Kyiv will take back cities captured by Russians: Zelenskyy

  • United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned of a “global food shortage” in the coming months but says talks can avert a crisis.
  • The World Bank has said it will make $30bn available to help stem the food security crisis threatened by Russia’s war in Ukraine.
  • The European Commission has offered Ukraine 9 billion euros ($9.5bn) of fiscal assistance, with money borrowed by it on the markets under a macro-financial assistance mechanism, backed by guarantees of the European Union governments.
  • The United States reopens its embassy in Kyiv after abandoning the diplomatic post shortly before the Russian invasion.
  • Mariupol’s fall appears near as Ukraine declares an end to the Azovstal steelworks operation, where its soldiers held out for months.
  • President Volodymyr Zelenskyy asserts Ukraine is determined to reclaim control over the southern cities of Kherson, Melitopol, Berdiansk, Enerhodar and Mariupol, now occupied by Russian troops.

Here are all the latest updates:

UK sanctions Russian airlines to prevent them selling landing slots

Britain said it was introducing new sanctions against the Russian airline sector to prevent state-owned Aeroflot, Ural Airlines and Rossiya Airlines from selling their unused landing slots at British airports.

“We’ve already closed our airspace to Russian airlines. Today we’re making sure they can’t cash in their lucrative landing slots at our airports,” British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said in a statement.

The British government said it estimated the landing slots were worth 50 million pounds ($61.9 million).

Switzerland reopens embassy

Switzerland reopens its embassy in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv two and a half months after its closure.

Over the next few days, the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs has said, five staff members will return.

It added that in the coming weeks the embassy will start working on matters “such as the coordination of reconstruction and development projects and humanitarian aid, good offices, and the media coverage of the situation in Ukraine.”

The move comes a day after the American flag returned to fly over the US embassy in the capital as it resumed operations.

Russia says 1,730 fighters in Azovstal surrendered

More than 1,700 fighters who were in Mariupol’s Azovstal plant have laid down their arms, Russia state media says, citing Russian defence ministry’s chief spokesman Igor Konashenkov.

“Over the past day 771 militants of the Azov nationalist unit have surrendered,” Konashenkov was quoted as saying, bringing the total who have left to 1,730.

He added that 80 were wounded and that all those who needed hospital treatment receive assistance in the hospitals of Novoazovsk and Donetsk in the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic”.

A wounded service member of Ukrainian forces who had surrendered after weeks holed up at Azovstal steel works is escorted by a member of the pro-Russian military at a detention facility in the course of Ukraine-Russia conflict in the settlement of Olenivka in the Donetsk Region, Ukraine
A wounded service member of Ukrainian forces is escorted by a member of the pro-Russian military at a detention facility in the settlement of Olenivka in the Donetsk Region, Ukraine [Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters]

In Northern Ireland, Ukrainian refugees find themselves in limbo

Belfast, Northern Ireland – Refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine have found themselves in limbo in Northern Ireland, caught between differing approaches to the crisis by the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland.

Ireland was the first country in the EU to waive visa requirements for Ukrainians and, to date, nearly 30,000 have sought shelter there.

The UK, which includes Northern Ireland, has instead opened sponsorship and family reunion schemes, which have been criticised for delays and complexity.

Read the full story here.

Red Cross registers hundreds of Ukrainian POWs

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) says it has registered in the past two days hundreds of Ukrainian prisoners of war (POWs) leaving the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol.

The registration process, it said, allows the ICRC to track those who have been captured and help them keep in touch with their families.

“The ICRC must have immediate access to all POWs in all places where they are held,” it said in a statement. “The ICRC must be allowed to interview prisoners of war without witnesses, and the duration and frequency of these visits should not be unduly restricted,” it added.

Italy calls for an urgent ceasefire

A ceasefire must be reached as soon as possible, Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi has said, in order to avoid the worsening of a humanitarian crisis triggered by the war.

Speaking to the upper house Senate, Draghi also stressed the need for the European Union to coordinate member states’ military investments.

He touched upon the country’s energy policy as well, saying that Italy could cut its dependency from Russian oil by 2024’s second semester: “The first effects of this process will already be seen at the end of this year”.

Germany’s Scholz proposes EU solidarity fund to rebuild Ukraine

German Chancellor Olaf Scholtz says that the EU must set up a solidarity fund to help rebuild Ukraine after the war.

“Rebuilding destroyed infrastructure and revitalising the Ukrainian economy will cost billions,” Sholtz told lawmakers ahead of a meeting of EU leaders. “We as the EU must start laying the ground for a solidarity fund financed by contributions from the EU and its partners,” he added.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz delivers a speech ahead of the next EU summit during a session at the Bundestag (lower house of parliament) in Berlin on May 19
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz delivers a speech ahead of the next EU summit during a session at the Bundestag (lower house of parliament) in Berlin [Tobias Schwarz/AFP]

The German leader also commented on Ukraine’s bid to join the European block, noting that the EU can’t speed up the process: “There are no shortcuts on the way to the EU,” Scholz said, adding that an exception for Ukraine would be unfair to the Western Balkan countries also seeking membership.

Montenegro, Serbia, Albania, North Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo, Scholz said, have been engaged in years-long reform process to pave their way to the EU. “The accession process is not a matter of a few months or years”.

Russian shelling in Donetsk continues: AJ correspondent

“The situation has deteriorated over the last week or so,” said Al Jazeeera’s Assed Baig, reporting from the town of Bakhmut in the eastern Donetsk region.

“The major of the town has told residents to leave, the situation is very tense,” Baig said, adding that those who remain have to deal with no electricity as Russians forces have hit and destroyed power lines.

“While we are standing here almost every second we can hear fire coming in and out,” he added.

Ukraine says Russian army lost 28,500 men

Ukraine’s army says the Russian military has lost 28,500 men since the start of the invasion.

In a Facebook post, the general staff of Ukraine’s armed forces also said Russia had lost 1,254 tanks and 3,063 armoured vehicles.

Ukraine’s figures of Russia’s losses are significantly higher than Moscow’s. On March 25, Russia said 1,351 of its soldiers had been killed in combat and has given no more information since. At the time, Ukraine had put the Russian death toll at 19,000.

Experts say figures by both parties cannot be trusted as Kyiv is likely to inflate them to boost the morale of its troops, while Russia is probably downplaying them.

Two men killed in mine explosion in Kyiv: Police

Two men died after a mine exploded in the Kyiv region, the police have said.

Between the villages of Lipovka and Korolovka, the men aged 52 and 48 “blew themselves up on an anti-personnel mini OZM-72 left on the field by the occupiers”, police said in a Facebook post.

Those injured were taken to hospital, they said.

Ukraine says 231 children killed amid war

Ukraine’s human rights ombudsman has said 231 children have died since, and as a result of, the invasion of Ukraine on February 24, while 427 children have been injured.

Lyudmyla Denisova said the figures were gathered from a register of pre-trial investigations and “other sources that need confirmation”.

School destroyed amid the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine in Avdiivka, Donetsk Region
A school was destroyed amid the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine in Avdiivka, Donetsk region, on May 18, 2022 [Head of the Donetsk Regional Military Administration Pavlo Kyrylenko/Handout via Reuters]

Money for Ukraine to top G7 agenda

G7 financial leaders are likely to focus on Thursday and Friday on how to help Ukraine pay its bills. Reconstruction after the war, surging global inflation, climate change, supply chains and the impending food crisis will also be high on the agenda.

Ukraine estimates its financial needs at $5bn a month to keep public sector employees’ salaries paid and the administration working despite the daily destruction wrought by Russia.

A short-term financing package to be agreed by the G7 would cover three months of Ukraine’s needs.

Culture of scapegoating in Russia’s military likely hampers operations: UK

A culture of cover-ups and scapegoating is likely prevalent in Russia’s military and security system, the United Kingdom’s defence ministry has said.

In its latest intelligence briefing, the ministry listed some of Russia’s senior commanders who had recently been fired after being considered to have poorly performed in Ukraine. This includes Vice Admiral Igor Osipov who commanded the Black Sea Fleet and was suspended after the sinking of Moskva.

“Many officials involved in the invasion of Ukraine will likely be increasingly distracted by efforts to avoid personal culpability for Russia’s operational setbacks, the ministry said, adding this would likely place further strain on Russia’s centralised command model.

“It will be difficult for Russia to regain the initiative under these conditions,” the ministry added.

Former US President Bush calls Iraq invasion ‘unjustified’

Former US President George W Bush mistakenly described the invasion of Iraq as “brutal” and “unjustified” before correcting himself to say he meant to refer to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Bush made the comments in a speech during an event in Dallas on Wednesday while he was criticising Russia’s political system.

“The result is an absence of checks and balances in Russia, and the decision of one man to launch a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq,” Bush said, before correcting himself and shaking his head. “I mean, of Ukraine.”

He jokingly blamed the mistake on his age as the audience burst into laughter.

Ukraine shelling kills one in Russia’s Kursk region: Governor

One person has died in another attack from Ukraine on the village of Tetkino in the Kursk region, TASS news agency reports quoting its governor.

“Another enemy attack on Tetkino, which took place at dawn, unfortunately ended in tragedy. At the moment, at least one civilian death is known,” Roman Starovoit said on Telegram.

Several blows had been dealt to a distillery in the village and the killed person had been a truck driver delivering supplies there, the governor said.

TASS reports that the village of Tetkino, located on the border with Ukraine, had been shelled more than five times previously.

Four people killed in Severodonetsk on Wednesday: Governor

Shelling in Severodonetsk on Wednesday morning killed four people, the governor of the Luhansk region has said.

“Severodonetsk was shelled from the very morning. In some places, due to powerful shelling, rescuers were not able to go to the sites of fire for two hours. At least eight houses were damaged,” Serhey Haidai said on Telegram.

“Four people were killed, three more were injured. All in the morning and in the old districts of the city,” he added.

Russian occupiers plan to destroy Azovstal plant: Think-tank

Russian occupation authorities in the Donetsk region say they plan to destroy the Azovstal steel plant after capturing it and turn Mariupol into a “resort city”, the Institute for the Study of War has said.

“Azovstal was a major element of Mariupol’s economy before the war because of its unique function as a full-cycle metallurgical complex,” it said in the latest campaign assessment.

It added that the head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, Denis Pushilin, had stated that the DNR intends to rebuild Mariupol to be a “resort city”, admitting that 60 percent of the city’s structures have been destroyed to the point where they cannot be rebuilt.

“The announced plan to turn Mariupol into a centre of tourism and leisure following the complete destruction of a major centre of economic activity in Mariupol is indicative of the damage that Russian troops have inflicted on themselves through the destruction of Mariupol,” the institute said.

Shelling leaves part of Dnepropetrovsk village without electricity: Governor

Russian forces shelled the Zelenodolsk community of the Dnepropetrovsk region, which was partially left without electricity as a result, the regional governor has said.

“The invaders fired on the Zelenodolsk community five times … on [the village of] Velikaya Kostroma. No people were hurt. Houses were damaged and destroyed. The village is partly without electricity and gas,” Valentin Reznichenko said on Telegram.

Ukraine will not give up any territory to Russia: Adviser

Ukraine will not compromise with Russia and will not give up any territory, an adviser to Zelenskyy has said.

“The only option for reconciliation is Russia’s capitulation, the withdrawal of troops and talks on compensation. This is the principal position of the government,” Oleksiy Arestovych told 24 Channel.

Arestovych said he believed some countries wanted a repeat of the Minsk agreements, which had sought unsuccessfully to end the war in Ukraine’s Donbas region since 2014.

But he said, although some countries would try to negotiate, “there will be no option where we allow Russians to stay here”.

Red Cross must have access to Ukraine fighters taken to Russia: Amnesty

Amnesty International has said the Red Cross should be given immediate access to the Ukrainian fighters from Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant who surrendered to the Russians and were taken to Russian-occupied territory.

Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty’s deputy director for the region, cited lawless executions allegedly carried out by Russian forces in Ukraine and said the Azovstal defenders “must not meet the same fate”.

Russia said on Wednesday that nearly 1,000 last-ditch Ukrainian fighters who held out inside a pulverised steel plant had surrendered.

It was unclear how many fighters remained inside the plant’s labyrinth of tunnels and bunkers, where 2,000 were believed to be holed up at one point.

a wounded Ukrainian servicemen from Azovstal lying in a hospital in Novoazovsk, In Russian occupied territory
A screengrab from a video released by the Russian Defense Ministry on May 18, 2022 shows a wounded Ukrainian serviceman from Azovstal lying in a hospital in Novoazovsk, In Russian occupied territory [Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP]

Ukraine war may involve other countries if it keeps going: Official

The head of Ukraine’s president’s office has said the longer the war lasts, the more risk there is that it will involve other countries.

“At first, it will affect states that have borders with Russia, and then it may be a war involving even more countries,” Andriy Yermak said in an interview with MSNBC.

US announces $215m in emergency food assistance for Ukraine

Blinken has said Ukraine will be getting $215m in emergency food assistance, with more aid expected in the future.

“Today, given the urgency of the crisis, we’re announcing another $215m in new emergency food assistance. And we’ll do much more,” he said during the UN meeting on food security on Wednesday.

Japan doubles Ukraine’s fiscal aid to $600m

Japan will double fiscal aid for Ukraine to $600m in a coordinated move with the World Bank to back the country’s near-term fiscal necessities damaged by Russia’s invasion, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has said.

Japan, a member of the G7, had previously announced $300m in loans to Ukraine in April.

Villagers walk past unexploded artillery shells as they collect scrap metal from a bombed warehouse in the village of Malaya Rohan, Kharkiv region.
Villagers walk past unexploded artillery shells as they collect scrap metal from a bombed warehouse in the village of Malaya Rohan, Kharkiv region, May 18, 2022 [Bernat Armangue/AP Photo]

US unlikely to extend licence allowing Russian debt payments: Yellen

Janet Yellen has said it is likely that the special licence granted to allow Russia to make payments to its US bondholders would not be extended when it expires next week. This would leave Russian officials a fast-narrowing window to avoid its first external debt default since the 1917 Russian revolution.

Russia has some $40bn of international bonds. A temporary licence from the Treasury granted an exception allowing banks to accept dollar-denominated payments from Russia’s finance ministry despite crippling sanctions on Russia.

The licence expires on May 25, with the next big payment due that day.

“There’s not been a final decision on that, but I think it’s unlikely that it would continue,” Yellen said in Germany. She added that a technical default would not alter the current situation regarding Russia’s access to capital as the country is “already cut off from global markets”.

Not legal for US to seize frozen Russian assets: Yellen

The US does not have the legal authority to seize Russian central bank assets frozen due to its invasion of Ukraine, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said.

Some European officials have advocated that the EU, the US and other allies seize some $300bn in Russian central bank foreign currency assets frozen by sanctions to foot the bill for Ukraine’s reconstruction. The World Bank estimates Ukraine is suffering $4bn in weekly physical damage.

“I think it’s very natural that given the enormous destruction in Ukraine, and huge rebuilding costs that they will face, that we will look to Russia to help pay at least a portion of the price that will be involved,” Yellen told reporters in Germany ahead of this week’s meetings of the G7 finance ministers.

“While we’re beginning to look at this, it would not be legal now in the United States for the government to seize those” assets, Yellen said.

Bridget Brink confirmed as US ambassador to Ukraine

The US Senate confirmed Bridget Brink as the US ambassador to Ukraine as officials plan to return US diplomats to Kyiv.

The veteran foreign service officer, who has spent most of her career in the shadow of the former Soviet Union, was nominated to the position last month by President Joe Biden.

Brink was confirmed by the Senate unanimously without a formal roll call vote.

Employees of US embassy in Ukraine raise the US flag at the US embassy in Kyiv,
Employees of the US embassy in Ukraine raise the US flag at the US embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, May 18, 2022 [Efrem Lukatsky/AP]

Ukrainian acts of resistance in occupied Melitopol

The military administration for the region that includes Melitopol has reported more actions of resistance on Wednesday against the Russian troops who have occupied the southern city since early in the war, The Associated Press news agency reports.

It said a grenade exploded near a Russian command post, followed by an exchange of fire. No casualties were reported.

On Tuesday, the regional administration said Ukrainian resistance fighters killed several high-ranking Russian officers in the occupied city.

The report could not be independently confirmed.

Australia to send armoured personnel carriers, more Bushmasters to Ukraine

Australia is sending Ukraine an extra 20 Bushmaster protected mobility vehicles, 14 M113 armoured personnel carriers and radiation monitoring and personal protective equipment, pushing the nation’s contribution to Kyiv’s war effort above 285 million Australian dollars ($199m), the Australian newspaper has reported.

The support package includes 60 pallets of medical supplies donated by Australian citizens.

“The Australian government will continue to identify opportunities for further military assistance where it is able to provide a required capability to the Ukraine Armed Forces expeditiously,” Defence Minister Peter Dutton said.

Australia has previously sent Ukraine 20 Bushmasters following a request from Zelenskyy.

A Bushmaster PMV is loaded into a C-17 Globemaster.
A Bushmaster PMV is loaded into a C-17 Globemaster which is headed for Ukraine ahead of an announcement from Defence Minister Peter Dutton regarding defensive military assistance to Ukraine in Brisbane, Australia, April 8, 2022 [Russell Freeman/AAP Image via Reuters]

Ukraine officials give conflicting accounts of attack on Russian train: Reuters

Ukraine’s territorial defence force said on Wednesday that its fighters had blown up an armoured train carrying Russian troops, but an adviser to President Zelenskyy later said the attack had been confined to rails near the train, the Reuters news agency reports.

The defence force said that explosives had detonated under a rail car carrying military personnel in the occupied southern Ukrainian city of Melitopol, in the Zaporizhzhia region. It did not elaborate on the extent of the damage.

But several hours later, presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych gave a conflicting account, saying Ukrainian forces had blown up the tracks ahead of the train.

“The partisans got it, although they did not blow up the armoured train itself,” he said in a video posted on social media, saying the Russians “got off lightly”.

Zelenskyy’s life story told in new comic book

Zelenskyy’s life story – from comedian to war-time leader – has been given the graphic novel treatment in TidalWave Comics’ latest biography: “Political Power: Volodymyr Zelenskyy”.

The 22-page glossy released on Wednesday tells the story of how Zelenskyy, who once played a fictional president in a TV show, swept to power in 2019 promising to end a war with Moscow-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. He had no political experience when he took office as the country’s sixth president.

“Who is he? What makes him tick? Why is he the right leader for Ukraine at this moment? Those are the things I was curious about when I started the research,” said writer Michael Frizell.

A portion of sale proceeds will be donated to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

US intel shows Russians fear Mariupol abuse will backfire

The US has gathered intelligence that shows some Russian officials have become concerned that Russian forces in the ravaged port city of Mariupol are carrying out grievous abuses, a US official familiar with the findings has said, Associated Press reports.

The Russian officials are concerned that the abuses will backfire and further inspire Mariupol residents to resist the Russian occupation.

The US official, who was not authorised to comment publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that the Russians, who were not identified, also feared that the abuses will undercut Russia’s claim that they have liberated the Russian-speaking city.

The abuses include beating and electrocuting city officials and robbing homes, according to the intelligence finding.

Pentagon discusses Russia threats with Sweden, Finland: Officials

A senior defence official has said US Pentagon officials are having discussions with Sweden and Finland on their security needs to deter Russia as both move towards NATO membership, the Associated Press reports.

The official said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met with Swedish Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist on Wednesday and spoke about the interim period between when the NATO application is formally made and when it is approved.

There have been concerns about threats from Russia during that period, in which Sweden and Finland would not formally be covered by NATO’s Article 5 which says that an attack against one member is an attack against all and calls for collective defence.

Zelenskyy thanks EC for 9 billion euros loan

Zelenskyy has thanked European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen for the EU’s 9 billion euros ($9.5bn) macro-financial aid and recovery programme for Ukraine.

“This step by the European Commission is a testament to the true leadership that the European Union is capable of. And it will definitely help us in the struggle for our common freedom,” he said in his late-night address.

The European Commission proposed on Wednesday a 9 billion euros loan to Ukraine to keep the country going as it struggles to fend off the Russian invasion and wants to set up a facility for post-war reconstruction.

The money for the loan would be borrowed by the Commission on the markets under the macro-financial assistance mechanism, backed by guarantees of EU governments.

Zelenskyy mocks Russia’s new ‘laser’ weapons

Zelenskyy has mockingly compared Russia’s news that it was using laser weapons in Ukraine to the so-called wonder weapons Nazi Germany unveiled in a bid to prevent defeat in World War Two.

“The clearer it became that they had no chance in the war, the more propaganda there was about an amazing weapon that would be so powerful as to ensure a turning point,” he said in a late-night video address.

“And so we see that in the third month of a full-scale war, Russia is trying to find its ‘wonder weapon’ … this all clearly shows the complete failure of the mission,” he added.

Russia says it is deploying ‘laser’ weapons in Ukraine

Russia has said it is using a new generation of powerful lasers in Ukraine to burn up drones.

Little is known about the specifics of the new laser. But Yury Borisov, the deputy prime minister in charge of military development, told a conference in Moscow that one prototype called Peresvet was already being widely deployed and it could blind satellites up to 1,500km (932 miles) above Earth.

He added there were already more powerful systems. “If Peresvet blinds, then the new generation of laser weapons lead to the physical destruction of the target – thermal destruction, they burn up,” he told Russian state television.

Asked if such weapons were being used in Ukraine, Borisov said: “Yes. The first prototypes are already being used there.” He said the weapon was called “Zadira”.

World Bank to offer $30bn as Ukraine war threatens food security

The World Bank has said it will make $30bn available to help stem the food security crisis threatened by Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The total will include $12bn in new projects and more than $18bn in funds from existing food and nutrition-related projects that have been approved but have not yet been disbursed, the bank said.

The bank said the new projects are expected to support agriculture, social protection to cushion the effects of higher food prices on the poor, and water and irrigation projects.

The majority of resources are going to areas hardest hit by the crisis – Africa and the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and South Asia.

UN food chief appeals to Putin to open ports

The UN food chief has appealed to Putin to open Ukraine’s ports so that exports can reach the “poorest countries”.

“It is absolutely essential that we allow these ports to open because this is not just about Ukraine. This is about the poorest of the poor around the world who are on the brink of starvation as we speak,” David Beasley said at a UN meeting on global food security.

“So I ask President Putin, ‘If you have any heart at all, please open these ports. Please assure everyone concerned that the passageways will be clear so that we can feed the poorest of the poor and avert famine’” he added.

Zelenskyy says Russian-occupied cities ‘will return’ to Ukraine

Zelenskyy has said Ukraine is determined to reclaim control over the southern cities of Kherson, Melitopol, Berdiansk, Enerhodar and Mariupol, now occupied by Russian troops.

“All of our cities and communities under occupation – under temporary occupation – should know that Ukraine will return,” Zelenskyy said.

A view of a street in Mariupol, captured by Russian forces, with the Azovstal steel plant in the background.
A view of a street in Mariupol, captured by Russian forces, with the Azovstal steel plant in the background. Tuesday, May 17, 2022 [Alexei Alexandrov/AP]

Russia has fired more than 2,000 missiles in Ukraine: Zelenskyy

Zelenskyy has said Russia has fired more than 2,000 missiles during its attack on Ukraine.

He said the majority of the missiles hit civilian infrastructure and brought no strategic military benefit. In the past day, Russian missiles hit the southern cities of Mykolaiv and Dnipro, Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address to the nation.

Zelenskyy also noted Russia’s claims to have deployed new laser weapons in Ukraine, saying it reflected a desire to find an alternative to its missiles.

Google’s Russian subsidiary to file for bankruptcy after bank account seized

Google’s Russian subsidiary plans to file for bankruptcy after authorities seized its bank account, making it impossible to pay staff and vendors, but free services including search and YouTube will keep operating, a company spokesperson has said.

The Alphabet Inc unit has been under pressure in Russia for months for failing to delete content Moscow deems illegal and for restricting access to some Russian media on YouTube, but the Kremlin has so far stopped short of blocking access to the company’s services.

“The Russian authorities’ seizure of Google Russia’s bank account has made it untenable for our Russia office to function, including employing and paying Russia-based employees, paying suppliers and vendors, and meeting other financial obligations,” a Google spokesperson said.

“Google Russia has published a notice of its intention to file for bankruptcy.”

US promises push to improve global food security

Blinken has promised to work with allies to improve global food security amid the war in Ukraine.

“President Putin is blocking export of Ukraine’s grain and foodstuffs. We will continue working with our allies and partners to build resilient, sustainable, and inclusive food systems to improve global food security,” the top US diplomat wrote on Twitter.

Croatia president wants to block new NATO members

President Zoran Milanovic of Croatia wants his country to follow Turkey’s example by trying to block Sweden and Finland from joining NATO.

Milanovic is in a bitter verbal dispute with Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic over a number of issues, including whether to support the NATO applications Sweden and Finland submitted.

Before Croatia’s parliament ratifies NATO membership for the two Nordic nations, Milanovic wants a change in neighbouring Bosnia’s electoral law that would make it easier for their nationalist Bosnian Croat allies to get elected to leadership positions.

US national security officials ’emphatically’ support NATO expansion: Sullivan

White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan has said President Joe Biden asked his national security team and cabinet members about the risks and benefits of Finland and Sweden joining NATO.

He said the team “emphatically supported the entry of Finland and Sweden”.

Sullivan said Finland and Sweden will not be covered by NATO’s mutual defence agreement until all 30 members have ratified their accession, but US and European allies are prepared to send the message “that we will not tolerate any aggression against Finland or Sweden during this process”.

US in talks with Sweden, Finland: Defence official

A senior US defence official has said the Pentagon is having discussions with Sweden and Finland on their security needs, as both move towards NATO membership amid the Russian offensive in Ukraine.

The official said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met with Swedish Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist and spoke about the interim period between when the country’s NATO application is formally submitted and when it is approved, The Associated Press news agency reported.

There have been concerns about threats from Russia during that period, in which Sweden and Finland would not formally be covered by NATO’s Article 5, which states that an attack against one member is an attack against all and calls for collective defence.

UN chief ‘hopeful’ about averting global food shortage

UN chief Guterres has warned of a “global food shortage” in the coming months due to issues linked to the war in Ukraine, but said he is “hopeful” the crisis can be averted.

Guterres said he is in “intense contact” with Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, the US and the EU to try and resume Ukrainian grain shipments and revive Russian fertiliser exports.

“I am hopeful, but there is still a way to go,” he said during a food security meeting at the UN hosted by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. “The complex security, economic and financial implications require goodwill on all sides.”

US, Turkey affirm support for ‘solution to end the war’

The US and Turkey have affirmed their support for finding a solution to end the war in Ukraine, reasserting that they back the country’s “sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

After a meeting between Blinken and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, Ankara and Washington released a joint statement pledging to “intensify consultations on a range of regional issues”.

“They also reiterated their support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity against Russia’s unacceptable war. Within this framework, the United States and Turkey reaffirmed their support to find a solution to end the war,” the statement said.

Mevlut Cavusoglu and Antony Blinken
Antony Blinken meets with Mevlut Cavusoglu at UN headquarters in New York [Eduardo Munoz/Reuters]

US reopens embassy in Ukraine’s capital

The US has reopened its embassy in Kyiv after abandoning the diplomatic post shortly before the Russian invasion began three months ago.

“Today we are officially resuming operations at the US Embassy in Kyiv,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

“The Ukrainian people, with our security assistance, have defended their homeland in the face of Russia’s unconscionable invasion, and, as a result, the Stars and Stripes are flying over the Embassy once again,” he added, referring to the flag of the US.

Ukrainian forces had fended off a Russian offensive to capture the capital in the first weeks of the war.

Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the war in Ukraine.

Read all the updates from Wednesday, May 18 here.

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