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Ukraine updates: Russia may try taking Kharkiv — Zelenskyy

Published May 18, 2024last updated May 18, 2024

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned that Russian forces might aim to capture Kharkiv city. Russian President Vladimir Putin said he was not currently seeking to do so. DW has the latest.

Ukrainian troops in Kharkiv
Kharkiv lies about 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) from the Russian borderImage: Inna Varenytsia/REUTERS
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy emphasized that the situation in Kharkiv was under control but "not stabilized." 

Zelenskyy said his country urgently needed more air defenses, saying national forces have "only 25% of what we need to defend Ukraine."

Here are the latest updates from Russia's war in Ukraine on May 18:

Skip next section Attacked Navalny ally calls on West to send more arms to Ukraine
May 18, 2024

Attacked Navalny ally calls on West to send more arms to Ukraine

Leonid Volkov, the late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny's close ally, called on Western countries to send more arms to Ukraine and not to consider negotiation with Russia, despite its recent advances.

In his first television interview since a brutal hammer attack in March outside his home in Lithuania, where he lives in exile, Volkov told the BBC that Russian leader Vladimir Putin was "killing thousands of people," whether political opponents at home, in Europe or in Ukraine.

He said Putin was "bluffing in a way to present himself like much stronger than he is, hopeful it will be enough to force Ukraine and its Western allies to enter some negotiation... don’t get bluffed."

Volkov said it was necessary to exert "military pressure, economic pressure, political pressure, from inside, from outside" on Putin.

He said there was "no substitution" for Navalny, but "everybody" saw his wife Yulia Navalnaya as the new "charismatic" leader of the opposition movement, even though "she never wanted to be in this public role."

Navalny died suddenly in February while being held in an arctic prison colony on charges seen as politically motivated.

Skip next section Russian parliament leader says EU is censoring Russian media
May 18, 2024

Russian parliament leader says EU is censoring Russian media

The speaker of Russia's lower house of parliament has accused the European Union of censorship and violating freedom of the press and expression after the EU's decision to ban several Russian media outlets.

Vyacheslav Volodin, a chairman of the State Duma, said on Saturday that the European Union made the move because it lacked arguments to convince its own citizens and therefore has blocked what he said were alternative points of view.

He accused the West, which often complains about censorship in Russia, of double standards. In Russia, thousands of websites and many media outlets critical of Putin's policies are blocked.

On Friday, the EU member states imposed sanctions on the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti, the government newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta, the Voice of Europe (VoE) platform and the pro-Kremlin newspaper Izvestia, which also owns a television station.

VoE was targeted for its alleged involvement in spreading pro-Russian propaganda. The four media outlets are banned from distributing their content throughout the EU because of their support for a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

However, the punitive measures do not prevent the outlets' staff from carrying out their work, such as interviews and research, an EU statement said.

Russia's disinformation war takes aim at political fringes

Skip next section Poland to spend €2.3 billion to fortify eastern border
May 18, 2024

Poland to spend €2.3 billion to fortify eastern border

Poland will spend more than €2.3 billion ($2.5 billion) to fortify its eastern border, the EU's eastern flank, against potential enemies, Prime Minister Donald Tusk said.

"We have taken the decision to invest 10 billion zlotys for our security and above all to secure our eastern border," he said, calling the project an "eastern shield."

Poland's eastern border includes Belarus, Ukraine and the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.

"The reinforcement of 400 kilometers (roughly 250 miles) of border with Russia and Belarus will be an element of dissuasion, a strategy to push back the war at our frontiers," he said, adding that the work had not started.

Since the start of the Russian full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Warsaw has staunchly backed Kyiv, modernized its army and raised defence spending to 4% of GDP, one of the highest levels in the European Union.

Poland: First Ukrainian soldiers training on Leopard tanks

Skip next section Russian court orders seizure of Deutsche Bank assets
May 18, 2024

Russian court orders seizure of Deutsche Bank assets

A St. Petersburg court has ordered assets and accounts of Germany's Deutsche Bankand Commerzbank in Russia be seized as part of a lawsuit filed by a Russian energy firm.

The German banks previously withdrew their guarantees for the construction of a gas processing plant in the wake of Western sanctions over Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine

The St. Petersburg arbitration court has ordered the seizure of up to €238.6 million ($259 million) in securities, real estate and bank accounts of Deutsche Bank, its Russian subsidiary and its technology hub. The sum represents only part of the bank's assets in Russia.

"We will need to see how this claim is implemented by the Russian courts and assess the immediate operational impact in Russia," the bank said in response to the ruling. Deutsche Bank also said that it considers itself fully protected under an existing compensation agreement.

The court also seized Commerzbank's assets worth €93.7 million ($101.85 million) as well as securities and the bank's building in central Moscow.

In a separate lawsuit, the St. Petersburg court ordered the seizure of assets, accounts and property belonging to Italy's UniCredit bank. It also ordered that the bank's shares in two of its subsidiaries be seized.

You can read more on this story here.

Skip next section Russian forces now have more momentum — DW's Konstantin Eggert
May 18, 2024

Russian forces now have more momentum — DW's Konstantin Eggert

Russian President Vladimir Putin could feel encouraged in his aggression against Ukraine by Kyiv's mobilization drive, which is a public indication that Ukraine is suffering from military shortages, according to DW analyst Konstantin Eggert.

"This creates more momentum for Putin, who can say, 'Well you know, you still have to talk with me because I'm winning this war,'" said the Russian-born expert.

Eggert also told DW news that he agreed with the recent assessment by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that the West is "afraid of both Russian and Ukrainian defeat."

What has changed for the Russians on the battlefield?

"I think there is a feeling of huge indecision in the West, and the idea that Ukraine has to win against Russia is still not accepted more than two years after the beginning of the full-scale invasion," he said.

"There are definitely fears that Russia will lose and then, as many, many Western analysts say, we don't know what's going to happen in Russia if Putin loses the war,'" he added.

He said there was an "understandable feeling of frustration" in Ukraine amid delays in Western supplies of weapons connected with this indecision.

Skip next section Thousands displaced in Russian Kharkiv offensive — regional governor
May 18, 2024

Thousands displaced in Russian Kharkiv offensive — regional governor

Almost 10,000 people have fled their homes in Ukraine's northeastern Kharkiv region since Russian forces launched a ground attack there on May 10, the regional governor said.

The mass displacement has taken place as Russian troops succeeded in advancing between five to 10 kilometers into Ukraine along the northeastern border before Ukrainian forces stopped their progress.

The governor, Oleg Synegubov, said the Ukrainian army was keeping the situation "under control," with "defenders in certain areas conducting assault ... and combing operations."

However, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told AFP news agency in an interview published on Friday that the current Russian assault might just be the start of a wider offensive.

Russian forces have taken 278 square kilometers (107 square miles) between May 9 and 15, their biggest gains since the end of 2022, AFP has calculated, using data from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW). 

Zelenskyy warns Russia could step up offensive

Skip next section Ukraine war drives huge rise in global defense spending
May 18, 2024

Ukraine war drives huge rise in global defense spending

For every man, woman and child, annual world military spending is now at its highest rate since the end of the Cold War, at $306 (€281) per person, DW has reported.

Global military budgets reached $2.44 trillion (€2.25 trillion) last year, nearly 7% higher than in 2022, a sum that includes massive Western military aid to Ukraine as it tries to fight off the full-scale Russian invasion that began in February 2022.

Largely spurred on by the Russian threat,  NATO's European partners are projected to meet the target set by the military alliance of spending 2% of gross domestic product (GDP) on defense.

Poland, which borders on Ukraine, is due to spend 4.2% of GDP on defense this year, the highest in the military alliance. Others on NATO's eastern flank also far exceed or will soon surpass the 2% target, due to the heightened security threat on their borders.

As DW points out, governments are having to confront tough questions on how to pay for the new defense commitments, with many economies weakened by the effects of the ongoing global geopolitical tensions and lingering consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. 

"Short-term commitments for military equipment for Ukraine should be financed with additional debt. That's the way wars have historically been funded," Gunther Wolff, a senior fellow at the Brussels-based think tank Bruegel, told DW. "But for longer-term increased defense spending, either taxes need to go up or you cut other spending."

You can read the entire article here.

Will Germany spend more on its military long term?


Skip next section Zelenskyy urges China to come to Switzerland peace summit
May 18, 2024

Zelenskyy urges China to come to Switzerland peace summit

 Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said he would like to see China and countries of the Global South at a peace conference in Switzerland next month.

Zelenskyy said China's attendance would allow it to come to terms with its fears that Russia losing in Ukraine would mean a victory for the West, which is undesirable to Beijing.  

Talking to the AFP news agency on Friday Zelenskyy said the Chinese leaders "want to find a balance between the two ... That's why I would like to see China involved in the peace summit."

In the interview, Zelenskyy also called on other countries to send delegations to Switzerland for the summit, which will not be attended by Russia.  

"If there is no representative of your state, this is a public response that when you say that we all want peace, no, you want Russia to win," he said.       

So far, China's has been vague on whether or not it will send a delegation to Switzerland, with Beijing saying that "a lot of work" needed to be done before the conference.

Beijing claims to be a neutral party in the Ukraine conflict, but has faced much criticism from the West for not condemning Russia's unprovoked assault on its neighbor.

Russian President Vladimir Putin visited China this week on a trip that underlined the friendly ties between Moscow and Beijing.

Skip next section Ukraine steps up penalties for draft dodgers
May 18, 2024

Ukraine steps up penalties for draft dodgers

Ukraine has increased fines for men of military age who are avoiding conscription into the army as Kyiv seeks to find more soldiers to fight off the Russian invasion.

Financial penalties have been increased to 25,500 hryvnias (€593; $650) for citizens and 51,000 hryvnias (€1,187; $1,300) for civil servants and legal entities who ignore draft notices or fail to update the draft board on their personal information.

Fines were previously 5,100 hryvnias for citizens and 8,500 hryvnias for civil servants and legal entities.

Under new rules, men evading conscription could also be prohibited from driving. 

Skip next section Zelenskyy says renewed Kharkiv assault a 'first wave' of a longer Russia campaign
May 18, 2024

Zelenskyy says renewed Kharkiv assault a 'first wave' of a longer Russia campaign

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned that Russia's renewed offensive on the northeastern Kharkiv region could be the "first wave" of a longer Russian campaign aimed at capturing the region's capital city of Kharkiv.

Zelenksyy told the AFP news agency in an interview published Friday that the situation in the region was under control but "not stabilized."

Russian troops have been encircling villages close to the city and have captured several since launching an offensive on May 10. Zelenskyy said on Thursday that Ukrainian forces have partially managed to stop Russian forces from advancing into the region.

Russia's offensive "could consist in several waves. There was the first wave" in the Kharkiv region, Zelenskyy told AFP. 

"I won't say it's a great success" for Russia, he added.

West must strengthen Ukraine's air defenses, Zelenskyy warns

Russia bombarded Kharkiv soon after launching its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, but a successful Ukrainian counteroffensive in the autumn of that year pushed Russian forces out of the region.

rm/sms (Reuters, AP, AFP)