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Airstrikes target Mykolaiv and Donbas regions; Ukraine EU bid could take 20 years, says French minister – as it happened

Pieces of debris hang at the regional government headquarters of Mykolaiv after Russian attack.
Pieces of debris hang at the regional government headquarters of Mykolaiv after Russian attack. Photograph: Francisco Seco/AP

Summary

This blog will be closing soon but please join us in a few hours time when we will relaunch our live coverage. In the meantime, here’s a roundup of the latest developments:

  • Ukraine has said it will not agree to any ceasefire deal that would involve handing over territory to Russia, as Moscow intensified its attack in the eastern Donbas region. “The war must end with the complete restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty,” said Ukraine’s presidential chief of staff, Andriy Yermak.
  • The comments came as Russia said it was willing to resume peace negotiations, Russia’s lead negotiator said Sunday, but the initiative to continue them is with Kyiv. Kremlin aide Vladimir Medinsky claimed in an interview with Belarusian TV that “Russia has never refused talks”.
  • Polish president Andrzej Duda became the first foreign leader to address the Ukrainian parliament in person since the invasion began, backing Ukraine’s stance on territorial concessions and warning the international community that ceding any territory to Russia would be a “huge blow” to the entire West.
  • Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said that 50 to 100 Ukrainians were dying every day on the war’s eastern front in what appeared to be a reference to military casualties. The heaviest fighting is focused around the twin cities of Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk in Luhansk, one of the two regions that make up the Donbas. Serhiy Gaidai, the governor of Luhansk, said in a local television interview that Russia was using “scorched-earth” tactics in the region.
  • Ukraine is set to top the agenda at the four-day World Economic Forum, which kicks off on Monday with a video address by Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy. This year Russia’s “house” at the event was transformed into a “Russian War Crimes House”, portraying images of misery and devastation.
  • UK prime minister Boris Johnson spoke with Zelenskiy about Russia’s blockade of Odesa, Ukraine’s largest shipping port. The blockade of Ukraine’s ports has been a growing concern for world leaders as many continue to warn about global food security, in particular for developing countries.
  • The Moscow-installed mayor of Enerhodar, a southern city of Ukraine and the location of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, has been wounded in an explosion. Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported that Andrey Shevchik was in intensive care.
  • A bid by Ukraine to join the European Union would not be finalised for “15 or 20 years,” France’s Europe minister said. “We have to be honest. If you say Ukraine is going to join the EU in six months, or a year or two, you’re lying. It’s probably in 15 or 20 years, it takes a long time,” Clément Beaune said.
  • Zelenskiy has extended Ukraine’s martial law for three months through to 23 August. Ukraine’s parliament also banned the symbols “Z” and “V”, used by Russia’s military to promote its war in Ukraine but agreed to Zelenskiy’s call to allow their use for educational or historic purposes.
  • Olena Zelenska has given a rare interview with Volodymyr Zelenskiy, only their second public appearance together since Russia launched its invasion. She recounts the “anxiety and stupor” she felt on 24 February, and says that even though she has barely seen her husband since “no one, not even the war, could take him away” from her.
  • Technicians linked to the Syrian military’s infamous barrel bombs that have wreaked devastation across much of the country have been deployed to Russia to help potentially prepare for a similar campaign in the Ukraine war, European officials believe. Intelligence officers say more than 50 specialists have been in Russia for several weeks working alongside officials from Vladimir Putin’s military.
  • YouTube has taken down more than 70,000 videos and 9,000 channels related to the war in Ukraine for violating content guidelines, including removal of videos that referred to the invasion as a “liberation mission”.

Ukraine’s parliament on Sunday banned the symbols “Z” and “V”, used by Russia’s military to promote its war in Ukraine but agreed to president Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s call to allow their use for educational or historic purposes, Reuters reports.

Yaroslav Zheleznyak, an opposition member, announced the decision on the Telegram messaging app, saying 313 deputies had voted in favour in the 423-member Verkhovna Rada assembly.

The letter ‘Z’ is seen on a destroyed Russian tank on March 31, 2022 in Malaya Rohan, Ukraine.
The letter ‘Z’ is seen on a destroyed Russian tank on March 31, 2022 in Malaya Rohan, Ukraine. Photograph: Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Zelenskiy had vetoed an earlier version of the bill and called for the two symbols to be allowed in displays in museums, libraries, scientific works, re-enactments, textbooks and similar instances.

Neither of the two letters exists in the Russian alphabet. They have been widely used, particularly on Russian military vehicles and equipment, to promote the aims of the conflict.

The new bill bans the creation of non-governmental organisations using Russian war symbols or undermining Ukraine’s sovereignty.

The Ukrainian parliament on Sunday also extended for another 90 days, or until 23 August, the period of martial law in the country.

Updated

Hello, this is Helen Livingstone taking over the blog from my colleague Vivian Ho.

Ukrainian-Polish relations are “finally on a completely clean, sincere basis, without any quarrels and old conflict heritage,” Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said in his latest nightly address after welcoming Polish president Andrzej Duda to Kyiv.

In recognition of a law in Poland that gives Ukrainians the same opportunities as Poles, Zelenskiy said Ukraine was preparing a similar bill in Ukraine for Poles.

Let it be so that the citizens of Poland will never have to use such a law. But let us show our gratitude and our respect.

And I also want it to be part of our new neighborhood policy. We must resolve disputes and remove the pressure of the past from our current relations with all Ukraine’s neighbors who respect us and are not occupiers of our state.

He also said a new decision to introduce joint customs controls with Poland was “revolutionising” the countries’ border and was a step towards Ukraine’s entry into the European Union.

This will significantly speed up border procedures. It will remove most of the corruption risks. But it is also the beginning of our integration into the common customs space of the European Union. That is a truly historical process.

He also said he had spoken to UK prime minister Boris Johnson to discuss ways of increasing exports, especially agricultural products, and increasing fuel imports to Ukraine.

Today so far

It is 1:30am in Ukraine.

  • President Volodymyr Zelenskiy warned that with the fighting in the eastern region, Ukraine may lose up to 100 soldiers a day.
  • A Russian attack on Malyn, a city in the Zhytomyr oblast, has killed at least one person, according to the governor of the oblast.
  • After Manchester City won the Premier League title, Ukrainian player Oleksandr Zinchenko wrapped the Ukrainian flag around the trophy in an emotional scene.
  • Russia is willing to resume peace negotiations, Russia’s lead negotiator said Sunday, but the initiative to continue them is with Kyiv.
  • Boris Johnson, prime minister of the UK, spoke with Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Sunday evening about Russia’s blockade of Odesa, Ukraine’s largest shipping port.
  • At this year’s World Economic Forum, Ukrainian artists have dressed up the space that would have been the Russia house showcasing Russian business leaders and investors as on the main street of Davos in Switzerland as instead a Russian War Crimes House.

In the settlement of Staryi Krym outside Mariupol, the dirt lays fresh on far too many newly made graves.

People stand amid newly-made graves at a cemetery in the course of Ukraine-Russia conflict in the settlement of Staryi Krym outside Mariupol, Ukraine May 22, 2022.
People stand among newly made graves at a cemetery in the settlement of Staryi Krym outside Mariupol, Ukraine on 22 May. Photograph: Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters
Natalia, 57, stands by the grave of her son at a cemetery in the course of Ukraine-Russia conflict in the settlement of Staryi Krym outside Mariupol, Ukraine May 22, 2022.
Natalia, 57, stands by the grave of her son at a cemetery in the settlement of Staryi Krym outside Mariupol, Ukraine on 22 May. Photograph: Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters
A view shows newly-made graves at a cemetery in the course of Ukraine-Russia conflict in the settlement of Staryi Krym outside Mariupol, Ukraine May 22, 2022.
A view shows fresh graves at a cemetery in the settlement of Staryi Krym outside Mariupol, Ukraine on May. Photograph: Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters
A bird sits on a cross amid newly-made graves at a cemetery in the course of Ukraine-Russia conflict in the settlement of Staryi Krym outside Mariupol, Ukraine May 22, 2022.
A bird sits on a cross at a cemetery in the settlement of Staryi Krym outside Mariupol, Ukraine on 22 May. Photograph: Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters

Updated

Typically at the World Economic Forum, Russia would have its own house to showcase its business leaders and investors.

This year, Reuters is reporting that Ukrainian artists have dressed up the space on the main street of Davos in Switzerland as a Russian War Crimes House.

“This is a place where all influencers and all decision-makers of the world come together,” the artistic director of Kyiv’s PinchukArtCentre, Bjorn Geldhof, told Reuters TV.

“What is happening in Ukraine will define tomorrow.”

Updated

Boris Johnson, prime minister of the UK, spoke with Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Sunday evening about Russia’s blockade of Odesa, Ukraine’s largest shipping port, Reuters is reporting.

The blockade of Ukraine’s ports has been a growing concern for world leaders as many continue to warn about global food security, in particular for developing countries. Before the invasion in February, Ukraine was known as the bread basket of Europe, exporting 4.5m tonnes of agricultural produce a month through its ports – 12% of global wheat supply, 15% of corn and half of sunflower oil.

Last week, Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, accused Russia of “using food as a weapon” with its blockade of ports.

Updated

In Kharkiv, some residents displaced by Russian shelling had been living underground for months in a metro station. Today, they had to leave – authorities plan to restart the subway system this week and are providing temporary housing for those made homeless in student dormitories.

A woman displaced by Russian shelling departs a metro station where people had been living underground for months on May 22, 2022 in Kharkiv, Ukraine. Authorities plan to restart the Kharkiv subway system on May 24 and are providing temporary shelter in student dormitories for those made homeless by Russian attacks. Although Russian shelling has largely ceased in Kharkiv, it continues in the northern suburbs, and many houses and large apartment buildings in the city are destroyed, leaving thousands homeless.
A woman displaced by Russian shelling leaves a metro station where people had been living underground for months, on 22 May in Kharkiv, Ukraine. Photograph: John Moore/Getty
People displaced by Russian shelling depart a metro station where many had been living underground for months on May 22, 2022 in Kharkiv, Ukraine. Authorities plan to restart the Kharkiv subway system on May 24 and are providing temporary shelter in student dormitories for those made homeless by Russian attacks. Although Russian shelling has largely ceased in Kharkiv, it continues in the northern suburbs, and many houses and large apartment buildings in the city are destroyed, leaving thousands homeless.
Authorities plan to restart the Kharkiv subway system on 24 May and are providing temporary shelter in student dormitories for those made homeless by Russian attacks. Photograph: John Moore/Getty
People displaced by Russian shelling depart a metro station where they had been living underground for months on May 22, 2022 in Kharkiv, Ukraine. Authorities plan to restart the Kharkiv subway system on May 24 and are providing temporary shelter in student dormitories for those made homeless by Russian attacks. Although Russian shelling has largely ceased in Kharkiv, it continues in the northern suburbs, and many houses and large apartment buildings in the city are destroyed, leaving thousands homeless.
Although Russian shelling has largely ceased in Kharkiv, it continues in the northern suburbs, and many houses and large apartment buildings in the city are destroyed. Photograph: John Moore/Getty Images
People displaced by Russian shelling depart a metro station where many had been living underground for months on May 22, 2022 in Kharkiv, Ukraine. Authorities plan to restart the Kharkiv subway system on May 24 and are providing temporary shelter in student dormitories for those made homeless by Russian attacks. Although Russian shelling has largely ceased in Kharkiv, it continues in the northern suburbs, and many houses and large apartment buildings in the city are destroyed, leaving thousands homeless.
Thousands have been made homeless in the city. Photograph: John Moore/Getty

Updated

Some scenes from around Ukraine today:

Relatives and friends attend a funeral ceremony of Ukrainian serviceman who was killed in action, in the small city of Rozdilna of Odesa region, Ukraine, 22 May 2022.
Relatives and friends attend a funeral ceremony of a Ukrainian serviceman who was killed in action, in the small city of Rozdilna, Odesa region. Photograph: Stepan Franko/EPA
Ukrainian Territorial Defense soldiers inspect a damaged home while on patrol near the frontline on May 22, 2022 near Ruski Tyshky, Ukraine. Russian forces had occupied Ruski Tyshky for two months before being pushed back by Ukrainian troops three weeks ago. Although Russian forces have retreated from many areas around Kharkiv, some units have dug in north of the city and continue to trade shellfire with the Ukrainians.
Ukrainian Territorial Defense soldiers inspect a damaged home while on patrol near the frontline near Ruski Tyshky. Photograph: John Moore/Getty
Ukrainian Territorial Defense soldiers rest at their frontline encampment on May 22, 2022 near Ruski Tyshky, Ukraine. Russian forces had occupied Ruski Tyshky for two months before being pushed back by Ukrainian troops three weeks ago. Although Russian forces have retreated from many areas around Kharkiv, some units have dug in north of the city and continue to trade shellfire with the Ukrainians.
Ukrainian Territorial Defense soldiers rest at their frontline encampment near Ruski Tyshky, Ukraine. Photograph: John Moore/Getty
People attend a church service at All Saints’ Church in Bakhmut, Ukraine on May 22, 2022.
People attend a church service at All Saints’ Church in Bakhmut. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty
A sick man is evacuated in Raihorodok, Ukrain on May 22 2022.
A sick man is evacuated in Raihorodok. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty

Updated

Russia ready to resume peace talks

Russia is willing to resume peace negotiations, Russia’s lead negotiator said Sunday, but the initiative to continue them is with Kyiv.

The Associated Press is reporting that Kremlin aide Vladimir Medinsky said in an interview with Belarusian TV that “Russia has never refused talks”.

“For our part, we are ready to continue the dialogue,” Medinsky said.

“Freezing talks was entirely Ukraine’s initiative,” Medinsky said, adding that the “ball is completely in their court”.

Talks between Russian and Ukrainian delegations have been held regularly both in person and via video link since the Russian invasion began on 24 February. In March, the Ukrainian and Russian foreign ministers met for inconclusive talks in Turkey, followed by a meeting of the delegations in Istanbul, which also failed to bring about concrete results.

On Tuesday, Kyiv’s lead negotiator Mykhaylo Podolyak said that talks with Moscow were “on hold”.

Updated

After Manchester City won the Premier League title, Ukrainian player Oleksandr Zinchenko wrapped the Ukrainian flag around the trophy and got emotional:

A Russian attack on Malyn, a city in the Zhytomyr oblast, has killed at least one person, according to the governor of the oblast.

Tymofiy Seidov, 8, was the last child left behind in Kutuzivka, a ruined village in north-eastern Ukraine. For 87 days, he lived with 23 others in the almost pitch black 40-by-five-meter basement below the ruins of two-story kindergarten and medical center.

When a benefactor read about his family’s plight in the Guardian this week, he got the chance to leave the bomb shelter for the first time in three months and escape to safety. Instead of relief to finally to see the sky once again, however, Tymofiy responded with fear.

“He kept telling me, ‘Mum, let’s go back inside, Mum, let’s hide, Mum, let’s not be out in the open,’” said his mother, Rita Sotnikova.

Read more here:

The Moscow-installed mayor of Enerhodar, a southern city of Ukraine and the location of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, was wounded in an explosion Sunday, AFP is reporting.

Andrey Shevchik was appointed mayor of Enerhodar after Russian troops took control of the city and the nearby Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant.

“We have accurate confirmation that during the explosion the self-proclaimed head of the ‘people’s administration’ Shevchik and his bodyguards were injured,” Dmytro Orlov, the elected mayor of Enerhodar, said on Telegram.

Orlov said that they were in hospital “with injuries of varying severity”, but nobody else was injured in the blast. Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported that Shevchik was in intensive care.

Zelenskiy: Ukraine may lose up to 100 soldiers a day fighting in the east

Ukraine may lose up to 100 soldiers a day fighting in the eastern region, president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Sunday.

In a bit of lighter news, the National Opera of Ukraine raised its curtain in Kyiv for the first time since Russian forces invaded in February.

National Opera House of Ukraine resumes after 3- month breakKYIV, UKRAINE - MAY 22: National Opera House of Ukraine open its curtain after a three-month break due to Russian attacks on Ukraine as the war between Russia and Ukraine continues on May 22, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine.
The National Opera House of Ukraine reopens after 3- month break. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty
National Opera House of Ukraine resumes after 3- month breakKYIV, UKRAINE - MAY 22: National Opera House of Ukraine open its curtain after a three-month break due to Russian attacks on Ukraine as the war between Russia and Ukraine continues on May 22, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine.
The opera house had closed due to Russian attacks. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty
National Opera House of Ukraine resumes after 3- month breakKYIV, UKRAINE - MAY 22: National Opera House of Ukraine open its curtain after a three-month break due to Russian attacks on Ukraine as the war between Russia and Ukraine continues on May 22, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine.
A performance at the reopened National Opera House of Ukraine. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty
National Opera House of Ukraine resumes after 3- month breakKYIV, UKRAINE - MAY 22: National Opera House of Ukraine open its curtain after a three-month break due to Russian attacks on Ukraine as the war between Russia and Ukraine continues on May 22, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine.
A musician practises at the National Opera House. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Opera theater reopeningThe actress Olha Fomichova during the hair and makeup. She personifies Rosina in the Barber of Seville.
Actor Olha Fomichova during hair and makeup. She is playing Rosina in the Barber of Seville. Photograph: Alessio Mamo/The Observer

Updated

An update on an earlier story that a Russian who was appointed head of an occupied Ukrainian town was injured in an explosion on Sunday (see 15:17)

Andrei Shevchik, named mayor of Enerhodar by Russian after its invasion and subsequent occupation, was in intensive care after the blast according to Russia’s RIA news agency.

Dmytro Orlov, the mayor of the town recognised by Ukraine said on Sunday night that Shevchik had been taken to the Russian-occupied city of Melitopol to recover, and that he would be temporarily replaced as leader of the town.

My colleague Lorenzo Tondo has been speaking to the lawyer who is representing the Russian soldier in court after being charged with committing war crimes.

Defending a Russian soldier accused of a war crime in Ukraine is no easy task, which is why some people have described Viktor Ovsyannikov as “the devil’s advocate”.

But the 43-year-old Ukrainian is unrepentant. “First of all, I am defending a person, not a crime,” Ovsyannikov said on Sunday on the eve of the verdict in the trial of 21-year-old tank commander Vadim Shysimarin, who has already pleaded guilty to killing an an unarmed civilian in late February. “I’m trying to prove that my defendant’s actions were misqualified. It’s up to judges to decide. I just do my job.”

“My family, friends and colleagues support me,” Ovsyannikov added. “They know someone has to do it. But there are other people who ‘invited’ me to go to Moscow or Donbas [the area in eastern Ukraine claimed by Russia-backed separatists.”

Updated

Two national guard members visit the grave of a late soldier in Kharkiv cemetery, eastern Ukraine, on Sunday.
Two national guard members visit the grave of a soldier in Kharkiv cemetery, eastern Ukraine, on Sunday. Photograph: Bernat Armangué/AP

A sea of flags mark graves of dead soldiers at a Kharkiv cemetery.

The graveyard in Bezliudivka, on the outskirts of Ukraine’s second city has had a military section for several years. However, it has been burying soldiers since the invasion began in February. More were laid to rest on Saturday, according to Agence France Presse.

Flags have been planted, one for each grave.

Two coffins placed on trestles belonged to soldiers who were killed in Vilkhivka, to the east of Kharkiv. Their dates of death were given as 11 May, but the likelihood is that this was when their bodies were found.

“They were found with five other bodies that we couldn’t identify,” said one soldier, who spoke on condition he was not identified.

“We suspect they were executed,” he added. “They were killed by bullets to the back of the head.”

Updated

The conflict in Ukraine is making its mark at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Normally Russia would have a presence, but this year a space on the main street in the town in Switzerland has been turned into a Russian War Crimes House by Ukrainian artists, Reuters reports.

It depicts images of misery and devastation caused by the Russian invasion, which began in February. Russia denies allegations of war crimes.

The conflict is the top of the agenda for the four-day meeting of global business leaders, which will begin on Monday with a video address by Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Russian institutions are absent, as well as its politicians, executives and academics. Parties once hosted by state banks, private companies and its sovereign wealth fund are nowhere to be seen.

A bid by Ukraine to join the EU won't be finalised for '15 to 20 years', claims French minister

A bid by Ukraine to join the European Union would not be finalised for “15 or 20 years,” France’s Europe minister said on Sunday.

Clément Beaune told Radio J:

We have to be honest. If you say Ukraine is going to join the EU in six months, or a year or two, you’re lying. It’s probably in 15 or 20 years, it takes a long time.

Beaune reiterated an offer by French president Emmanuel Macron to create a looser “European political community” that could help integrate Ukraine with the bloc sooner, as reported by AFP.

However, that offer has received a cold welcome from Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who on Saturday denounced “such compromises” and insisted on an immediate start of the process towards full EU membership.

French European affairs minister Clement Beaune.
French European affairs minister Clément Beaune. Photograph: Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters

Updated

A Russian-appointed mayor of a Ukrainian occupied town was injured in an explosion on Sunday.

Andrei Shevchik was appointed mayor of Enerhodar following the Russian army’s occupation of the town, Reuters reported.

Shevchuk is in intensive care following the attack, according to a report from Russia’s RIA news agency, citing a source in the emergency services.

Dmytro Orlov, who Ukraine recognises as mayor of the town said in a post on the Telegram messaging app:

We have accurate confirmation that during the explosion the self-proclaimed head of the ‘people’s administration’ Shevchik and his bodyguards were injured.

Enerhodar has a population of more than 50,000 and many of the residents work at the two power plants located next to the town, one of which is the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the largest nuclear power station in Europe.

Updated

YouTube has taken down more than 70,000 videos and 9,000 channels related to the war in Ukraine for violating content guidelines, including removal of videos that referred to the invasion as a “liberation mission”.

The platform is hugely popular in Russia, where, unlike some of its US peers, it has not been shut down despite hosting content from opposition figures such as Alexei Navalny. YouTube has also been able to operate in Russia despite cracking down on pro-Kremlin content that has broken guidelines including its major violent events policy, which prohibits denying or trivialising the invasion.

Since the conflict began in February, YouTube has taken down channels including that of the pro-Kremlin journalist Vladimir Solovyov. Channels associated with Russia’s ministries of defence and foreign affairs have also been temporarily suspended from uploading videos in recent months for describing the war as a “liberation mission”.

Read more:

Updated

Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy has extended the country’s martial law for three months through to 22 August 22.

Zelenskiy first signed the decree along with a general military mobilisation call on 24 February when Russian forces invaded.

Ukraine’s parliament on Sunday voted by an absolute majority for the third extension of the decree as Russia pursues its offensive targeting the eastern Donbas region, reports AFP.

Poland’s president Duda and Ukrainian president Zelenskiy walk at a street in Kyiv on Sunday.
Poland’s president Duda and Ukrainian president Zelenskiy in Kyiv on Sunday. Photograph: Jakub Szymczuk/Polish presidency/Reuters

Updated

Olena Zelenska has given a rare interview with Volodymyr Zelenskiy, only their second public appearance together since Russia launched its invasion.

She recounts the “anxiety and stupor” she felt on 24 February, and says that even though she has barely seen her husband since “no one, not even the war, could take him away” from her.

Updated

My colleague Isobel Koshiw is reporting from Zhytomyr region, which shares a border with Belarus. She reports:

Ukrainian forces have built a new line of defences along the country’s previously unfortified northern border with Belarus amid signs of another attack.

Russian forces invaded Ukraine through the Belarusian border in February when they tried to capture the capital, Kyiv.

On 10 May, Belarus’s army chief, Viktor Gulevich, announced the deployment of Belarusian special forces and equipment in response to what he described as a “southern threat” from Ukraine and Nato. Belarus has been conducting military drills on its border with Ukraine since early May.

The Belarusian president, Aleksandr Lukashenko, has been Russia’s closest ally in its war in Ukraine. On Tuesday, Lukashenko urged the Russian-led military alliance, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, which met in Moscow, to remain united on Ukraine and accused the west of prolonging the conflict.

Read more:

Updated

The Polish president Andrzej Duda has been filmed in Kyiv alongside Zelenskiy.

Duda delivered a speech to Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada on Sunday. He said: “I will not rest until Ukraine becomes a member of the European Union.”

Polish President Andrzej Duda embraces Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy during a session of Ukrainian parliament, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues
Polish president Andrzej Duda embraces Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy during a session of Ukrainian parliament, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues Photograph: Reuters

Updated

Technicians linked to the Syrian military’s infamous barrel bombs that have wreaked devastation across much of the country have been deployed to Russia to help potentially prepare for a similar campaign in the Ukraine war, European officials believe.

Intelligence officers say more than 50 specialists, all with vast experience in making and delivering the crude explosive, have been in Russia for several weeks working alongside officials from Vladimir Putin’s military.

Their arrival is understood to be one factor behind US and European warnings that the Russian military may have been preparing for the use of chemical weapons in the conflict, which has entered its fourth month with little sign of slowing.

Read more here:

Updated

Today so far

Here is everything you might have missed:

  • Russian airstrikes hit Ukrainian forces in the Mykolaiv and Donbas regions, targeting command centres, troops, and ammunition depots, the Russian defence ministry said on Sunday. Maj Gen Igor Konashenkov, spokesperson for the defence ministry, said air-launched missiles hit three command points and four ammunition depots in the Donbas, Reuters reported. In Ukraine’s southern region of Mykolaiv, Russian rockets struck a mobile anti-drone system near the settlement of Hannivka, about 100km north-east of Mykolaiv city, Konashenkov said.
  • Ukraine’s Severodonetsk is one of Russia’s ‘immediate tactical priorities’, the UK’s Ministry of Defence said on Sunday. The city of Severodonetsk in Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk region is one of Russia’s “immediate tactical priorities” as its forces deploy terminator tanks to the area, the MoD has said. The latest intelligence report, released at 7am BST, said: “Russia’s only operational company of BMP-T Terminator tank support vehicles has likely been deployed to the Severodonetsk axis of the Donbas offensive. Their presence suggests that the Central Grouping of Forces (CGF) is involved in this attack, which is the only formation fielding this vehicle. CGF previously suffered heavy losses while failing to break through to eastern Kyiv in the first phase of the invasion.Russia developed Terminator after identifying the need to provide dedicated protection to main battle tanks it used during the Afghan and Chechen wars.”
  • Volodymyr Zelenskiy has accused Russia of blocking export of 22m tonnes of food. The Ukrainian president also said that an energy crisis would swiftly follow a food crisis if Ukraine was not given help to unlock its ports.
  • The city of Severodonetsk has been attacked from ‘four separate directions’, says region’s governor. Serhiy Haidai, the governor of Luhansk, said Russian forces had not succeeded in breaking into the city, despite targeting it from four different directions.
  • Only Ukraine has the right to decide its future, the Polish president told lawmakers in Kyiv on Sunday. Andrzej Duda said:”Worrying voices have appeared, saying that Ukraine should give in to Putin’s demands. Only Ukraine has the right to decide about its future … nothing about you without you. Duda became the first foreign leader to give a speech in person to the Ukrainian parliament since Russia’s invasion.
  • Russia’s state gas company, Gazprom, halted gas exports to Finland, which refused Moscow’s demands to pay in roubles for Russian gas after western countries imposed sanctions over the invasion. Gasum, Finland’s state-owned energy company, said it would use other sources, such as the Balticconnector pipeline, which links Finland to fellow EU member Estonia.
  • Ukraine has suggested it is willing to resume talks with Russia. Speaking on Saturday, Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said that “discussions between Ukraine and Russia will undoubtedly take place … under what format I don’t know … but the war will be bloody, there will be fighting and [it] will only definitively end through diplomacy.” He added: “We want everything back. And the Russian Federation doesn’t want to return anything. That’s why the ending will be at the negotiating table.”
  • However, Kyiv has ruled out a ceasefire or concessions to Moscow. Presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said Kyiv would not accept any deal with Russia that involved ceding territory. “Any concession to Russia is not a path to peace, but a war postponed for several years. Ukraine trades neither its sovereignty, nor territories and Ukrainians living on them,” he said in a video posted to Twitter on Saturday. Making concessions would backfire on Ukraine because Russia would hit back harder after any break in fighting, he added. “The war will not stop [after concessions]. It will just be put on pause for some time. They’ll start a new offensive, even more bloody and large-scale.”
  • Russia claims to have taken full control of the besieged city of Mariupol. The last group of Ukrainian soldiers holed up in the smashed Azovstal steelworks have surrendered, Russia’s defence ministry said late on Friday, marking an end to the three-month siege of the defenders’ last stronghold in Mariupol. “Underground structures of Azovstal where militants were hiding are now under full control of Russian armed forces,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that in total 2,439 Ukrainian fighters have surrendered.
  • Moscow is considering giving up Ukraine fighters captured in Mariupol for Viktor Medvedchuk, a detained ally of Russian president Vladimir Putin. “We are going to study the possibility,” said Leonid Slutsky, a senior member of Russia’s negotiating team on Ukraine, speaking from the separatist city of Donetsk in south-eastern Ukraine, Russian state media agency RIA Novosti reported.
  • Zelenskiy described the situation in Donbas as “extremely difficult” in his latest national address, adding that the Russian army is trying to attack Slovyansk and Severodonetsk, a frontline city now at risk of encirclement where 12 people were killed and another 40 wounded by Russian shelling, regional governor Sergiy Gaiday said.

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Germany’s reliance on Russian gas is providing a backdrop for chancellor Olaf Scholz’s first trip to Africa.

He is embarking on a three-day tour of Senegal, Niger and South Africa kicking off on Sunday. The first stop on Scholz’s trip is Senegal, which has billions of cubic metres of gas reserves and is expected to become a major gas producer in the region.

Germany is seeking to reduce its heavy reliance on Russia for gas following the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine. It could help explore a gas field in Senegal, a government official said on Friday.

The source told Reuters that Scholz also wanted to discuss possible cooperation on the development of renewable energy.

In Senegal, he will visit a solar power plant after meeting and holding a joint news conference with the country’s President Macky Sall.

Germany has invited both Senegal, which holds the rotating chairmanship of the African Union, and South Africa to attend the G7 summit it is hosting in June as guest countries.

German chancellor Olaf Scholz gestures during a news conference with Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani on May 20, 2022
German chancellor Olaf Scholz at a news conference with Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani on Friday. Photograph: Annegret Hilse/Reuters

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Puppies evacuated from war-torn Kharkiv as fighting increases – video

Ukraine must decide its own future, says Poland's president

Only Ukraine has the right to decide its future, the Polish president told lawmakers in Kyiv on Sunday.

Andrzej Duda said:

Worrying voices have appeared, saying that Ukraine should give in to Putin’s demands. Only Ukraine has the right to decide about its future … nothing about you without you.

Duda became the first foreign leader to give a speech in person to the Ukrainian parliament since Russia’s invasion.

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Ukrainian man drives 3,700km to be reunited with parents and fiancee – who live just 10km away

It is a 10-minute drive from Serhi Belyaev’s house in the village of Tsyrkuny to his fiancee’s home in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second city. A quick spin west on Soborna Street, over the E40 motorway on to the Lesia Serduika highway, and you are there. That was, until the war came.

It took just hours for Russian forces to sweep into Belyaev’s village on 24 February, as they advanced on Kharkiv, the closest major Ukrainian city to the Russian border.

Lives across Ukraine were changed that morning. For Belyaev, the frontline of the largest conflict in Europe since the second world war now lay between him and both his girlfriend, Nataliy Drozd, 28, and his parents.

No longer the familiar road into town, Lesia Serduika was now an impassable no man’s land. Belyaev was cut off, worried for his sick mother, Galina, 66, and determined to be with his terrified girlfriend.

Then Belyaev, 32, a professional poker player, had an idea. A gamble. He mused on it, initially rejected it and then settled on it. He would replace the 10km drive with a 3,700km odyssey.

Read the rest of this incredible story by Daniel Boffey below:

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The latest updated map from the Ministry of Defence on the situation in Ukraine:

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Russian airstrikes target Mykolaiv and Donbas regions

Russia attacked Ukrainian forces with airstrikes and artillery in the east and the south, targeting command centres, troops, and ammunition depots, the Russian defence ministry said on Sunday.

Maj Gen Igor Konashenkov, spokesperson for the defence ministry, said air-launched missiles hit three command points and four ammunition depots in the Donbas, Reuters reported.

In Ukraine’s southern region of Mykolaiv, Russian rockets struck a mobile anti-drone system near the settlement of Hannivka, about 100km north-east of Mykolaiv city, Konashenkov said.

He added:

Rockets and artillery hit 583 areas where troops and Ukrainian military equipment amassed, 41 control points, 76 artillery and mortar units in firing positions, including three Grad batteries, as well as a Bukovel Ukrainian electronic warfare station near the settlement of Hannivka, Mykolaiv region.

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Volodymyr Zelenskiy accuses Russia of blocking export of 22m tonnes of food

The Ukrainian president also said that an energy crisis would swiftly follow a food crisis if Ukraine was not given help to unlock its ports.

After a meeting with Portuguese prime minister António Costa on Saturday, he told the media:

The world community must help Ukraine unblock seaports, otherwise the energy crisis will be followed by a food crisis and many more countries will face it.

Russia has blocked almost all ports and all, so to speak, maritime opportunities to export food – our grain, barley, sunflower and more. A lot of things.

There will be a crisis in the world. The second crisis after the energy one, which was provoked by Russia. Now it will create a food crisis if we do not unblock the routes for Ukraine, do not help the countries of Africa, Europe, Asia, which need these food products.

He added that one way to unblock the ports would be via a military solution that would involve procuring further weapons from allies.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaking during a joint press conference with Portuguese prime minister Antonio Costa (not pictured).
Volodymyr Zelensky speaking during a joint press conference with Portuguese prime minister Antonio Costa (not pictured). Photograph: Presidential Press Service Handout/EPA

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Why do Finland and Sweden want to join Nato?

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Severodonetsk has been attacked from ‘four separate directions’, says region’s governor.

Serhiy Haidai, the governor of Luhansk, said Russian forces had not succeeded in breaking into the city, despite targeting it from four different directions.

On the Telegram messaging app, he said:

The Russians tried to enter Sievierodonetsk from 4 directions at once, but they were repelled and retreated to their earlier positions.

However, they continued to shell residential neighbourhoods with mortars and artillery. Almost every Ukrainian-controlled town and village sustained damage.

On Friday, Haidai said that a school that was sheltering more than 200 people, many of them children, was hit, and more than 60 houses were destroyed across the region.

Neither of these accounts could be independently verified.

The city of Severodonetsk was earlier on Saturday morning described as one of Russia’s “immediate tactical priorities”, the UK Ministry of Defence said.

Ukrainian service members rest on a street, in Sievierodonetsk, Luhansk region
Ukrainian service members rest on a street, in Sievierodonetsk, Luhansk region. Photograph: Serhii Nuzhnenko/Reuters

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Gazprom halts gas exports to Finland

Russia’s state gas company, Gazprom, said it has halted gas exports to Finland. The country refused Moscow’s demands to pay in roubles for Russian gas after western countries imposed sanctions over the invasion of Ukraine.

Finnish state-owned gas wholesaler Gasum, the Finnish government and individual gas-consuming companies in the country have said they were prepared for a shutdown of Russian flows, Reuters reported.

Most European supply contracts are denominated in euros or dollars.

Last month, Moscow cut off gas to Bulgaria and Poland after they refused to comply with the new terms.

The logo of Gazprom company is seen on the facade of a business centre in Saint Petersburg, Russia
The logo of Gazprom company is seen on the facade of a business centre in St Petersburg, Russia. Photograph: Reuters Photographer/Reuters

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Mariupol facing health and sanitation ‘catastrophe’, says mayor

The Ukrainian mayor of Mariupol Vadim Boychenko said on Saturday that mass burials in shallow pits across the city and the breakdown of sewage systems could prompt a health crisis.

He added that summer rains threaten to contaminate water sources as he pressed Russian forces to allow residents to safely leave the city.

In addition to the humanitarian catastrophe created by the (Russian) occupiers and collaborators, the city is on the verge of an outbreak of infectious diseases, he said on the messaging app Telegram.

A woman walks past a destroyed building amid Russian attacks in Mariupol, Ukraine
A woman walks past a destroyed building in Mariupol, Ukraine. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

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International sanctions have ‘practically broken all’ logistics corridors for trade, Russian transport minister says.

Transport minister Vitaly Savelyev said on Saturday that the raft of sanctions imposed by western countries on Russia is causing serious logistical problems in the country.

According to state news agency Tass, Savalyev said:

The sanctions that have been imposed on the Russian Federation today have practically broken all logistics [corridors] in our country. And we are forced to look for new logistics corridors together.

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Good morning and welcome to the Guardian’s live coverage of the war in Ukraine.

I’m Joe Middleton and now taking over from Samantha Lock to bring you the latest developments in the Ukraine-Russia conflict.

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Ukraine's Severodonetsk is one of Russia’s 'immediate tactical priorities', UK MoD says

The city of Severodonetsk in Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk region is one of Russia’s “immediate tactical priorities” as its forces deploy terminator tanks to the area, the UK Ministry of Defence has said.

The latest intelligence report, released at 7am BST, reads:

Russia’s only operational company of BMP-T Terminator tank support vehicles has likely been deployed to the Severodonetsk axis of the Donbas offensive.

Their presence suggests that the Central Grouping of Forces (CGF) is involved in this attack, which is the only formation fielding this vehicle. CGF previously suffered heavy losses while failing to break through to eastern Kyiv in the first phase of the invasion.

Russia developed Terminator after identifying the need to provide dedicated protection to main battle tanks it used during the Afghan and Chechen wars.

The Severodonetsk area remains one of Russia’s immediate tactical priorities. However, with a maximum of 10 Terminators deployed they are unlikely to have a significant impact on the campaign.”

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Russia on Saturday released a list of 963 Americans it said were banned from entering the country, including US president Joe Biden.

The lifetime bans imposed on the Americans, including secretary of state Antony Blinken, US senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, defence secretary Lloyd Austin and CIA head William Burns, are largely symbolic.

They came on the same day Biden signed a support package providing nearly $40bn (£32bn) in aid for Ukraine.

You can peruse the full list here.

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Russia has intensified its offensive in the Donbas while its forces advance on the Luhansk front.

Ukraine’s president Zelenskiy described the situation in Donbas as “extremely difficult” in his latest national address.

The regional governor of Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk region, Sergiy Gaiday, said Russia is trying to destroy the city of Severodonetsk, with fighting taking place on the outskirts of the city.

The frontline city is now at risk of encirclement after 12 people were killed and another 40 wounded by Russian shelling, Gaiday added.

“Shelling continues from morning to the evening and also throughout the night,” he said in a video post on the Telegram messaging app.

Severodonetsk and Lysychansk, the city on the other side of the Siverskiy Donets River, form the eastern part of a Ukrainian-held pocket that Russia has been trying to overrun since mid-April after failing to capture Kyiv.

In the neighbouring Donetsk region, governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said on Telegram on Saturday that seven civilians had been killed and 10 wounded.

Further north in Kharkiv, just 50km from the border with Russia, new networks of trenches and checkpoints have cropped up as the city prepares to defend against a fresh assault, according to a Reuters report.

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Polish president to address Ukraine parliament in Kyiv

Polish president Andrzej Duda is set to deliver a speech to Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada on Sunday, a gesture that will make him the first head of a foreign state to do so since the start of Russia’s invasion.

Duda arrived in Kyiv on Saturday and “will deliver the address as the first head of a foreign state since the outbreak of the war”, his office said.

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Zelenskiy says only diplomacy can end war

Ukraine has suggested it is willing to resume talks with Russia, while ruling out a ceasefire or concessions to Moscow.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said during an interview with the United News telethon on Saturday that “discussions between Ukraine and Russia will undoubtedly take place”.

I really thought that the war could end with dialogue. But, unfortunately, I thought that this was a dialogue with the appropriate timing, that it would be possible to find answers to many questions and many decisions with the Russian side. I really thought so. And now it is a hybrid. That is why the war is so difficult.

And the victory will be very difficult. It will be bloody, it will be in battle, but the end will definitely be in diplomacy.

We want everything back. And the Russian Federation doesn’t want to return anything. That’s why the ending will be at the negotiating table.

We want the territories back and this war to be over. But how and when it will happen depends on the time when the conversation with Putin will take place.

I think that the conversation between Ukraine and Russia will definitely take place. But we don’t know in what format: with or without intermediaries, in a wide circle or in the format of bilateral conversation.”

Zelenskiy’s senior adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said Kyiv would not accept any deal with Russia that involved ceding territory. He said making concessions would backfire on Ukraine because Russia would hit back harder after any break in fighting.

Any concession to Russia is not a path to peace, but a war postponed for several years. Ukraine trades neither its sovereignty, nor territories and Ukrainians living on them.”

The war will not stop [after concessions]. It will just be put on pause for some time … They’ll start a new offensive, even more bloody and large-scale.”

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Summary and welcome

Hello and welcome back to the Guardian’s live coverage of the war in Ukraine.

I’m Samantha Lock and I will be bringing you all the latest developments for the next short while before my colleagues in London take the reins a little later.

Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy has suggested he is willing to resume talks with Russia, though his senior advisor, Mykhailo Podolyak, clarified that Kyiv will not accept any deal with Russia that involves ceding territory.

Here is everything you might have missed:

  • Ukraine has suggested it is willing to resume talks with Russia. Speaking on Saturday, Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said that “discussions between Ukraine and Russia will undoubtedly take place … under what format I don’t know … but the war will be bloody, there will be fighting and [it] will only definitively end through diplomacy.” He added: “We want everything back. And the Russian Federation doesn’t want to return anything. That’s why the ending will be at the negotiating table.”
  • However, Kyiv has ruled out a ceasefire or concessions to Moscow. Presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said Kyiv would not accept any deal with Russia that involved ceding territory. “Any concession to Russia is not a path to peace, but a war postponed for several years. Ukraine trades neither its sovereignty, nor territories and Ukrainians living on them,” he said in a video posted to Twitter on Saturday. Making concessions would backfire on Ukraine because Russia would hit back harder after any break in fighting, he added. “The war will not stop [after concessions]. It will just be put on pause for some time. They’ll start a new offensive, even more bloody and large-scale.”
  • Russia claims to have taken full control of the besieged city of Mariupol. The last group of Ukrainian soldiers holed up in the smashed Azovstal steelworks have surrendered, Russia’s defence ministry said late on Friday, marking an end to the three-month siege of the defenders’ last stronghold in Mariupol. “Underground structures of Azovstal where militants were hiding are now under full control of Russian armed forces,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that in total 2,439 Ukrainian fighters have surrendered.
  • Moscow is considering giving up Ukraine fighters captured in Mariupol for Viktor Medvedchuk, a detained ally of Russian president Vladimir Putin. “We are going to study the possibility,” said Leonid Slutsky, a senior member of Russia’s negotiating team on Ukraine, speaking from the separatist city of Donetsk in south-eastern Ukraine, Russian state media agency RIA Novosti reported.
  • Zelenskiy described the situation in Donbas as “extremely difficult” in his latest national address, adding that the Russian army is trying to attack Slovyansk and Severodonetsk, a frontline city now at risk of encirclement where 12 people were killed and another 40 wounded by Russian shelling, regional governor Sergiy Gaiday said.
  • Polish president Andrzej Duda has arrived in Ukraine to address the Ukrainian parliament. Duda arrived in Ukraine on Saturday and will be the first head of a foreign state to deliver a speech to Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada since the start of Russia’s invasion.
  • Russia banned 963 Americans, including president Joe Biden, from entering the country. The list, which also includes the secretary of state, Antony Blinken, US senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, defence secretary Lloyd Austin and CIA head William Burns, is largely symbolic.
  • Biden signed a funding bill that will provide nearly $40bn (£32bn) in aid to Ukraine.
  • Zelenskiy met Portugal’s prime minister, António Costa, and described the meeting as “important and meaningful”. Portugal later announced an agreement to provide €250m ($264m) in financial aid to Ukraine.
  • The Ukraine president also had a phone conversation with Italy’s prime minister, Mario Draghi, and said he stressed the importance of more sanctions on Russia and unblocking Ukrainian ports.
  • Russia destroyed a Ukrainian special-operations base near Odesa, Ukraine’s main Black Sea port, as well as a significant cache of western-supplied weapons in northern Zhytomyr region, Russia defence ministry spokesperson Igor Konashenkov said on Saturday. There was no confirmation from the Ukrainian side.
  • Turkish president Tayyip Erdoğan, who has objected to Sweden and Finland joining Nato, held phone calls with the leaders of the two countries on Saturday and discussed his concerns about terrorist organisations. Turkey surprised its Nato allies last week by objecting to the two countries’ accession to the military alliance, but western leaders have expressed confidence that Ankara’s objections will not be a roadblock for the membership process.
  • Russia’s state gas company, Gazprom, halted gas exports to Finland, which refused Moscow’s demands to pay in roubles for Russian gas after western countries imposed sanctions over the invasion. Gasum, Finland’s state-owned energy company, said it would use other sources, such as the Balticconnector pipeline, which links Finland to fellow EU member Estonia.
  • Canada has imposed sanctions on the Russian-born billionaire and newspaper proprietor Alexander Lebedev. The former KGB agent is the owner of UK newspapers the Evening Standard and the Independent.
  • The world must help Ukraine unblock seaports, otherwise the energy crisis will be followed by a global food crisis, Zelenskiy said. “Russia has blocked almost all ports and all, so to speak, maritime opportunities to export food … There will be a crisis in the world. The second crisis after the energy one, which was provoked by Russia. Now it will create a food crisis.” According to
  • A second meeting of partner countries is set to take place on 23 May at Germany’s Ramstein Air Base. Zelenskiy said he expects Ukraine will be provided with more weapons. “To be honest, we have high expectations. I would call it a long-awaited process. We are grateful for the great military support provided by various states. We expect a positive result on the supply of MLRS,” he said.

As usual, please feel free to reach out to me with any feedback or tips via email or Twitter.

A woman and child walk in a park as Russian servicemen patrol the street in Skadovsk, Kherson.
A woman and child walk in a park as Russian servicemen patrol the street in Skadovsk, Kherson. Photograph: Olga Maltseva/AFP/Getty Images

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