Russia-Ukraine war: Zelenskiy ‘ready to speak to Putin’; Russia to cut electricity supply to Finland after Nato decision – live | Russia


Russia to cut electricity supplies to Finland from Saturday

Russia will suspend electricity supplies to Finland from 1am on Saturday the supplier, RAO Nordic, said, amid rising tensions over Helsinki’s bid to join Nato.

RAO Nordic, a subsidiary of the Russian state energy holding Inter RAO, said in a statement that it was “forced to suspend the electricity import”, starting from 14 May.

RAO Nordic “is not able to make payments for the imported electricity from Russia”, the statement said.

It added:

This situation is exceptional and happened for the first time in over 20 years of our trading history.

The Finnish grid company, Fingrid, said trade in electricity imported from Russia would be suspended “for the time being” due to difficulties in receiving payments for electricity sold on the market.

Fingrid added:

There is no threat to the adequacy of electricity in Finland.

It said that power from Russia accounted for some 10% of Finland’s total power consumption, adding:

Missing imports can be replaced in the electricity market by importing more electricity from Sweden and partly also by domestic production.

Finnish leaders yesterday declared the country must apply to join the Nato alliance “without delay”. In response, the Kremlin said Russia would “definitely” see Finnish membership as a threat, and Russia’s foreign ministry said Moscow would be “forced to take reciprocal steps, military-technical and other”.

Oleksandra Ustinova, a member of the Ukrainian parliament, spoke to reporters in Washington DC today and said the crisis on the battlefield was now “far worse” than it was at the start of the war, CNN reports.

Ustinova said “it is hell” on the frontlines, the news network reported: “We keep losing many more men now than it was at the beginning of the war.” She was speaking at a German Marshall Fund roundtable.

She also called on the US to supply fighter jets and air defense systems, saying, according to CNN:

If we had howitzers two months ago, Mariupol would not happen because they wouldn’t be able to surround like they did, to surround the city and literally destroy it … For us, time means lives, thousands of lives. We’ve been hearing that it has been unprecedented how fast everything is moving and how fast the decisions are taking. But there has never been a war since World War Two like that. And unfortunately, we keep asking here to take the decisions faster.”

.@SashaUstinovaUA called on the US to provide air defense systems and fighter jets to Ukraine, telling reporters at a @gmfus roundtable that the situation on the battlefield is far worse than it was at the beginning of the war.

“It is hell” on the frontlines right now, she said

— Jennifer Hansler (@jmhansler) May 13, 2022

Reuters has a dispatch from Dergachi, on the outskirts of Kharkiv, where firefighters were dousing smoldering wreckage after, according to local officials, a Russian missile attack hit the House of Culture, which was used to distribute aid supplies.

Volunteers inside were attempting to salvage packages of baby diapers and formula, the news agency reported on Friday. The mayor, Vyacheslav Zadorenko, told Reuters:

I can’t call it anything but a terrorist act. They wanted to hit the base where we store provisions and create a humanitarian catastrophe.”

The mayor also said that another missile had slammed into the building on Thursday and wounded a clinic staff member and killed a young couple in their home.

Some more on the latest developments:

US sending 10,500 new troops to Europe for new rotation

The US is sending 10,500 new troops to Europe to replace soldiers who were earlier deployed, the Pentagon’s spokesperson John Kirby also announced in his briefing today. He said the deployments were “one for one unit replacements” and that the turnovers would happen in the coming weeks and into the summer: “It will be a rotation over time.”

Kirby explained:

These are not permanent moves. These moves are designed to respond to the current security environment. Moreover these forces are not going to fight in Ukraine. They are going to support the robust defense of Nato allies.

Still, as the New York Times noted, the move suggests that the temporary expansion of troops is likely becoming more permanent.

Ukrainian military authorities loaded the bodies of Russian soldiers onto refrigerated rail cars on Friday, saying they were prepared to return the bodies to Russia in accordance with international law, Reuters reports. The authorities loaded the bodies after fighting in the Kyiv and Chernihiv regions. From the news agency:

Volodymr Lyamzin, the head of Ukraine’s civil-military cooperation, said his country was acting in accordance with international law and was ready to return the bodies to Russia.

“According to the norms of international humanitarian law, and Ukraine is strictly following them, after the active phase of the conflict is over, sides have to return the bodies of the military of another country, “Ukraine is ready to return the bodies to the aggressor”, he said.

Lyamzin said there were several refrigerator trains stationed in different regions across Ukraine where the bodies of Russian soldiers were being kept.

Several hundred bodies were being stored at a facility on the outskirts of Kyiv filmed by Reuters.

The Russian army has continued its strategic offensive in the country’s east, attacking new villages and towns, the Ukrainian army said in its daily operational statement today, the Associated Press reports:

Russian troops were engaging their Ukrainian opponents with live fire near the Rubezhnoye settlement, near the strategic city of Severodonetsk in Ukraine’s Donbas, the Ukrainian military’s general staff said in a Facebook post.

Analysts say that fighting in the Sevedononetsk area is critical to securing control over the Donbas, Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland, which is made up of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

On Friday, Russian troops unsuccessfully stormed the towns of Zolote and Kamyshevakha, the Ukrainian military said. It added that Moscow’s forces were firing artillery at the strategically important settlements of Kamenka and Novoselivka. The military also said that Russia continued shelling Ukrainian positions in Mariupol, near the Azovstal steel plant where Kyiv’s troops continue to hold out.

The accuracy of the claims could not be immediately verified, the AP noted.

The Pentagon spokesperson, John Kirby, urged Congress to pass the $40bn supplemental aid package for Ukraine during a briefing on Friday.

He said 19 May was a critical deadline, CNN reported:

19 May is the day we really, without additional authorities, we begin to not have the ability to send new stuff in. By the 19th of May, it’ll start impacting our ability to provide aid uninterrupted.”

Kirby said: “We continue to urge the Senate to act as quickly as possible so that we don’t get to the end of May and not have any additional authorities to draw upon … We’ve been moving at a fairly fast clip here both in terms of the individual packages that have been approved and how fast that stuff is getting into Ukrainian hands … We’d like to be able to continue that pace for as long as we can.”

Democrats and Republicans had both supported the aid package this week, but Rand Paul, the GOP senator and libertarian from Kentucky, single-handedly blocked its approval:

The United States accused Russia of using the UN Security Council to spout disinformation and conspiracy theories about biological weapons in Ukraine, to distract from its invasion of the country, the Associated Press reported.

US deputy ambassador Richard Mills called the Russian claims of alleged US involvement in a biological weapons program “categorically false and ludicrous”.

He warned the council Friday that Moscow’s actions follow a pattern of accusing others of violations it has perpetrated or intends to perpetrate, adding that they need to be watched closely “for the possibility of a false flag chemical or biological attack by Russia’s forces”.

UN deputy disarmament chief Thomas Markram reiterated to the council what his boss said at council meetings on 11 March and 18 March on similar Russian allegations: the United Nations is not aware of any biological weapons program in Ukraine.

Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia had earlier said in the meeting that he had called for a third council meeting because his government continues to receive “very worrying documentary evidence” that the US defense department is directly involved in carrying out “dangerous biological projects that look like a secret biological military program” in Ukraine.

Lloyd Austin, the US defense secretary, held a call with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on Friday in which he called for an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine, the Pentagon said.

During the call Austin also “emphasized the importance of maintaining lines of communication”, the Pentagon said. It was the first time Austin had spoken with Shoigu since 18 February, six days before Russia invaded Ukraine.

The New York Times reported that the call came “at the initiative of the American side”.

“What motivated them to change their mind and be open to it, I don’t think we know for sure,” a senior Pentagon official told the Times. The hourlong conversation was “professional”, the Times reported, but broke no new ground.

“The call itself didn’t specifically solve any acute issues or lead to a direct change in what the Russians are doing or saying,” the official told the Times. He said Austin hoped the call would “serve as a springboard for future conversations”.

The call came after Republican US senator Rand Paul blocked the passage of a $40bn aid bill for Ukraine on Thursday. The bill will be taken up again next week.

“Difficult negotiations” are taking place to remove Ukrainian defenders holed up under the Azovstal steelworks in besieged Mariupol, CNN reported.

Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of Donetsk region military administration, told CNN that attempts to save the fighters were ongoing.

“Difficult negotiations are underway, and they are still going on at this time, in order to save the defenders – gradually – because the Russian Federation is trying to dictate its conditions and requirements as much as possible. Therefore, in the first place, it will be seriously wounded fighters,” he said.

Kyrylenko said that Russians continue to bombard Avozstal. “These are heavy, vacuum, high-explosive bombs,” he said.

“We have to talk about it only when people will be safe. Only then we shall give any comments. Negotiations are ongoing and they are really very difficult. Because, first, the Russian Federation always changes them [the conditions]. And even those agreements that are reached are not a 100% agreement with Russia,” Kyrylenko said.

Consumer inflation in Russia accelerated in April to 17.83% in year-on-year terms, its highest level since January 2002, Reuters reported.

Data released showed inflation was boosted by the volatile rouble and unprecedented western sanctions, which have disrupted logistics chains.

But monthly inflation slowed to 1.56% in April from 7.61% in March, when it staged the biggest month-on-month increase since January 1999, data from the federal statistics service Rosstat showed.

Inflation in Russia has accelerated sharply after Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February.

High inflation has been the key concern among households for years as it dents living standards, a fall which this year will be aggravated by a steep economic contraction.

Summary

It is 9pm in Kyiv. Here’s where we stand:

  • Ukrainians have repelled multiple attempts by the Russians to cross a strategically significant river in the Donbas, inflicting heavy losses in the process, according to local officials and British intelligence. Serhiy Haidai, the governor of the Luhansk region, said Russian forces had been repulsed three times as they tried to cross the Siversky Donets River, 12 miles (20km) west of Severodonetsk, losing armour and bridging equipment.
  • Ukraine’s defence minister, Oleksii Reznikov, said Kyiv hopes to arm a million people as the country prepares for a “new, long phase of war”. He warned that “extremely tough weeks are ahead” and that Ukraine needed “unity, cohesion, will and patience” during this difficult period.
  • Russia will suspend electricity supplies to Finland from 1am on Saturday the supplier, RAO Nordic, said, amid rising tensions over Helsinki’s bid to join Nato. The Finnish grid company, Fingrid, said trade in electricity imported from Russia would be suspended “for the time being” due to difficulties in receiving payments for electricity sold on the market, but insisted there was “no threat to the adequacy of electricity in Finland”.
  • A Russian soldier has appeared in court accused of murdering an unarmed man on a bicycle, at the start of the first war crime trial in Ukraine since Vladimir Putin invaded the country. Vadim Shysimarin, a commander of the Kantemirovskaya tank division, is charged with the premeditated murder of a 62-year-old man. The case is scheduled to resume on Wednesday.
  • Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, remarked to journalists after leaving Friday prayers in Istanbul that Turkey would not welcome either Sweden or Finland joining the Nato. He said that Turkey was “currently following developments regarding Sweden and Finland, but we don’t feel positively about this”.
  • The US defence secretary, Lloyd Austin, spoke to his Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoigu, for the first time since before Moscow’s troops invaded Ukraine on 24 February, the Pentagon said. Austin “urged an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine and emphasised the importance of maintaining lines of communication”, the Pentagon press secretary, John Kirby, said.
  • The EU could agree on a phased embargo on Russian oil next week, despite concerns about supply in eastern Europe, according to diplomats and officials. A senior EU diplomat told Reuters an agreement could come as early as Monday when EU foreign ministers meet in Brussels. A third diplomat said there was a chance of an agreement later in the week.

That’s it from me, Léonie Chao-Fong, today as I hand the blog over to my US colleagues. I’ll be back on Monday. Thank you for reading.





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