1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Ukraine updates: Russia Baltic Sea border claim sows 'doubt'

Published May 22, 2024last updated May 22, 2024

Russia's Defense Ministry published, but later deleted, a draft decree proposing changes to its Baltic Sea borders. Finland said it wasn't consulted, Lithuania said Moscow was trying to spread doubt.

Archive image of the sea port at Kaliningrad with two ships in foreground and cranes in the background, from January 2020.
Waters around the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad between Poland and Lithuania could be impactedImage: seagullNady/Zoonar/picture alliance
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

Russia's Defense Ministry published, but a day later deleted, a draft decree proposing changes to its Baltic Sea borders. Details were scarce but it said that the current 1985 demarcation used dated cartographical coordinates. 

Finland's president said Moscow had not consulted with Helsinki, while Lithuania's foreign minister said Russia was trying to sow "fear, uncertainty and doubt" with the reports. 

Following reactions from neighbors early on Wednesday, and comments from the Kremlin recommending reporters ask the Defense Ministry for details, the original ministry post was taken down without further comment or explanation.

Meanwhile, the government in Stockholm announced a three-year package of support for Ukraine worth roughly €6.5 billion on Wednesday. It includes scope to both donate equipment and provide Kyiv with funds to buy its own. 

In Ukraine, officials report drone strikes in the Sumy region west of Kharkiv, and power disturbances in three provinces in total after overnight attacks. 

This blog is now closed

Skip next section Ukraine begins releasing prisoners to serve in armed forces
May 22, 2024

Ukraine begins releasing prisoners to serve in armed forces

Ukraine has started releasing prisoners to serve in its armed forces under an initiative that offers parole to convicts who are prepared to take up arms.

Ukraine's Deputy Justice Minister Olena Vysotska said that more than 3,000 inmates had applied to join the military since the law allowing for their recruitment was passed.

Kyiv has been battling with a shortage of manpower and is outnumbered in the fight against Russia's continued invasion.

Prisoners convicted of serious crimes are not eligible, and those applying must pass tests before being put in uniform.

Only prisoners with less than three years left on their sentence can apply for the scheme.

A court in the western city of Khmelnytsky said it had ruled on Tuesday that two men, both convicted of theft, would be released on parole to join the country's National Guard.

"Each of the men is fit for military service on health grounds, has passed a professional and psychological selection, and has a sufficient level of physical fitness," the court added.

The move to allow convicts to fight has echoes of the recruitment drives in Russia's penal colonies, although that involved the Russian private military Wagner Group, and allowed prisoners convicted of murder and other violent crimes to join its ranks in Ukraine in return for pardons.

Ukraine's new mobilization law takes effect

Skip next section EU can't afford 'foreign policy on autopilot' — Baerbock
May 22, 2024

EU can't afford 'foreign policy on autopilot' — Baerbock

Germany, France, and Poland are aiming to become a driving force for a common European security framework to counter hybrid threats from Russia, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock says. 

The foreign ministers of the three countries have regularly met under the umbrella of the "Weimar Triangle" alliance. They held talks again on Wednesday in the central German city of Weimar.

Baerbock was at the meeting directly after returning from a short trip to Kyiv, where she called for more international support for Ukraine's air defense. Baerbock said Russia's invasion of Ukraine made it clear that a change needed to be made.

"We can no longer afford a foreign policy on autopilot," said Baerbock, alongside her French counterpart Stephane Sejourne and Poland's Radoslaw Sikorski

Baerbock said the three wanted the European Union to become more capable of geopolitical action with the bloc fearing disinformation might be being spread ahead of European Parliament elections from June 6-9.

"All three of us can see that the European Union, our union of freedom, is in the crosshairs. Europe is under attack from within and without, including through espionage," Baerbock warned.

Baerbock said the Weimar Republic, established after World War I and in place as the Nazis gained their grip on power, "reminds us how quickly democratic rules can be undermined by hatred and targeted campaigns."

German FM makes unannounced visit to Kyiv

Skip next section Russian Defense Ministry deletes original Baltic border draft
May 22, 2024

Russian Defense Ministry deletes original Baltic border draft

A Russian Defense Ministry online portal removed its earlier reference to plans for changes to its maritime borders in the Baltic Sea on Wednesday, following confusion and critical comments from some neighboring countries. 

A message where the draft decree had stood online simply stated: "The draft is deleted." No further explanation was offered. 

The original document had said that a Soviet measurement of the border from 1985 had used mid-20th century nautical charts, and so did not fully correspond to more modern cartographical coordinates. It had not made clear what changes were envisioned. 

Western responses had varied from criticism and the summoning of diplomats for explanations to comments seeking to defuse the issue  either noting that details were thin on the ground or voicing confidence any plans would be "routine." 

Skip next section Ukraine says police officer killed by drone while trying to help civilians leave
May 22, 2024

Ukraine says police officer killed by drone while trying to help civilians leave

Ukrainian Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko said that a police officer was killed in a drone strike in Vovchansk while trying to help to evacuate civilians from the frontline town. 

"In Vovchansk, Russia fired at a police car during evacuation," Klymenko said on Telegram. "One police officer was killed and another wounded ... The two officers in the car were on their way to rescue civilians." 

Vovchansk is a small town of roughly 18,000 people in Kharkiv oblast situated very near Russia's border with Ukraine, northeast of the city of Kharkiv and southeast of the Russian city of Belgorod.

Russia in recent weeks has restarted offensive operations along that line which had been largely dormant at ground level for months. 

Skip next section Sweden clears 3-year, €6.5 billion Ukraine support program
May 22, 2024

Sweden clears 3-year, €6.5 billion Ukraine support program

The Swedish government has agreed a framework with it support party for additional military support to Ukraine worth 75 billion crowns (roughly €6.5 billion or $7 billion) over three years. 

"To strengthen the Swedish support to Ukraine, and increase the long-term perspective, the government and the Sweden Democrats have agreed to introduce a framework for the military support to Ukraine for the years 2024-26," it said in a statement on Wednesday. 

The funds will be equally divided over the three years. The government said the new support would take total planned military and other Swedish support for Ukraine past 100 billion crowns. 

Archive image of two JAS-39D Gripen fighter jets side by side on the ground amid the "Air Defender 2023" military drills.
Among other gear, Sweden's Saab manufactures the advanced Gripen multi-role combat aircraftImage: Daniel Reinhardt/dpa/picture alliance

The new framework allows for measures including donations of defense equipment, financial contributions and financial support for the procurement of military equipment. 

The statement also noted the need for such aid could continue past 2026.

Sweden is NATO's newest member, joining in the aftermath of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Among other equipment, its government is assessing the possible delivery of its Gripen multi-role combat aircraft manufactured by Saab.

Skip next section Russia reports Ukrainian drone attack near occupied nuclear plant
May 22, 2024

Russia reports Ukrainian drone attack near occupied nuclear plant

The Russian-installed management of the occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant on Wednesday reported a Ukrainian drone attack near the site. 

It said that a drone had attacked a non-nuclear facility that's part of the large compound, but caused no critical damage. 

Ukraine energy minister: Nuclear accident a question of time

Skip next section Russia claims recapture of village Ukraine reclaimed in 2023
May 22, 2024

Russia claims recapture of village Ukraine reclaimed in 2023

Russia said on Wednesday that its forces had retaken the village of Klishchiivka on the eastern front in the Donetsk region. 

"Units of the Southern grouping of troops liberated the village of Klishchiivka," the Russian Defense Ministry said.

The development would have symoblic value, given that it was one of comparatively few gains Ukraine could report during its 2023 counteroffensive. 

Russia claimed to have annexed Donetsk late in 2022, even as fighting continued in the region and with its control of the area contested. 

Russian troops first captured Klishchiivka in January of 2023 and Ukrainian forces reclaimed the village that same September. 

The small village, which had a pre-war population of around 500 people, lies just south of the destroyed frontline city of Bakhmut, currently in Russian hands.

What has changed for the Russians on the battlefield?

Skip next section Finnish PM: Will monitor Russia border plan but not concerned
May 22, 2024

Finnish PM: Will monitor Russia border plan but not concerned

Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo said on Wednesday that Helsinki would monitor any Russian application to revise maritime borders in the Baltic Sea. 

However, Orpo also said any review by Moscow was likely to be "routine" and the issue was not something Finland was worried about.

Orpo's foreign minister, Elina Valtonen, had also said she anticipated any alterations to be routine, though she simultaneously urged Moscow to stick to its obligations under international treaties on maritime borders.

Skip next section Russia conducts drills involving tactical nuclear weapons
May 22, 2024

Russia conducts drills involving tactical nuclear weapons

Russia is conducting military drills in its Southern Military District that involve tactical nuclear weapons

The Defense Ministry said on Tuesday, as the operations began, that the first stage envisioned "practical training in the preparation and use of non-strategic nuclear weapons," including the nuclear-capable Kinzhal and Iksander missiles. 

Tactical nuclear weapons are shorter-ranger, lower-yield weapons designed for use in battlefield scenarios against smaller targets, as opposed to the high-yield strategic nuclear weapons designed to target large population centers. 

It's the first time Russia had publicly announced drills involving such weapons, though its strategic nuclear forces hold regular exercises.

The drills were first announced on May 6, with Russia saying they were a response to "provocative statements and threats of certain Western officials regarding the Russian Federation."

DW's Eastern Europe editor Roman Goncharenko said the news was not seen as groundbreaking inside Ukraine, with people more preoccupied by continued attacks on cities like Kharkiv and the Russian push in the Kharkiv region and elsewhere. 

"The thing is, it's not the first time Russia is doing this nuclear saber-rattling, and threatening Ukraine, and especially the West," Goncharenko said. "Ukrainians believe, and those experts I've been talking to see it also this way, that those threats are directed actually not at Ukraine, but at the West, as a major supporter of Ukraine with weapons." 

Russian nuclear drills are meant as warning to the West: DW's Roman Goncharenko

Skip next section Lithuania summons diplomat, Kremlin says proposal 'not political'
May 22, 2024

Lithuania summons diplomat, Kremlin says proposal 'not political'

Lithuania's Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday that it had summoned Russia's diplomatic representative, seeking an explanation and details on the reported Defense Ministry decree seeking to alter Russia's maritime borders. 

The ministry said that it was "summoning a representative of the Russian Federation for a full explanation." 

Russia has not had an ambassador in Lithuania since April 2022, when Vilnius expelled the ambassador and downgraded diplomatic relations in response to the atrocities in Bucha in the first weeks of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov told reporters in a briefing in Moscow on Wednesday that there was "nothing political" about the Defense Ministry border plans, "although the political situation has changed a lot since 1985," when the demarcating lines were set. 

"You can see what the level of confrontation is at the moment, especially in the Baltic region. This requires the appropriate bodies to take the appropriate measures to ensure our security," Peskov said.

For details on the plan, he referred reporters to the Defense Ministry.

Defending NATO borders in Eastern Europe

Skip next section Drone strikes, power outages in Ukraine's Sumy region
May 22, 2024

Drone strikes, power outages in Ukraine's Sumy region

Russian drones struck energy sites, knocking out power to some parts of Ukraine's northern Sumy region early on Wednesday, local officials said. 

Sumy's regional authority said in a post on Telegram that the drones hit the cities of Shostka and Konotop, northeast of Kyiv and near the Russian border. Seven drones used in the attack were shot down, it said. 

Ukraine's military meanwhile said it intercepted 24 drones overnight.

Emergency services were working to restore localized power outages in three districts as of Wednesday morning. 

The Sumy region is adjacent to the northeastern province of Kharkiv, where Russia recently relaunched offensive operations after months of the line being more or less static at ground level. It also borders Russia.

Kharkiv opens underground school to escape Russian bombs

Skip next section Russian follow-up reports say no intention of changing border
May 22, 2024

Russian follow-up reports say no intention of changing border

As news of the Russian draft Defense Ministry decree began to spread in Russia and beyond, major Russian media outlets reported there were no plans to change the maritime borders after all.

Interfax, TASS and RIA all launched fresh reports citing what Interfax called a "military-diplomatic" source as saying that Russia had no plans to revise its border in the Baltic Sea, its exclusive economic zone or continental shelf. 

This followed the first critical responses from neighbors like Finland and Lithuania.

Skip next section 'Hybrid operation' to 'spread fear,' Lithuanian FM says
May 22, 2024

'Hybrid operation' to 'spread fear,' Lithuanian FM says

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis called the reports coming out of Russia on Wednesday "another" hybrid operation designed to unsettle its neighbors. 

"Another Russian hybrid operation is underway, this time attempting to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt about their intentions in the Baltic Sea," Landsbergis wrote. "This is an obvious escalation against NATO and the EU, and must be met with an appropriately firm response."

Skip next section Finland's Stubb: 'Russia has not been in contact' on the matter
May 22, 2024

Finland's Stubb: 'Russia has not been in contact' on the matter

President Alexander Stubb said that Finland was investigating the Russian reports on the Baltic Sea border and that Moscow had not been in direct contact. 

"The Finnish authorities are investigating information in the Russian media about the definition of maritime zones in the Gulf of Finland," Stubb said. 

"The government is monitoring the situation closely. Russia has not been in contact with Finland on the matter. Finland acts as always: calmly and based on facts," he said. 

Foreign Minister Elina Valtonen said that Russia should abide by the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea, and said that the reports out of Moscow were sowing "confusion."

Finland, like its Nordic neighbor Sweden, joined NATO in the aftermath of Russia's 2022 invasion of Ukraine. 

Sweden and Finland join NATO: Strategic defeat for Russia?

Skip next section Russia reportedly proposes Baltic Sea border revision
May 22, 2024

Russia reportedly proposes Baltic Sea border revision

Russian media including Interfax on Wednesday cited a draft Defense Ministry decree as proposing changes to the borders of Russian territorial waters in the Baltic Sea. 

"The passage of the state border of the Russian Federation at sea will change," a summary of the draft decree said. 

According to the ministry, the change was to account for a 1985 Soviet measurement using dated cartographical coordinates. Waters around the exclave of Kaliningrad, between Poland and Lithuania, could be affected.

It was not immediately clear from the decree exactly how the border would be adjusted or whether consultations had taken place with other countries. 

Show more posts