Russia halts gas supplies to Finland over roubles payment row

  • Russian energy giant Gazprom says it had stopped all natural gas supplies to Finland as it had not received payment in roubles.
  • Washington says it is “confident” that Turkey’s concerns about the admission of Sweden and Finland into NATO will be addressed.
  • Russia’s defence ministry says the last group of Ukrainian forces holed up in Mariupol’s Azovstal steelworks has surrendered.
  • A Russian missile hit a cultural centre in the Kharkiv region, the Ukrainian government says.
  • A US consular officer visited detained American basketball star Brittney Griner in Russia, the US Department of State confirms.
(Al Jazeera)

Here are all the latest updates:

‘Large’ shipment of western weapons to Ukraine destroyed: Russia

The Kremlin has claimed Russian forces have destroyed a large shipment of Western-supplied weapons in northwestern Ukraine with long-range missiles, Moscow’s defence ministry said.

“High-precision long-range sea-based Kalibr missiles destroyed a large batch of weapons and military equipment near the Malin railway station in Zhytomyr region delivered from the United States and European countries,” it said.

Al Jazeera could not independently verify the ministry’s claims.

INTERACTIVE Russia Ukraine War Who controls what in Donbas region Day 87
(Al Jazeera)

Only ‘diplomacy’ can end Ukraine war: Zelenskyy

The war in Ukraine can only be resolved through “diplomacy”, President Volodymyr Zelensky has said amid a deadlock in negotiations between Kyiv and Moscow.

“The end will be through diplomacy,” he told a Ukrainian television channel. The war “will be bloody, there will be fighting but will only definitively end through diplomacy”.

Britain wants to arm Moldova: Local media

According to local media outlet The Telegraph, the UK wants to send modern weaponry to Moldova to protect it from any threat of invasion from Russia, citing Foreign Secretary Liz Truss.

She told the newspaper that Russian President Putin was determined to create a “greater Russia” even though his invasion of Ukraine had failed to achieve quick success.

Ukrainian refugee
UNCH staff speak to an elderly Ukrainian refugee woman during a visit by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to a refugee facility housing Ukrainian refugees in Chisinau, Moldova [File: Aurel Obreja/AP Photo]

US, others walk out of APEC talks over Ukraine war: Reuters

Representatives of the United States and several other nations have walked out of an Asia-Pacific trade ministers meeting in Bangkok to protest Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, officials said.

Representatives from Canada, New Zealand, Japan and Australia joined the Americans in walking out of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting, two Thai officials and two international diplomats told Reuters news agency.

Russia-Ukraine war: List of key events, day 87

Here are the key events so far on Saturday, May 21.

Get the latest updates here.

A local resident walks past a heavily damaged building in Mariupol
A local resident walks past a building heavily damaged during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine [Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters]

INSIDE STORY: How is Russia’s economy performing under Western sanctions?

Moscow says the economy is weathering the storm, but analysts warn of a steep future decline.

Western nations imposed some of their strongest ever sanctions on Russia as punishment for invading Ukraine.

They include freezing the central bank’s foreign reserves, banning oil and gas imports and suspending Russia’s banks from global financial systems.

Watch here.

Russia stops gas supply to Finland

Russia’s Gazprom has halted gas exports to Finland, the Finnish gas system operator has confirmed.

“Gas imports through Imatra entry point have been stopped,” Gasgrid Finland said in a statement, according to Reuters news agency.

Imatra is the entry point for Russian gas into Finland.

Finnish state-owned gas wholesaler Gasum also confirmed supplies had stopped. It says it will source supplies through Estonia’s grid instead.

Former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder resigns from Rosneft board

Gerhard Schroeder, who was German chancellor between 1998 and 2005, has resigned from the board of Russia’s Rosneft.

Schroeder has been under growing pressure over his links with Russia, with the European Parliament urging he be blacklisted and Germany this week closing his taxpayer-funded office.

The 78-year-old, who counts the Russian president as a personal friend, was also in line for a top job at gas giant Gazprom. German businessman Matthias Warnig also stepped down from Rosneft.

“We are sympathetic to [Schroeder and Warnig’s] decisions and thank them for their continued support,” Rosneft said in a statement.

Russia may open military to older recruits

Russia’s parliament is considering new legislation that would allow Russians over the age of 40 and foreigners who are older than 30 to join the military as contract soldiers.

The proposals were introduced by two members of the United Russia party on Friday.

Russia “digging in” for protracted war: Institute for the Study of War

In its latest update on the fighting in Ukraine, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) says Russian forces appear to be “digging in” around Kharkiv and along the southern axis in preparation for Ukrainian counteroffensives and a protracted war.

The key developments on May 20, according to the ISW:

  • Fighting was focused on the area between Izyum and the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts
  • Significant Russian offensives continue around Severodonetsk with “marginal gains” in the north, west and south of the city, especially near Popasna
  • Russia could be overstating the number of soldiers evacuated from Azovstal in order to “maximise” any POW exchange with Ukraine. It said 2,439 Ukrainian fighters had surrendered in the past few days, including 531 in the final group.
People take shelter in a metro station in the city of Kharkiv
Residents take shelter in the Kharkiv metro. Ukraine has forced the Russians back from the city [Bernat Armangue/AP Photo]

Russia removes bodies from bombed Mariupol theatre

An adviser to the mayor of Mariupol says Russia on Friday removed the last bodies from the drama theatre where hundreds of civilians had been sheltering when Russian forces bombed it in March.

“Today, the occupiers completed the removal of the bodies of the dead,” Petro Andriushchenko wrote on Telegram.

He said he felt “rage” and “anger” over what he said was a war crime.

“Now we will never know how many civilians were actually killed,” he said, adding that the bodies had been buried in a mass grave.

Ukraine Contact Group to meet again on May 23

The Ukraine Contact Group, led by US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and made up of more than 40 countries, will meet again – online – on May 23.

They will discuss further military support for Ukraine.

Wimbledon relegated over ban on players from Russia, Belarus

Tennis’s governing agencies have said players who take part in Wimbledon will not get ranking points because the UK tournament’s organisers banned athletes from Russia and Belarus.

The world’s most prestigious tennis tournament excluded Russian and Belarusian players after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, citing UK government guidance.

It is the first time Wimbledon has excluded players on the grounds of nationality since the immediate post-World War II era when German and Japanese players were banned.

Russia should pay for destruction, Zelenskyy says

Zelenskyy devoted his nightly video address to Ukraine’s demand that Russia be held financially responsible for the damage its forces are inflicting on Ukraine.

In the eastern Donbas, where the Russian attack has been fiercest, he said Russian troops turned the towns of Rubizhne and Volnovakha into ruins, just as they did with Mariupol, and were trying to do the same with Severodonetsk.

Zelenskyy said Russia should be made to pay for every home, school, hospital and business it destroys. He said a legal mechanism should be created through which everyone who suffered from Russia’s actions would be able to receive compensation.

Top EU official decries ‘unspeakable crimes’ by Russian forces

The European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has decried what he called “unspeakable crimes”, including sexual violence, by Russian forces being reported in areas recently recaptured by Ukraine.

“Perpetrators must be held accountable,” Borrell wrote on Twitter.

More than 2,400 Ukrainian fighters surrendered in Mariupol: Russia

Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti has quoted the country’s defence ministry as saying a total of 2,439 Ukrainian fighters who had been holed up at Mariupol’s steel plant had surrendered since Monday, including more than 500 on Friday.

Mariupol steel mill
A destroyed facility on the territory of the Azovstal steel mill, on May 20, 2022 [Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters]

Blinken to discuss Ukraine during Japan visit: Department of State

The Department of State has announced that Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Japan to accompany Biden on his Asia trip.

“While in Tokyo, the Secretary will meet with Foreign Minister Hayashi Yoshimasa and other senior Japanese officials,” the Department of State said in a statement.

“The Secretary and the Foreign Minister will discuss our global response to President Putin’s continued brutal war on Ukraine, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s increasingly destabilizing behavior, and US-Japan cooperation under the new Economic Policy Consultative Committee (EPCC), including on regional economic development.”

Zelenskyy says high-risk flights delivered supplies to besieged Azovstal

Zelenskyy has revealed a weeks-long mystery about the siege of the Azovstal in Mariupol: How were supplies delivered to fighters in the steel mill?

Ukrainian pilots risked Russian anti-aircraft fire to fly medicine, food and water to the steel mill on helicopters, suffering a large number of casualties, Zelenskyy said in an interview on the third anniversary of his inauguration as president.

He said the effort also included the retrieval of bodies and picking up the wounded.

“They are absolutely heroic people, who knew that it would be difficult, knew that to fly would be almost impossible,” Zelenskyy said.

Russian missile hits cultural centre in Kharkiv region, Ukraine says

A Russian missile has struck a Ukrainian cultural centre in the Kharkiv region, injuring seven people, including an 11-year-old child, Kyiv has said.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s social media channel released a video showing a large explosion hitting the newly renovated Palace of Culture in Lozova. The building was partly destroyed and the roof caught fire, Ukraine’s emergency services reported.

“The occupiers identified culture, education and humanity as their enemies,” Zelenskyy wrote. “What is in the minds of people who choose such targets? Absolute evil, absolute stupidity.”

US says basketball star detained in Russia received consular visit

A US consular official has visited detained basketball star Brittney Griner in Russia, the US Department of State has said, while urging Moscow to allow more regular consular access.

Griner, 31, a two-time Olympic champion and member of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), was arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport in February on accusations of carrying vape cartridges that contained cannabis oil in her luggage.

“I can confirm that a consular officer visited Brittney Griner in detention yesterday on Thursday, May 19th. The consular officer found her continuing to do as well as could be expected under these exceedingly challenging circumstances,” spokesman Ned Price said in a briefing.

“But again, our message is a clear and simple one. We continue to insist that Russia allow consistent and timely consular access to all US citizen detainees. One-off visits are not sufficient.”

Brittney Griner
Brittney Griner has been detained in Russia since February [File: Rick Scuteri/AP Photo]

Germany to ship anti-aircraft weapons to Ukraine: Report

German news agency DPA has reported that the country will ship the first 15 Gepard anti-aircraft weapons to Ukraine in July.

DPA reported that the delivery, which includes training and almost 60,000 rounds of ammunition, was agreed upon following talks between Germany’s defence minister and her Ukrainian counterpart.

Gepard — German for “cheetah” — are considered highly effective against low-flying aircraft and lightly armoured ground targets. They were decommissioned by the German military in 2012 but some 50 mothballed units are being restored by manufacturer KMW for use by Ukraine.

US ‘confident’ Turkey’s concerns on NATO expansion will be addressed

The US Department of State has said Washington is “confident” that Turkey’s concerns about the admission of Sweden and Finland into NATO will be addressed.

“Turkey is a longstanding, valued NATO ally,” said spokesperson Ned Price. “We understand Turkey’s longstanding concerns, and we’ll continue to work together in our efforts to end the scourge of terrorism.”

Turkey has accused Finland and Sweden of harbouring “terrorists”, referring to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Gulen movement, the latter of which Ankara accuses of being behind a 2016 failed coup against the government.

Last Ukrainian fighters in Mariupol steel mill surrender: Russia

Russia’s defence ministry has said the last group of Ukrainian forces holed up in Mariupol’s Azovstal steelworks has surrendered, marking an end to a weeks-long siege.

“The territory of the Azovstal metallurgical plant … has been completely liberated,” the ministry said in a statement.

A Russian soldier is seen on patrol in Mariupol
A Russian soldier patrolling a destroyed part of the steel plant in Mariupol, May 18 [AP Photo]

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

Read all the updates from Friday, May 20 here.

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