President Zelensky meets US officials

Russia has said it will strengthen its economic ties to China amid western sanctions over its war in Ukraine.

Speaking on Monday, the Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said the country’s relationship with Beijing “will grow even faster” after it was ostracised by other countries.

Mr Lavrov added that the Kremlin would consider re-establishing links to the west if the opportunity arose.

“If they want to offer something in terms of resuming relations, then we will seriously consider whether we will need it or not,” he said.

His comments come as Russian troops attempt to encircle Ukrainian forces near the city of Severodonetsk in the Donbas region.

“Russia’s capture of the Severodonetsk pocket would see the whole of Luhansk Oblast placed under Russian occupation,” the British ministry of defence (MoD) said on Tuesday.

In other developments, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky called for internations support to force Russia to free the Azovstal fighters who surrendered to Russian forces in Mariupol last week.

Ukraine’s leader said his country was ready for a prisoner swap.

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Nearly 30,000 Russian soldiers dead, claims Ukraine

Almost 30,000 Russian troops were killed in the first three months of the war, the Ukrainian army has claimed.

Earlier this week, the British government said Russia had lost around 15,000 soldiers, the same number that died during the decade-long Soviet-Afghan war.

Rory Sullivan24 May 2022 08:10

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UK warns of famine caused by Russian blockade of Ukrainian ports

Britain has warned that “there could be a lot of hunger and indeed even famine” around the world if millions of tonnes of Ukrainian grain cannot get through Russian blockades.

Grant Shapps, the British transport secretary, said the UK was working with Ukraine on how to export the grain. He spoke about the issue with the Ukrainian infrastructure minister Oleksander Kubrakov last week.

“We were discussing details which I can’t go into but about how infrastructure could be in place to ensure the grain leaves,” he told Sky News.

“We’re looking at all the different options…there are lots of different potential ways to get grain and other goods out of the country,” he said. “It’s absolutely essential that we do, otherwise there could be a lot of hunger and indeed even famine.”

Rory Sullivan24 May 2022 07:54

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‘Strong views’ on Russia expressed at Quad meeting, says Australian PM

“Strong views” about Russia were expressed at a “Quad” meeting, Australia’s new prime minister has said.

After discussions between the leaders of Australia, India, Japan and the US, Antony Albanese said: “The Russian unilateral, illegal, immoral attack on the people of Ukraine is an outrage and the atrocities being committed on innocent civilians is something that we couldn’t have expected in the 21st century.”

“Certainly strong views were expressed in the meeting,” he said.

Rory Sullivan24 May 2022 07:37

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Biden says democracies must be defended amid Ukraine war

US president Joe Biden has expressed his desire for a free and open Indo-Pacific region, saying the war in Ukraine has demonstrated the importance of international order and territorial integrity.

Speaking about the situation in Ukraine at a “Quad” meeting with his Australian, Indian and Japanese counterparts in Tokyo, Mr Biden said: “This is more than just a European issue. It’s a global issue.”

“International law, human rights must always be defended regardless of where they’re violated in the world,” he added.

Rory Sullivan24 May 2022 07:29

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Russian ships load Ukrainian grain in Crimea, satellite images allegedly show

Russian carrier ships have been spotted stacking up what could likely by stolen grain from Ukraine in the latest satellite images revealed by Maxar technologies.

Two bulk carrier ships with Russian flag — the Matros Pozynich and the Matros Koshka — are seen docked next to grain silos with the stock being off-loaded onto the vessel, the images from 19 May and 21 May show.

The ships have now left the port with the former en route Beirut via the Aegean Sea, while the Matros Koshka is still seen in the Black Sea, the ship tracking site MarineTraffic.com showed.

Ukraine has alleged that Russia is stealing “several hundred thousand tonnes” of grain, while it blocks the port cities in the besieged country, threatening the global supply of wheat.

Arpan Rai24 May 2022 07:07

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Russia facing Ukrainian resistance in Donbas, says British MoD

The British defence ministry has said Russia is amping up its operations in Donbas — its targeted region in Ukraine for capturing more territory — and has met staunch resistance from defending Ukrainian soldiers.

“Russia has increased the intensity of its operations in the Donbas as it seeks to encircle Severodonetsk, Lyschansk, and Rubizhne. At present the northern and southern axes of this operation are separated by approximately 25 km of Ukrainian-held territory,” the ministry said in its latest update on Tuesday.

It added: “There has been strong Ukrainian resistance with forces occupying well dug-in defensive positions. Ukraine’s long-established Joint Force Operation likely retains effective command and control of this front.”

Russia has, however, achieved some localised successes, due in part to concentrating artillery units, the ministry added.

“Russia’s capture of the Severodonetsk pocket would see the whole of Luhansk Oblast placed under Russian occupation. While currently Russia’s main effort, this operation is only one part of Russia’s campaign to seize the Donbas,” the defence ministry said.

If the Donbas front line moves further west, this will extend Russian lines of communication and likely see its forces face further logistic resupply difficulties, it added.

Arpan Rai24 May 2022 06:32

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Russian soldiers demanding bribes from Ukrainians leaving Melitopol

Civilians leaving Melitopol have been asked to pay bribes by the Russian soldiers occupying the territory, officials in the region said.

Russian soldiers have asked residents who are trying to leave the city marred by conflict to pay Hr 3,000 to Hr 5,000 (£80-£134), Zaporizhzhia’s regional military administration said on Monday, reported The Kyiv Independent.

Arpan Rai24 May 2022 06:21

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On war prisoner swap, Zelensky calls for political pressure: ‘Ready even tomorrow’

Ukraine is ready for an exchange of prisoners with Russia “even tomorrow”, president Volodymyr Zelensky said late on Monday after Moscow captured hundreds of trapped soldiers at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol.

“The exchange of people – this is a humanitarian matter today and a very political decision that depends on the support of many states,” Mr Zelensky said in a round of audience questions at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Asking for assistance from his allies, he said: “It is important … to pressure politically on any level, through powerful business, through the closure of businesses, oil embargo … and through these threats actively intensify the exchange of our people for Russian servicemen.”

“We do not need the Russian servicemen, we only need ours,” Zelensky said. “We are ready for an exchange even tomorrow.”

He added that several allies like the United Nations, Switzerland, Israel and “many, many countries” have been involved but the process was very complicated.

Arpan Rai24 May 2022 05:44

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Zelensky warns war will be difficult in coming weeks

Volodymyr Zelensky has said that Russian troops are pushing through in Kharkiv and will not give up on the region, which could result in difficult weeks to come in the war.

“The Russian occupiers are trying very hard to show that they allegedly will not give up the occupied areas of the Kharkiv region, the Kherson region, the occupied territory of the Zaporizhzhia region and Donbas,” Mr Zelensky said, adding that Russian fighters are going on the offensive in some areas.

“Reserves are being accumulated in some areas. Somewhere they are trying to reinforce their positions,” he said.

“The coming weeks of the war will be difficult. And we must be aware of that. Yet we have no alternative but to fight. Fight and win. Free our land and our people. Because the occupiers want to take away from us not just something, but everything we have. Including the right to life for Ukrainians,” Mr Zelensky said in a nightly address.

Arpan Rai24 May 2022 05:07

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Russia could use Kherson as military base, claims official

Russia will likely set up a military base in Ukraine’s Kherson as officials from the Russia-appointed administration there will ask the Kremlin for the move, a local government official was quoted as saying by the RIA news agency on Tuesday.

“There should be a Russian military base in the Kherson region,” said Kirill Stremousov, the deputy head of the Russia-anointed “civil-military regional administration” of Kherson.

He added: “We will ask for this and this is what the whole population wants. This is essential and will be a guarantor of security for the region and its inhabitants.”

The southern city of Kherson, roughly 400 miles from the capital Kyiv, fell to Russia shortly after the invasion began.

Russia has now appointed a new administration in the region and replaced the Ukrainian currency with the Russian ruble.

Arpan Rai24 May 2022 04:56

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