- The governor of Luhansk says Russia is trying to destroy Severodonetsk as its forces heavily bombard the city from all sides.
- Ukraine’s military says Russia’s new flagship of the Black Sea Fleet, the Admiral Makarov, is heading towards Odesa to replace the sunken Moskva.
- The UK’s defence ministry says Russia has lost as many men in three months of war in Ukraine as the Soviet Union did in nine years of war in Afghanistan.
- Ukraine rules out a ceasefire or any territorial concessions to Moscow as Russia steps up its attack in the country’s east and south.
- Kyiv extends the period of martial law and general mobilisation in the country for an additional 90 days, until August 23.
Here are the updates on Monday, May 23:
Shelling kills one person in Luhansk, child dies from injures: Governor
Russian shells hit more than 70 residential buildings in the Luhansk region on Sunday and killed one person in Lysychansk, the region’s governor has said.
Serhiy Haidai said the person died when their apartment was hit by a shell in the evening.
He added that a child injured in the town of Pryvillya, when it came under fire on May 7, died in intensive care.
Russia says it controls 95% of Luhansk
Russian forces now control 95 percent Luhansk, Russia’s media has said.
Ukraine’s forces are still holding Severodonetsk and Lysychansk, the Zvezda TV channel, run by the Russian defence ministry, said on Sunday.
Russia’s losses in Ukraine’s three months war as high as the USSR’s in Afghanistan: UK
In three months of the war in Ukraine, Russia has suffered a similar death toll as did the Soviet Union in nine years of war in Afghanistan, the UK’s defence ministry has said.
“A combination of poor low-level tactics, limited air cover, a lack of flexibility, and a command approach which is prepared to reinforce failure and repeat mistakes has led to this high casualty rate, which continues to rise in the Donbas offensive,” the ministry said in its latest intelligence briefing.
The ministry suggested that because the Russian public has been sensitive to casualties suffered in “wars of choice” in the past, the rising death toll in Ukraine may “fuel public dissatisfaction with the war” and a willingness to speak out against it.
Latest Defence Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine – 23 May 2022
Find out more about the UK government’s response: https://t.co/mpZMMMUOI9
— Ministry of Defence 🇬🇧 (@DefenceHQ) May 23, 2022
Russia trying to destroy Severodonetsk: Governor
The governor of Luhansk has said that Russia is trying to destroy Severodonetsk, as the city came under heavy bombardment from Moscow’s forces trying to take the industrial area of Donbas.
Serhiy Haidai said on Sunday that the Russians were “simply intentionally trying to destroy the city … engaging in a scorched-earth approach.”
He said the Russians had occupied several towns and cities in Luhansk after indiscriminate, 24-hour shelling. Haidai said Moscow was concentrating forces and weaponry there, bringing in forces from Kharkiv to the northwest, Mariupol to the south and from inside Russia.
The sole working hospital in Severodonetsk has only three doctors and supplies for 10 days, he said.
Shelling kills one person, injures four in Malyn, Zhytomyr region: Mayor
Russian forces have shelled the northern town of Malyn about 100 kilometres northwest of Kyiv, killing a railroad employee and damaging around 150 residential buildings, the mayor has said.
Oleksandr Sytaylo also said another four people had been injured and were in hospital.
Russia’s new Black Sea Fleet flagship heads to Odesa: Ukraine army
Ukraine’s army says Russia is strengthening its position in the Black Sea with a new addition to its fleet, the frigate Admiral Makarov. Ukraine says the ship has left the Crimean port of Sevastpotol and is heading towards Odesa.
Russia’s news agency TASS had previously reported a source from occupied Crimea’s intelligence agency saying the Admiral Makarov would be the new flagship of the Black Sea Fleet. It would replace the Moskva warship, which sank in mid-April after Ukraine said it hit it with two missiles.
Ukraine’s army said with the Makarov entering the fold, the risk of missile strikes from the Black Sea had increased.
⚡️ Ukraine’s Military: Russian frigate Admiral Makarov leaves Sevastopol.
Ukraine’s Operational Command “South” said on May 22 that the warship made its way to Russian positions in the Black Sea, increasing the probability of missile strikes on Ukraine.
— The Kyiv Independent (@KyivIndependent) May 23, 2022
Biden says US fully committed to Japan’s defence
Joe Biden has assured his “good friend” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan that the US is fully committed to Japan’s defence, amid simmering tension with China and the ramifications of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“The US-Japan alliance has long been the cornerstone of peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific, and the United States remains fully committed to Japan’s defence,” Biden said at the beginning of talks with Kishida at the Akasaka Palace in central Tokyo.
Russian soldiers clear mines at Azovstal plant
Russian soldiers cleared mines and debris on the industrial grounds of the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol on Sunday after hundreds of Ukrainian forces holed up in the vast plant for weeks were ordered to stand down.
Soldiers walked through the compound and swung mine detectors over roads littered with debris, while others checked under objects for the explosive devices, video footage showed.
“The task is huge, the enemy planted their own landmines, we had also planted anti-personnel mines while blocking the enemy. So we’ve got some two weeks of work ahead of us,” said a Russian soldier who only gave his nom de guerre Babai, Reuters reported.
“Over the last two days, over a 100 explosives have been destroyed,” Babai said.
Zelenskyy to speak at Davos Forum Monday
Zelenskyy will address the World Economic Forum in Davos via livestream on Monday, while Kyiv’s Mayor Vitali Klitschko, is expected to attend the forum in person.
“This is the world’s most influential economic platform where Ukraine has something to say,” Zelenskyy said in his nighttime address.
“There will be other public speeches during the week, including an address to the Stanford University community. As well as a special format of communication with the political and expert communities of Indonesia,” he added.
The war in Ukraine is expected to be a prominent topic in this year’s Davos discussions to which Russian companies and representatives have not received invitations.
— Sasha Vakulina (@sashavakulina) May 21, 2022
Russia’s imports down to 2020 levels: Official
Imports into Russia have fallen 2020 levels due to “measures from unfriendly states”, which have led to logistical difficulties, a deputy head of Russia’s customs service has said, state agency RIA news reports.
Ruslan Davydov said deliveries from the north-west had seen the highest decrease due to port closures and bans on Russian ships.
“In addition, we see that in the Baltic countries and Poland, cargoes are artificially slowed down and subjected to 100% inspection,” Davydov said, adding that this represented an “economic war” against Russia.
He said imports had increased from countries to Russia’s east and south, in particular China and Kazakhstan.
NZ sending 30 army personnel to train Ukraine soldiers in UK
New Zealand will send 30 defence force personnel to the UK to help train Ukrainian soldiers in operating L119 light field guns.
“Our training team has been requested to help train members of Ukraine’s Armed Forces in the use of the weapon system until the end of July,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.
New Zealand’s Chief of Defence Force Air Marshal Kevin Short said 230 Ukrainians would be trained and it would take about a week for each training session.
Ardern made it clear the NZ soldiers would be based in the UK and would not enter Ukraine.
Ukraine, Poland agree on joint customs control to ease movement of people, goods
Ukraine and Poland have agreed to establish a joint border customs control and work on a shared railway company to ease the movement of people and increase Ukraine’s export potential.
Zelenskyy and Duda touted the increased cooperation between the countries during a meeting in Kyiv on Sunday.
“The Polish-Ukrainian border should unite not divide,” Duda told lawmakers.
Zelenskiy called the joint border customs control a “revolutionary” move and said it would “significantly speed up border procedures”.
Ukraine ends taxation agreement with Russia
Ukraine’s parliament has voted to end a double taxation agreement with Russia, which had been in place since 1995 and in which Russian residents operating in Ukraine were exempt from paying Kyiv’s taxes and could be taxed by their home country only, Interfax has reported.
Ukraine’s finance ministry said that now “all income of residents of the Russian Federation received from sources in Ukraine will be subject to a general tax rate of 15% established by the Tax Code of Ukraine,” instead of preferential rates established by the double taxation agreement.
The ministry also said Ukrainian residents operating in Russia will equally no longer be able to pay Moscow’s taxes.
Kharkiv’s rescuers recovered 150 bodies in region since invasion began
Kharkiv’s emergency services have said that since the beginning of Russia’s invasion, they have cleared 98 locations of rubble and recovered 150 bodies across the region, Interfax reports.
Around 250 people were rescued, but five emergency services workers died during the operations, the deputy head of the regional emergency services, Anatoly Toryanik, said during a national telethon.
Toryanik said the areas subject to the most severe shelling were the Kharkiv suburbs of Severnaya Saltovka, Pyatikhatki and Gorizont, as well as the villages of Zhukovsky and Rohan.
US and 6 others say they support APEC after Russian invasion protest
Representatives of seven nations, including those who walked out of the APEC meeting in Bangkok to protest Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, have said they support the organisation and host nation Thailand.
Representatives of the United States, Australia, Canada, Chile, Japan, the Republic of Korea, and New Zealand said in a joint statement that they had “grave concerns” over the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine.
“Reaffirming the importance of the rules-based international order that underpins an open, dynamic, resilient and peaceful Asia-Pacific region, we strongly urge Russia to immediately cease its use of force and completely and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces from Ukraine,” the nations said.
Representatives from Canada, New Zealand, Japan and Australia joined the Americans, led by US Trade Representative Katherine Tai, in walking out of the meeting on Saturday, while Russian Economy Minister Maxim Reshetnikov was speaking.
Hundreds of protesters in Tokyo rally against Biden’s visit, support for Ukraine
Hundreds of Japanese people rallied at Shiba Park in Tokyo on Sunday to protest against US President Joe Biden’s three-day visit to Japan, as international tensions are running high over the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
“West European countries and NATO members led by the US have intensified the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, provided military supplies [for Ukraine], imposing sanctions on Russia. All this will not stop the conflict, but intensify and prolong it, instead. I can’t forgive such actions,” one protestor, Ota, said.
“From a historical perspective, it is the eastward expansion advanced by the US and NATO that provoked Russia’s resistance. The root cause is the US,” said Shunkichi Takayama, a lawyer.
Biden is set to attend a summit on Tuesday where he will meet Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to promote the “Quad” mechanism.
More than 100 m people forcibly displaced in the world: UN
More than 100 million people have been driven from their homes around the world, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has said, citing new data and adding the war in Ukraine was one of the factors propelling millions to flee.
The UNHCR added that protracted conflict in places like Ethiopia and Democratic Republic of Congo were other factors behind the high numbers.
Nearly 6.5 million people have now fled Ukraine due to the war.
Russia seeks new advance at Severodonetsk: Think-tank
Russian forces continued ground assaults around the major Luhansk city of Severodonetsk on Sunday but made only minimal gains in the east of the country, the Institute for the Study of War has said.
In its latest campaign assessment the institute noted that Russia had been unsuccessful at encircling Severodonetsk from the east to support its previous advances towards the city from the north (via Rubizhne), west (via Bilohorivka), and south (via Popasna). But it added that there had been confirmed reports Russia seemed to have broken through Ukrainian defences around Popasna.
“Russian forces likely seek to open a new line of advance north from Popasna to complete the encirclement of Severodonetsk while simultaneously driving west toward Bakhmut, though Russian forces are unlikely to be able to fully resource both lines of advance simultaneously,” the institute said.
Russia seeks to capture Severodonetsk as this is the last stronghold of the Luhansk region.
May 22, 2022. Russian forces have secured advances to the north and west of Popasna since at least May 20. Russian forces likely seek to push further west toward Bakhmut and north to support the encirclement of Severodonetsk.
— George Barros (@georgewbarros) May 22, 2022
Zelenskyy dubs Poland’s Rzeszów ‘Rescuer City’
Zelenskyy has given the Polish city of Rzeszów the honorary title of “Rescuer City” for its help in welcoming millions of Ukraine’s refugees.
“I have introduced a special honorary title of ‘rescuer city’ for the partner cities of our state, which today do the impossible to help us, to help our people, to help our army,” Zelenskyy said in parliament during a visit from Poland’s President Andrzej Duda.
“On behalf of the entire Ukrainian people, I would like to express great gratitude to the city of Rzeszów, the first rescuer city,” he added.
Rzeszów lies about 100 km from the border with Ukraine and has been acting as a reception point for people fleeing the war.
Ukraine to reach verdict on Russian soldier Monday
A Ukrainian court is expected to reach a verdict on Monday for a Russian soldier who was the first to go on trial for an alleged war crime.
The 21-year-old sergeant, who has admitted to shooting a Ukrainian man in the head in a village in the northeastern Sumy region on February 28, could get life in prison if convicted.
Ukrainian Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova has said her office was prosecuting war crimes cases against 41 Russian soldiers for offences that included bombing civilian infrastructure, killing civilians, rape and looting.
She said it was looking into more than 10,700 potential war crimes involving over 600 suspects, including Russian soldiers and government officials.
Russia’s lead negotiator says Moscow willing to resume negotiations
Russia’s lead negotiator in peace talks with Ukraine said on Sunday that Moscow was willing to resume negotiations, but that the decision remained with Kyiv.
“Freezing talks was entirely Ukraine’s initiative,” Vladimir Medinsky told Belarusian TV, adding that the “ball is completely in their court”.
He spoke a day after Zelenskyy said the war “will only definitively end through diplomacy”.
Polish leader first to address wartime Kyiv parliament
Poland’s president has travelled to Kyiv to become the first foreign leader to address the Ukrainian parliament since the start of Russia’s war on Ukraine.
Ukrainian legislators stood on Sunday to applaud Polish President Andrzej Duda, who thanked them for the honour of speaking in a place where, he said, “the heart of a free, independent and democratic Ukraine beats”, according to remarks carried by the Polish state-run news agency PAP.
“The free world has the face of Ukraine,” Duda told the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s legislature.
Read more here.
UK’s Johnson discussed Russia’s blockade of Odesa with Zelenskyy
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday discussed with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy Russia’s blockade of Ukraine’s shipping port Odesa, a Downing Street spokesperson said.
Johnson resolved to redouble efforts to provide vital food and humanitarian aid to the people of Ukraine and ensure the country was able to export to the rest of the world, the spokesperson added.
Ukraine parliament bans Russian war symbols
Ukraine’s parliament has banned the symbols “Z” and “V”, used by Russia’s military to promote its war in the country but agreed to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s call to allow their use for educational or historic purposes.
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.
Zelenskyy 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.
Ukraine rejects concessions as Russians attack in east and south
Ukraine rules out a ceasefire or any territorial concessions to Moscow as Russia stepped up its attack in the eastern and southern parts of the country, pounding the Donbas and Mykolaiv regions with air strikes and artillery fire.
Kyiv’s stance has become increasingly uncompromising in recent weeks as Russia experienced military setbacks while Ukrainian officials grew worried they might be pressured to sacrifice land for a peace deal.
“The war must end with the complete restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty,” Andriy Yermak, Ukraine’s presidential chief of staff said in a Twitter post.
Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the war in Ukraine.
Read all the updates from Saturday, May 22 here.