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Ukraine updates: Zelenskyy addresses Arab League Summit

Published May 19, 2023last updated May 19, 2023

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has urged countries at an Arab League summit to support an initiative to end Russia's war. Meanwhile, Wagner's chief says Bakhmut is "unlikely" to fall soon. DW has the latest.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks as he attends the Arab League summit
Volodymyr Zelenskyy said some Arab leaders had turned a blind eye to Russia's war by remaining neutralImage: SAUDI TV/REUTERS

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told leaders at an Arab League summit on Friday that they would each receive a 10-point peace plan, and asked them to work with Ukraine directly without intermediaries.

He accused some Arab leaders of ignoring the horrors of Russia's invasion of his country and urged all attendees to "take an honest look" at the war.

Zelenskyy said his surprise visit to Saudi Arabia was "to enhance bilateral relations and Ukraine's ties with the Arab world."

Arab states have remained largely neutral over Russia's invasion of Ukraine, with many maintaining close ties to Moscow. After his arrival, Zelenskyy said he would meet Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and hold other bilateral talks.

Zelenskyy said his priorities for the visit would be "the presentation of our peace formula whose implementation should involve as many states as possible."

The crown prince has mediated in the Russia-Ukraine conflict before.

Zelenskyy traveled on a French government plane and is also expected to attend the G7 leaders' summit in Hiroshima, Japan, this weekend.

Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council, told state television that "important" decisions would be made at the G7 and it was "therefore the presence of our president that is absolutely essential in order to defend our interests."

On Thursday, Ukrainian government official Ihor Dzhokova told the Japanese news agency Kyodo that Zelenskyy would "carefully monitor the situation on the battlefield and then make a final decision" on whether or not he would attend in person.

Zelenskyy was also scheduled to meet Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the summit, according to CNN-News 18. India, which maintains strong military relations with Russia, has refrained from condemning Moscow's invasion.

Meanwhile, G7 leaders said they had ensured that Ukraine had the budget support it needs for this year and early 2024.

"Today we are taking new steps to ensure that Russia’s illegal aggression against the sovereign state of Ukraine fails and to support the Ukrainian people in their quest for a just peace rooted in respect for international law," they said in a statement.

Here are some of the other notable developments concerning Russia's war in Ukraine on Friday, May 19:

Pentagon leak suspect ordered to remain in jail ahead of trial

The US airman accused of leaking top-secret documents will remain in jail pending trial, a federal judge ruled, after prosecutors argued that he posed an ongoing risk to American national security.

Magistrate Judge David Hennessy made the decision after lawyers for Jack Douglas Teixeira asked for him to be released to house arrest pending trial. No trial date has been set.

Teixeira allegedly orchestrated the most damaging leak of US classified documents in a decade, posting a trove of highly sensitive information in an online chat forum, with details ranging from Ukraine's air defenses to Israel's Mossad spy agency.

The leak is considered the most serious US national security breach since more than 700,000 documents, videos and diplomatic cables appeared on the WikiLeaks website in 2010.

Russia bans entry to 500 US nationals — including Barack Obama

In response to a new US sanctions package, Russia unveiled on the first day of the three-day G7 summit in Japan, Moscow said on Friday that it imposed an entry ban on 500 US citizens, including former President Barack Obama and comedian Stephen Colbert.

Moscow's entry ban list includes Obama, who is number 268 on the list, along with other current and former politicians. The list also includes "heads of companies of the military-industrial complex that supply weapons to the regime in Kyiv."

The ban includes 45 members of the US House of Representatives, Senators J.D. Vance, Katie Britt and Eric Schmitt, and former ambassadors to Russia John Tefft and Jon Huntsman.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said it had also denied a US request for consular access to Evan Gershkovich, the Wall Street Journal reporter who was arrested in late March and charged with espionage. 

According to the ministry, that was in response to the United States denying visas to Russian journalists who wanted to cover Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's visit to the United Nations last month.

Russia adds ICC prosecutor who sought Putin's arrest to wanted list

Russia has issued an arrest warrant for the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor who in March prepared a warrant for President Vladimir Putin on war crimes charges.

The British prosecutor, Karim Khan, was added to the Interior Ministry's wanted list. Moscow opened cases against Khan and three ICC judges on March 20, days after the order for Putin's arrest.

The ICC warrant orders the arrest of Putin and Russia's ombudsman for children's rights, Maria Lvova-Belova, on war crimes charges related to the abduction of Ukrainian children.

Russia, which is not a member of the ICC, has said the warrant is "void."

ICC warrant over Russia's abduction of Ukrainian children

US will back training Ukrainian pilots on F-16s — reports

US President Joe Biden will allow Ukrainian pilots to be trained on American F-16 fighter jets, a senior US government official said on the sidelines of the G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan. A decision on the delivery of fighter jets to Ukraine is to follow at a later date, according to the official.

Biden told the other G7 leaders the United States would support the training of Ukrainian pilots on fourth-generation fighter jets, including the F-16, the official said. 

While the training is ongoing, the coalition of countries participating in the effort will decide when to provide jets, how many to provide and who would provide them, he said. The training will take place outside Ukraine at sites in Europe and would run for several months, he said. Training would start in the coming weeks.

Ukraine has been calling for the US-made jets for some time, saying they would be more effective than the Soviet-era jets it currently has. Western countries have often said a prerequisite for any deliveries would be first training Ukrainian pilots to operate them. Some such initiatives are already in the works.

Some other NATO members have already begun training Ukrainian pilots, but US involvement in such schemes could be a positive sign for Kyiv's hopes.

Russia says defense minister inspecting troops in Ukraine

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu "inspected the forward command post of one of the formations of the Vostok group of troops in the Zaporizhzhia direction," his ministry has said in a statement.

It comes amidst eyewitness reports that Russian forces have been enhancing defensive positions in and around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

The Reuters news agency reported that new trenches have been dug around the city, and more mines have been laid.

Military analysts expect Ukraine to try to push Russian forces back in the Zaporizhzhia region during the much-talked-about Spring counter-offensive.

President Vladimir Putin illegally annexed the partly Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia region and three other regions of Ukraine in September last year. 

Ukraine says Russia trying to recapture lost ground in Bakhmut

Russian forces are attempting to regain lost territory near the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut. However, according to Deputy Ukrainian Defense Minister Hanna Maliar's said Kyiv's forces are successfully repelling the attacks.

While Russian forces have made some progress within the city, they have yet to achieve full control, and fighting continues, Maliar explained in televised remarks.

"It's very difficult to carry out combat missions there, and every meter (of advance) is like 10 kilometers in other conditions," he said.

The head of Russian mercenaries fighting in Bakhmut said the city would unlikely fall in the next two days. 

Bakhmut has been the epicenter of fighting between Ukrainian and Russian troops.

Ukraine releases drone footage of Bakhmut shelling

Fresh sanctions against Russia expected at G7

US and UK announcements of fresh sanctions against Moscow started rolling early Friday, as the Group of Seven (G7) leaders' summit kicked off in Japan.

The British government said Prime Minister Rishi Sunak would announce a ban on Russian diamonds and imports of metals from Russia, including copper, aluminum and nickel.

The G7 as a whole is expected to further tighten existing sanctions against Russia over its war in Ukraine and announce restrictions on the multi-billion dollar export of rough diamonds from Russia.

Separately, multiple media outlets quoted a senior US government official as saying that Washington is slapping a new package of sanctions. 

The US measures include cutting off about 70 companies from Russia and other countries from US exports, according to the unnamed official, who added that 300 sanctions against individuals, entities, vessels and aircraft would be announced.

Pentagon overestimated value of military aid to Ukraine

A US Defense Department spokesperson has acknowledged that the Pentagon overestimated the value of the weapons it had sent to Ukraine by at least $3 billion.

The accounting error could mean that the department is able to send more weapons to Ukraine without asking Congress for more money. 

This comes as lawmakers are pressuring the Pentagon to show accountability for the billions of dollars it has sent in military aid. 

US: Public support drops for funding arms for Ukraine

"During our regular oversight process of presidential drawdown packages, the department discovered inconsistencies in equipment valuation for Ukraine," said Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh.

"In some cases, 'replacement cost' rather than 'net book value' was used, therefore overestimating the value of the equipment drawn down from US stocks," she added.

Singh stressed that the error had not hampered Washington's ability to send aid to the battlefield.

The additional support could be critical for Ukraine. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has previously said that a widely anticipated counteroffensive was delayed because the military did not yet have everything it needed.

How's the Ukrainian counteroffensive going?

Air raid alerts declared across Ukraine

Air raid sirens sounded across Ukraine early Friday, and some regions reported explosions. 

Officials said anti-aircraft units were in action in several regions. A day earlier, the Ukrainian military weathered what it said was an "unprecedented" air attack by Russia.

The military warned that there was a threat of strikes from hypersonic Kinzhal missiles to all regions of Ukraine.

Ukraine blocks barrage of Russian missiles

Prigozhin says Bakhmut 'unlikely' to fall soon; Zelenskyy hails troops

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Russian Wagner mercenary group, said the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut was "unlikely" to fall to Russian forces in the coming days.

"Bakhmut is unlikely to be completely taken tomorrow or the day after tomorrow," Prigozhin wrote on Telegram early Friday.

Prigozhin added that heavy fighting was ongoing in the southwestern suburbs of the city, which has seen the most protracted battle since Russia's war in Ukraine began on February 24, 2022.

"Bakhmut has not yet been taken. There is a suburb called 'samolet.' It is an impregnable fortress formed from a range of apartment blocks, located in the southwest of Bakhmut. The toughest battles are going on there right now."

The Wagner chief has repeatedly accused Moscow of not giving his forces enough ammunition to capture the city, which he had said his mercenaries would capture by May 9. Russia has been adamant about claiming victory there after several setbacks in the war.

Prigozhin's remarks came after Ukrainian and Russian officials said Kyiv's troops had gained up to 1 kilometer near Bakhmut. 

Ukraine claims progress in Bakhmut battle

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy praised his soldiers during his regular nightly address.

"Firstly, the defensive brigades have done a good job, they have fulfilled the most important strategic tasks," he said in his evening video address. "And the offensive brigades are doing a good job."

Zelenskyy, however, refrained from giving any details about the combat operations and further steps.

More DW coverage on Russia's war in Ukraine

The Ukrainian city of Nikopol, near the occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, has come under repeated bombardment from Russian troops stationed in Enerhodar. Residents speak to DW about their everyday life during wartime.

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

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