to export grain from Ukraine

UK Transport Minister Grant Shapps said the UK is in talks with Ukraine about how to get grain out of the country after Russia's naval blockade of its Black Sea ports.

Global food prices have risen dramatically with Ukraine unable to export almost 25 million tons of grains.

"There are lots of different potential ways to get grain and other goods out of the country, Schapps told Sky News. "It's absolutely essential that we do, otherwise there could be a lot of hunger and indeed even famine."

Schapps also said he met Ukraine's Infrastructure Minister Oleksander Kubrakov last week.

Outgoing Philippines President Duterte criticizes Putin's war on Ukraine

The controversial outgoing President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte criticized Russian leader Vladimir Putin over the deaths of civilians in Ukraine. Noting that both himself and the Russian leader have been called killers, Duterte offered that he killed "criminals, I don't kill children and the elderly."

Duterte has publicly called Putin a friend and an idol. It was the first time he faulted Putin's war on Ukraine for a spike in global food prices that has hit many countries hard, including the Philippines.

The outgoing president said he was not condemning Putin but that he disagreed with calling the invasion of Ukraine a "special military operation," when it really was a war on "a sovereign nation." He called on Putin and the Russian Embassy in Manila to stop bombing and shelling civilians in Ukraine and permit Ukrainian civilians to safely evacuate.

"I'm on the way out and I don't know how to solve the problem," Duterte said. He leaves office June 30.

He added: "You have to solve the war between Ukraine and Russia before we can talk of even returning to normalcy."

UK officials see Russia closing in on Luhansk

"Russia has increased the intensity of its operations in the Donbas as it seeks to encircle Severodonetsk, Lyschansk, and Rubizhne," the UK Ministry of Defense tweeted in In its latest intelligence update.

At the same time, UK officials noted "strong Ukrainian resistance with forces occupying well dug-in defensive positions."

"Russia’s capture of the Severodonetsk pocket would see the whole of Luhansk Oblast placed under Russian occupation," they said. At the same time moving the frontline further west "will extend Russian lines of communication and likely see its forces face further logistic resupply difficulties," according to the British ministry.

Zaporizhzhia region to use the ruble, says Russian-backed Melitopol leader

The Russian-backed head of the military-civilian administration of occupied Melitopol, Galina Danilchenko, said that rubles will be the accepted in the Zaporizhzhia region, according to an interview cited by Russian state-run RIA news agency.

Danilchenko noted that residents would be expected to exchange Ukrainian hryvnias for Russian currency.

"You can pay with rubles for all the services of enterprises, purchase raw materials for the production of your own products, ship products to the buyer and receive ruble proceeds to your current account," she said.

Biden: Ukraine war 'a dark hour in our shared history'

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.

"This is more than just a European issue. It's a global issue," Biden said. He added the war is "a humanitarian catastrophe and innocent civilians have been killed in the streets and millions of refugees are internally displaced as well as in exile."

In contrast to other US allies, India has not imposed sanctions on Russia, nor has it condemned Russian actions in Ukraine. Russia is the biggest supplier of hardware for the Indian military. The White House has reportedly been disappointed by Indian silence on the war.

Ukraine war casts shadow on EU-India relations (May 2022)

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida also told fellow summit leaders, "We cannot let the same thing happen in the Indo-Pacific region."

Ex-Russian diplomat describes atmosphere in Russian Foreign Ministry

Boris Bondarev, who until Monday was listed as the Counsellor to the UN at Russia's mission in Geneva, warned that his Russian colleagues were growing nonchalant when considering nuclear weapons' use.

"They think that if you hit some village in America with a nuclear strike, then the Americans will immediately get scared and run to beg for mercy on their knees," Bondarev told the The New York Times.

"That’s how many of our people think, and I fear that this is the line that they are passing along to Moscow," he added.

Bondarev's job in Switzerland was focused mainly on arms control and disarmament issues.

Habeck: EU to 'reach a breakthrough' on Russian oil embargo

German Economy Minister Robert Habeck has said the European Union will likely "reach a breakthrough" on a ban on Russian oil imports "within days."

Many EU member states are heavily reliant on Russian energy. The 27-member bloc had failed to reach a consensus on the embargo, mainly because of objection from Hungary. 

EU member states have different levels of dependence on Russian oil, Habeck told German broadcaster ZDF. "Between Hungary and Portugal, there is simply a different connection to Russia," he said, adding that the EU should take Hungary's position into consideration. 

Germany was initially opposed to the ban, but recently shifted its position amid pressure from Berlin's allies. 

Why does Germany support an oil embargo?

On Monday, Hungary clashed with EU states as it reiterated its demands for energy investment before it agreed to such an embargo.

The EU has offered up to €2 billion ($2.14 billion) to central and eastern European countries lacking non-Russian supply.

Still, Habeck stressed that an oil embargo "does not automatically lead" to Russian President Vladimir Putin being weakened. He went on to say that when Washington announced an embargo on Russian oil, prices soared worldwide and, therefore, Putin had "sold less oil and had more revenue in recent weeks."

The German minister said the EU and the US were working in parallel on a proposal to cap global oil prices, though he cautioned this could only work if most of the world joined in.

Lavrov: Russia must cease dependence 'in any way' on the West 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow would focus on developing its ties with Beijing rather than mend relations with the West. 

Lavrov claimed the West displayed "russophobia" since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow describes as a "special military operation."

"If they [the West] want to offer something in terms of resuming relations, then we will seriously consider whether we will need it or not," Lavrov said, according to a transcript on the Foreign Ministry's website.

"We must cease being dependent in any way on supplies of absolutely everything from the West for ensuring the development of critically important sectors for security, the economy or our homeland's social sphere," he said.

Is the West already a party to the conflict?

Zelenskyy: Desna attack killed 87

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke in his nightly video address about what could be one of the deadliest strikes of the war. He said last week's Russian bombing of the town of Desna, 55 kilometers (34 miles) north of Kyiv, resulted in 87 deaths. 

Zelenskyy said Russia was waging "total war" on his country, claiming that Russian forces launched 1,474 missile strikes on Ukraine since the invasion started on February 24, using 2,275 different missiles.

According to the Ukrainian leader, the majority of these strikes hit civilian targets. 

He made his remarks in his regular nightly address on Monday, marking the end of the third month of the war. 

Visiting a Ukrainian village on the front line

Summary of events in Ukraine-Russia conflict on Monday

After a trial lasting only four days, a court in Ukraine sentenced a Russian soldier to life in prison for the murder of an unarmed civilian.

It is the first war crimes trial in Ukraine in light of the conflict. The defendant pleaded guilty on opening day, his Ukrainian-provided lawyer had argued for acquittal on the basis that the soldier said he was following orders. 

Russian soldier given life sentence

In another first, Boris Bondarev, Russia's Counsellor to the UN in Geneva, resigned from his post. He cited his disagreement with the war, marking a rare political resignation over Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called for "maximum'' sanctions, including an oil embargo, against Russia in a video address to world leaders and executives at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos. 

President Zelenskyy speaks to WEF

The summit would typically have a "Russia House" dedicated to showcasing Russian business leaders and investors, but this year the space was transformed by Ukrainian artists into a "Russian War Crimes House". Russia denies allegations of war crimes in the conflict.

Kyiv can expect further military assistance, as Washington announced some 20 US allies were ready to provide more aid to Ukraine.

In Ukraine's breakaway Donetsk region, the several hundred Ukrainian soldiers who surrendered to Russian forces in Mariupol will be tried, the region's Russian-backed leader Denis Pushilin said.

The UN's refugee agency said the war has displaced 8 million people internally within Ukraine, and another 6 million have been registered as having left Ukraine.

fb/msh (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)