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UN says 6 million have fled Ukraine since invasion

May 12, 2022

The UN said 6 million Ukrainians have left country, while over a million have returned home. Meanwhile, Finland's leaders say it should join NATO "without delay."

Ukrainian refugees fleeing the city of Odesa
Over 2 million Ukrainians have gone beyond the countries bordering UkraineImage: Vladimir Shtanko/AA/picture alliance
  • Ukraine to have first war crimes trial over Russian invasion
  • Russia and Ukraine used cluster munitions, says rights group
  • Finnish leaders call for country to join NATO
  • Ukrainian refugee toll hits 6 million

This live updates article is now closed. For the latest on Russia's invasion of Ukraine, click here

Germany hosts G7 meeting of top diplomats to discuss Ukraine

The G7's Foreign Ministers gathered in northern Germany for a three-day meeting to discuss Russia's war against Ukraine and its global impact.

Hosting the meeting is Germany's Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, who said the conflict represented a "global crisis," impacting food security.

"Twenty-five million tons (27.5 million US tons) of grain are currently blocked in Ukrainian ports, particularly Odesa,'' Baerbock noted. "Grain that's food for millions of people around the world, and which is needed particularly urgently in African countries and the Middle East.''

"That's why we are discussing how the grain blockade exerted by Russia can be unblocked, how we can get the grain out to the world,'' she added.

The foreign ministers of Ukraine and neighboring Moldova have been invited to attend the meeting as guests.

Ukraine's FM Dymtro Kuleba meets with German Social Democrats

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba traveled to Berlin, where he said that the historically Russia-friendly stance of Germany's governing center-left Social Demcrats (SPD) was now in the past. 

Kuleba's comments come as German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and other long-standing members of the SPD have come under fire in recent weeks for what the Ukrainian ambassador to Germany has dubbed a "highly questionable closeness to Russia" over the course of several decades in politics. 

Kuleba noted the recent policy changes made by Scholz on arms deliveries to Ukraine and on energy policy with Russia. 

"I know that it is not easy to make such decisions," Kuleba said. "You are strong enough to admit that the previous policy failed and you need a new policy," he added. 

The Ukrainian foreign minister made the remarks after meeting with top SPD officials Lars Klingbeil and Rolf Mützenich in Berlin.

"The pre-Ukraine war history in German-Russian relations and the role of the Social Democrats in it is something that is now history," Kuleba said. 

Zelenskyy baseball sells for over $50,000

A Rawlings Major League baseball signed by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has sold at a US auction for more than $50,000 (€48,000), more than three times its expected price tag. 

The ball is signed in both Ukrainian Cyrillic and Latin letters and was paired with a transmittal letter signed by Volodymyr Yelchenko, Ukraine's Permanent Representative to the UN. 

Auctioneer RR Auction of Boston announced the sale, saying it had closed on Wednesday night, with the winning bid going to an anonymous "collector from the Midwest." 

RR Auction said it would donate its entire cut of the deal, some $15,000, toward providing humanitarian aid to Ukrainians displaced by the war with Russia. Seller Randy Kaplan is said to also be providing an undisclosed portion of his profits, as well. 

Kaplan is a well-known collector of baseballs signed by world leaders. He rarely auctions pieces from his collection.

More than 6 million have left Ukraine

The UN refugee agency said that more than 6 million people have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion began. 

UN spokesman Matthew Saltmarsh said a total of 2.4 million people who have left Ukraine have moved beyond Ukraine's immediate border countries. 

The UN refugee agency also said that the number of people who have returned back to Ukraine, either partially or fully, has now reached more than 1.6 million.

But the agency cautioned that the tally reflects cross-border movements, not necessarily "sustainable'' returns, adding that it is too early to determine any "definitive trends'' on returns. 

Refugees: Poland wants more help from EU

EU looks for new commodity export routes from Ukraine in face of Russian blockade

The EU has called on member states to urgently find ways to transport essential agricultural goods from Ukraine via land routes to stabilize global food supplies.

Known as the world's breadbasket before the invasion, Ukraine produced 12% of global wheat supplies, 15% of global corn supplies and half of all sunflower oil.

Now that Russian ships have blockaded key Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea, global food prices and shortages have hit record levels.

The EU now wants to increase the amount of goods crossing into the bloc and to reduce the amount of paperwork required. Romania has already allowed for Ukrainian goods to be transported from its port of Constanta.

"Twenty million tonnes of grain have to leave Ukraine in less than three months using EU infrastructure," EU transport commissioner Adina Valean said.

"This is a gigantic challenge, so it is essential to coordinate and optimize the logistics chains, put in place new routes, and avoid, as much as possible, bottlenecks," she added.

Gazprom to stop sending gas through Polish pipeline

The giant Russian energy company said on Thursday that it would no longer send gas through the Yamal-Europe pipeline — which passes through Poland to Germany — due to Russian sanctions against the company that owns the stretch of pipeline running through Poland.

Moscow announced a series of sanctions against over 30 energy companies on Wednesday. Russia already ended gas exports to Poland and Bulgaria last month.

German Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck said Moscow was using its energy exports as "a weapon," but Germany's energy regulator said that cessation of gas flows through the pipeline would not endanger Germany's energy supply.

"Hardly any gas to Germany has been going through this pipeline for weeks," a spokesman for the regulatory authority said in a written statement.

Finnish NATO membership 'better late than never,' ex-PM tells DW

DW spoke with former Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb, who held office from 2014 to 2015 after a lengthy stint as foreign minister, about the latest announcement and what he makes of Russia's response.

Stubb said the major policy change and move to support NATO membership was "better late than never." 

The former prime minister said that Finland is "very much a security asset for the alliance" due to its large military and long shared border with Russia.

"It's a win-win for Nordic security, Baltic Sea security, European security and the alliance," he told DW.

He also predicted that there will be "a lot of cyberattacks and probably information wars in the next few days," but added that "the more there are threats, the more popularity for NATO membership increases."

Finland is a 'security asset' for NATO

Russia says response to Finland will depend on NATO's military infrastructure

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov responded to Finland's potential NATO membership, saying the move "definitely" poses a threat to Russia and "does not make our continent more stable and secure."

He added that Russia's response would depend on "the extent to which military infrastructure moves closer to our borders."

Finland, which fought in wars against the Soviet Union in 1939 and 1944, stepped up its cooperation with NATO following Russia's annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in 2014.

Germany's Bundeswehr brings wounded Ukrainians from Poland

A specially equipped plane from Germany's armed forces has flown to Poland to collect Ukrainians injured in the war and bring them to Germany for treatment, sources have told the DPA news agency.

The A310 MedEvac plane, which is equipped with intensive care facilities, took off from Cologne on Thursday morning and would head to Frankfurt after picking up the wounded people, the sources said.

The aircraft has often been used in recent weeks to transport seriously injured children and adults to receive medical care in Germany.

Number of unlawful killings around Kyiv 'shocking': UN human rights chief

A thousand bodies have been recovered near the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, in recent days, with many of the killings possibly amounting to war crimes amid the Russian invasion, according to United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet.

"The scale of unlawful killings, including indications of summary executions in areas to the north of Kyiv, is shocking," Bachelet told the Geneva-based Human Rights Council via video link.

The council will decide on Thursday whether to launch an official probe into events that occurred in Kyiv and other regions in February and March while Russian troops were occupying the areas.

Russia has denied targeting civilians during what it calls a "special military operation" in Ukraine aimed only at "de-militarizing" and "de-Nazifying" the country.

Annalena Baerbock in Bucha
German top dilpomat Annalena Baerbock on Tuesday visited Bucha, where many alleged atrocities occurred.Image: Efrem Lukatsky/AP/picture alliance

Large reduction in gas transiting Ukraine: Gazprom

Russian energy giant Gazprom says gas to Europe transiting through Ukraine went down by a third on Thursday.  

Gazprom told the Interfax news agency that supplies transiting Ukraine were at 50.6 million cubic meters in total, compared to 72 million cubic meters the day before.

This comes after Kyiv said it would suspend flows of Russian gas through the eastern Sokhranivka hub on Wednesday on grounds the plant was no longer under Ukrainian control. 

Putin says Russia will defend 'sovereignty' of Luhansk 'republic'

Russian President Vladimir Putin has sent a telegram of congratulations to the head of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic in eastern Ukraine for the anniversary of the day its then leader declared its independence from Ukraine in 2014.

"I am sure that through our joint efforts we will defend the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity'' of the Luhansk republic, the telegram said. It also wished "all Luhansk residents fortitude, courage and persistence in the struggle for a peaceful and secure future."

The statement indicates that Putin intends to persist in his efforts to wrest separatist-held territory from Ukraine.

Russia backed the separatists for years in their rebellion against the Kyiv government and recognized them as independent on the eve of invading Ukraine of February 24.

The current head of the self-proclaimed republic, Leonid Pasechnik, said on Thursday that the territory would never return to Ukrainian control and that most of its residents want it to become part of Russia.

Finland's must apply to join NATO 'without delay,' say president and PM

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin have said their country must apply to join the NATO military alliance as quickly as possible, a policy turnaround that has been prompted by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

"Finland must apply for NATO membership without delay," Niinisto and Marin said in a joint statement.

"We hope that the national steps still needed to make this decision will be taken rapidly within the next few days," the statement added.

Finland shares a 1,300 km (810 mile) border with Russia.

It has already increased its cooperation with NATO as an "Enhanced Opportunities Partner" since 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea.

Up to now, however, Helsinki has not applied to join so as not to provoke its neighbor. Moscow has often cited NATO's eastern expansion as one reason for its attack on Ukraine.

Sweden is also considering joining NATO amid growing public support for such a move.

Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde said on Twitter on Thursday that her country would "take Finland's assessments into account" in its own decision whether to apply to join the alliance.

Finland to apply for NATO membership

Russian forces gain territory in Donbas, Ukraine says

Russian troops have stepped up attacks in the east of Ukraine, capturing some areas of the Donbas region, Ukraine's military leaders said in their latest update.

"The enemy is continuing its military efforts in the eastern operation zone with the aim of gaining full control over the areas of Donetsk, Luhansk and Kherson and to maintain a land corridor to currently occupied Crimea," it said.

The Ukrainian military said the Russian troops were advancing in Donetsk "with partial success."

According to the update, Russia is reinforcing its presence near Sloviansk, one of the major targets of Moscow's military assault in the Donbas region. It said some 300 more military vehicles had been deployed to the area in preparation for new attacks.

The update also said there was little change in the situation in the southern port city of Mariupol, with Ukrainian defenders holed up in the Azovstal steel works still coming under bombardment from Russian planes.

Ukraine retaking villages north of Kharkiv: UK military intelligence

Ukraine has succeeded in recapturing a number of towns and villages toward the Russian border north of its second city of Kharkiv after Moscow has reportedly withdrawn several units following heavy losses, the British Ministry of Defense has said.

The current focus of Russian troops on the eastern Donbas regions means that remaining units deployed in the Kharkiv region are "vulnerable to the mobile, and highly motivated, Ukrainian counterattacking force," according to the intelligence update posted on Twitter.

"The withdrawal of Russian forces from the Kharkiv Oblast is a tacit recognition of Russia’s inability to capture key Ukrainian cities where they expected limited resistance from the population," it says.

It said the Russian troops would "likely deploy to the eastern bank of the Siverskyi Donets River, forming a blocking force to protect the western flank of Russia’s main force concentration and main supply routes for operations in the vicinity of Izium."

Kharkiv, situated just 40 km (25 miles) south of the border to Russia, was an early focus of Moscow's invasion of Ukraine and suffered relentless shelling for a month. Artillery attacks have, however, now reportedly become rarer as Russian troops seem to be pulling out.

Von der Leyen: Russia is 'most direct threat to world order'

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that Moscow's invasion of Ukraine — as well as its ties with Beijing — pose a growing global threat.

Russia "is today the most direct threat to the world order with the barbaric war against Ukraine, and its worrying pact with China," von der Leyen said during a summit in Tokyo.

Those concerns were shared by Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, whose government has been one of few in Asia to join in strict international sanctions against Moscow.

"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," Kishida said.

The remarks came following an EU-Japan summit, where they announced a new digital partnership — the first of its kind between the bloc and another country. The agreement includes measures to strengthen cooperation on cyber security and artificial intelligence as well as boosting the development of digital technology.

"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 European Council President Charles Michel.

Germany may cope 'to some extent' without Russian gas — German economy minister

German Economy Minister Robert Habeck believes Germany may just be able to make it through the next winter without Russian gas provided a number of measures were introduced.

"If we have full storage facilities at the turn of the year, if two of the four floating LNG tankers we have leased are connected to the grid and if we make significant energy savings, we can to some extent get through the winter if Russian gas supplies collapse," Habeck told German business weekly publication, WirtschaftsWoche.

Habeck stressed the need to cut back on consumption as far as possible.

"Less consumption is the be-all and end-all," the minister said.

Germany depends heavily on Russian gas and there are concerns that a halt in supply could lead to a recession.

Finland due to announce position on NATO membership

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto is on Thursday expected to take an official stance on the possibility of NATO membership.

"My message is clear: Finland will ensure its security. That is not to anyone's detriment," Niinisto said last week following a meeting with the parliamentary defense committee.

Finland shares a border spanning 1,300 kilometers (810 miles) with Russia, and has steered clear of joining in order to maintain relations with Moscow. However, Russia's invasion of Ukraine has shifted sentiments dramatically, with the latest poll conducted by public broadcaster YLE suggesting 76% of Finns are in favor of joining NATO.

Sweden is also expected to make its position on joining the alliance known over the weekend.

Kyiv mayor fears capital still Moscow's 'main target'

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko says residents coming back to the capital should be cautious, saying attacks by Russia could happen "any second."

In an interview with US broadcaster CNN, Klitschko said he had "no doubt" the capital, Kyiv, is still Russia's "main target."

He said the war had "changed the life for everyone" and that he hoped to see an end to the fighting "as soon as possible."

"Safety is the main priority right now," he added. "We hope our warriors defend us, but the risk is still there and without our partners, without United States and European countries we can't survive."

Biden sees greater role for US farmers amid war in Ukraine

US President Joe Biden has pledged to help support farmers in a bid to address the challenges brought on by the war in Ukraine.

In a visit to a family farm in Illinois on Wednesday, Biden thanked farmers "who are the breadbasket of democracy."

"We can make sure that agricultural exports will make up for the gap in Ukrainian supplies," Biden said.

The Biden administration announced that there would be a doubling of funding for domestic fertilizer production.

Farm management tools would be enhanced for planting and soil requirements.

The US was also trying to find ways to help Ukraine ship 20 million metric tons of wheat and corn. 

The war in Ukraine has caused major disruptions to the global food trade, leading to rising prices and concerns about food security in some parts of the world. Russia and Ukraine produce about a third of the world’s wheat and 20% of its corn. Russia is also a major supplier of fertilizers farmers rely on to keep crop yields high.

Russian soldier to be first before a war crimes trial

Ukraine's prosecutor general, Iryna Venediktova, said that her office has charged a 21-year-old Russian sergeant in connection with the killing of an elderly civilian who was gunned down while riding a bicycle.

The soldier is alleged to have been serving with a tank unit and was accused of firing at the man in the village of Chupakhivka in the northeast of the country.

According to Venediktova's office, more than 10,700 alleged war crimes are being investigated with over 600 suspects currently identified.

Venediktova said the soldier could get up to 15 years in prison. It is not yet known when the trial will begin.

HRW says Russia and Ukraine have used cluster munitions

Human Rights Watch says that Russia has made repeated use of at least six different types of cluster munitions. The rights watchdog also said Ukraine appeared to have used the banned munitions at least once.

HRW released a 20-page report detailing Russia's use of the munitions in populated neighborhoods and documented several cluster munition attacks by Russian forces in the Ukrainian cities of Chernihiv, Kharkiv, Mykolaiv and Vuhledar.

Cluster munitions typically disperse in the air, spreading multiple bomblets indiscriminately over a wider area.

According to a New York Times report, Ukrainian forces allegedly used cluster munitions in an attack on Husarivka in Kharkiv oblast on March 6 or 7, which is when the village was under Russian control.

Russia and Ukraine have not joined the Convention of Cluster Munitions, which is a 2008 treaty banning cluster munitions.

Summary of Wednesday's events in Russia's war on Ukraine

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has inked security agreements with Finland and Sweden that would see the UK provide support if the two Nordic nations came under attack.

UNICEF spokesperson James Elder told DW that not enough is being done to help children escape the war in Ukraine and that a child has been displaced from their homes "almost every second since the war started."

The US House of Representatives agreed to a fresh $40 billion (nearly €38 billion) in assistance for Ukraine, with funding for defense, humanitarian and economic needs.

Britain's Defense Ministry said in an intelligence update on Twitter that fighting continues between Russian and Ukrainian forces on Snake Island, which lies off the coast of Ukraine's southwestern Odesa region.

DW correspondent in Ukraine Amien Essif said that Ukraine is hoping for Russian forces to retreat from around the second-largest city Kharkiv, similar to Moscow's retreat from areas around Ukraine's capital in April.

The leaders of the Russian-occupied region of Kherson in southeastern Ukraine said they plan to ask for the area to become a part of Russia, Russian media reported, citing an official.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the war could have likely been prevented if Kyiv had been a member of the trans-Atlantic military alliance NATO.

Slovak President Zuzana Caputova and Polish President Andrzej Duda said in Bratislava that their countries would work together to help Ukraine become a candidate for EU membership as soon as possible.

The UN's nuclear agency says it is again receiving remote data from the Chernobyl power plant in Ukraine. The transmission was interrupted when Russian forces occupied the site at the start of their invasion on February 24.

ab, rs, kb/nm (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)

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