Russia-Ukraine crisis live updates | Russian soldier pleads guilty during war crimes trial

Russia’s Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said the country will not call itself in default as it has money to pay its debts.

Russia’s Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said the country will not call itself in default as it has money to pay its debts. | Photo Credit: Reuters

Russia said on Tuesday that 265 Ukrainian soldiers, including several dozen wounded troops, surrendered at the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Ukraine’s port city of Mariupol.

Sweden on Tuesday signed a formal request to join NATO, a day after the country announced it would seek membership in the 30-member military alliance. Finland’s Parliament has also overwhelmingly endorsed a bid from the Nordic country’s government to join NATO.

The moves by the two Nordic countries, ending Sweden’s more than 200 years of military nonalignment and Finland’s nonalignment after World War II, have provoked the ire of the Kremlin.

Read more news on the ongoing Russia-Ukraine crisis here.

Here are the latest updates:

Brussels

EU proposes up to 9 bn euros in more aid to Ukraine

EU chief Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday proposed extra aid to Ukraine this year of up to nine billion euros ($9.5 billion) to help it cope with the ravages of war.

Speaking in a broadcast statement, von der Leyen also said it was time to think about rebuilding Ukraine whenever the war ends, adding the EU has “a strategic interest in leading this reconstruction effort”.

Ukraine

Russian soldier pleads guilty during war crimes trial

A Kyiv district court met on Wednesday to begin hearing its first war crimes trial against a Russian soldier who took part in Moscow's February 24 invasion, a case of huge symbolic value for Ukraine.

Vadim Shishimarin, a 21-year-old Russian tank commander held in Ukraine, is charged with murdering a 62-year-old civilian in the northeast Ukrainian village of Chupakhivka on February 28. He told the court that he pleaded guilty.

If convicted, Shishimarin faces up to life imprisonment.— Reuters

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Russia

Russia says 959 Ukrainian fighters surrendered from Azovstal so far

Russia said on Wednesday that a total of 959 Ukrainian fighters, including 80 wounded, had surrendered from the bunkers and tunnels below Mariupol’s Azovstal steelworks since Monday.

The Defence Ministry said 694 Ukrainian fighters - including members of the Azov regiment - had surrendered in the past 24 hours, including 29 wounded.

In the latest update on what Moscow calls its special military operation, the Ministry said Russia also struck eastern Ukraine with missiles in the Soledar area of the Donetsk region.

Russia also hit foreign mercenaries, destroyed Ukrainian Su-24 aircraft, Ukrainian arsenals and S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems, the Ministry said. -Reuters

Russia

Russia to service foreign debt in roubles if other options blocked: Finance Minister

Russia will service its external debt obligations in roubles if the United States blocks other options, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov told a forum on Wednesday.

Mr. Siluanov said Russia will not call itself in default as it has money to pay its debts.

Washington is considering blocking Russia’s ability to pay its U.S. bondholders by allowing a key waiver to expire next week, a U.S. administration official said on Tuesday, which could put Moscow closer to default. -Reuters

NATO

NATO chief hails ‘historic moment’ as Finland, Sweden apply

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday that the military alliance stands ready to seize a historic moment and move quickly on allowing Finland and Sweden to join its ranks, after the two countries submitted their membership requests.

The official applications, handed over by Finland and Sweden’s ambassadors to NATO, set a security clock ticking. Russia, whose war on Ukraine spurred them to join the military organization, has warned that it wouldn’t welcome such a move, and could respond.

“I warmly welcome the requests by Finland and Sweden to join NATO. You are our closest partners,“ Mr. Stoltenberg said. “All allies agree on the importance of NATO enlargement. We all agree that we must stand together, and we all agree that this is an historic moment which we must seize.”

“This is a good day at a critical moment for our security,” a beaming Mr. Stoltenberg said, as he stood alongside the two envoys, with NATO, Finnish and Swedish flags at their backs. -AP

U.K.

U.K. looking at how Russian assets can fund rebuilding of Ukraine

Britain and fellow G7 nations are looking at how Russian assets can be used to fund the rebuilding of Ukraine, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said on Wednesday.

“We need a new Marshall Plan to rebuild Ukraine and in fact, we’ve just been discussing this at the G7 meeting that I had with my colleagues from around the world. We are looking at what we can do to use Russian assets to help pay for this,” she told Times Radio.

NATO

Finland, Sweden submit NATO membership application

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on May 18 that Finland, Sweden have officially applied to join the world’s biggest military alliance, a move driven by security concerns over Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The application must now be weighed by the 30 member countries. That process is expected to take about two weeks, although Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has expressed reservations about Finland and Sweden joining.

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Ukraine

Ukraine hopes to swap steel mill fighters for Russian POWs

Ukrainian fighters extracted from the last bastion of resistance in Mariupol were taken to a former penal colony in enemy-controlled territory, and a top military official hoped they could be exchanged for Russian prisoners of war. But a Moscow lawmaker said they should be brought to “justice.”

The Russian parliament planned to take up a resolution Wednesday to prevent the exchange of Azov Regiment fighters, who held out for months inside the Azovstal steelworks plant while Mariupol was under siege, according to Russian news agencies.

Ukraine’s Deputy Defence Minister, Hanna Maliar, said negotiations for the fighters’ release were ongoing, as were plans to rescue fighters who are still inside the sprawling steel mill. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said “the most influential international mediators are involved” in the plans. Officials have not said how many remain inside. -AP

Japan

Japan urges China to play ‘responsible’ role on Ukraine crisis

Japan’s Foreign Minister on Wednesday urged Beijing to “play a responsible role” on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in his first talks with his Chinese counterpart in six months.

Japan has joined Western allies on tough sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine crisis, while Beijing has declined to condemn Moscow’s invasion.

Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi told his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi that Russia’s invasion “is a clear violation of the UN Charter and other international laws,” Japan’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

He “urged China to play a responsible role in maintaining international peace and security,” it added. -AFP

Ukraine

Mariupol forces taken to Russia-held areas

Hundreds of Ukrainian fighters, including wounded men carried out on stretchers, left the vast steel plant in Mariupol where they mounted a dogged last stand and turned themselves over to Russian hands, signalling the beginning of the end of the city’s siege.

Russia on Tuesday called the operation a mass surrender. The Ukrainians avoided using that word — but said the garrison had completed its mission, and that they were working to pull out the fighters that remain.

Ukraine

Ukrainian troops surrender in Mariupol steel plant: Russia

Russia said on Tuesday that 265 Ukrainian soldiers, including several dozen wounded troops, surrendered at the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Ukraine’s port city of Mariupol.

“Over the past 24 hours, 265 militants laid down their arms and surrendered, including 51 heavily wounded,” the defence ministry said.

The ministry added that those in need of medical care were transferred to a hospital in the town of Novoazovsk. 

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Printable version | Jun 24, 2022 2:39:21 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/russia-ukraine-crisis-live-updates-may-18-2022/article65425340.ece