- Russia’s forces are intensifying efforts to capture Severodonetsk, the final Ukrainian strongpoint in the Luhansk region.
- Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says his country is prepared to exchange its troops who surrendered at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol for Russian prisoners.
- A Russia negotiator says Moscow will consider exchanging prisoners from Ukraine’s Azov battalion for Viktor Medvedchuk, a wealthy Ukrainian businessman close to President Vladimir Putin. He did not specify the number of prisoners considered for the exchange.
- Russian energy giant Gazprom says it had stopped all natural gas supplies to Finland as it had not received payment in roubles.
Here are all the latest updates:
Poland’s Duda to deliver speech to Ukraine’s parliament
Poland’s president will be the first foreign head of state since the start of the war to speak directly to Ukraine’s parliament.
Andrzej Duda arrived in Ukraine on Saturday and is due to deliver a speech to Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada on Sunday, Interfax reports.
Sanctions ‘practically broken’ logistics in Russia: Minister
Russia’s transport minister has said that international sanctions have “practically broken” logistics in the country, the state news agency TASS has reported.
“The sanctions imposed on Russia… have practically broken all logistics in our country. And we have to look for new logistics corridors,” Vitaly Savelyev, said on a visit to Russia’s southern port city of Astrakhan, on the Caspian Sea
The new corridors for moving goods include a north-south route through two Caspian Sea ports: Olya and Makhachkala.
The minister’s comments were a rare admission from the Kremlin that sanctions intended to cripple Russia’s economy are having a significant effect.
Russia labels two high-profile critics as ‘foreign agents’
Russia has added two Kremlin critics, former chess champion Garry Kasparov and former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, to its long list of “foreign agents”.
The designation applies to many independent media companies, journalists and NGOs. Everyone on the list is obliged to mark their publications with a disclaimer noting their “foreign agent” status.
Soviet-born former world chess champion Kasparov is a longtime opponent of Putin and has lived in the US for almost a decade.
Khodorkovsky, one of Russia’s most powerful businessmen in the 1990s, spent ten years in Russian prison on what many see as falsified charges, before going into exile.
“Russian Justice Ministry” is an oxymoron under Putin. And I was representing my country back when Putin was still spying on his colleagues in East Germany and stealing from the people in St. Petersburg. Being anti-Putin is, and will always be, pro-Russian. https://t.co/u7jkvv4Eun
— Garry Kasparov (@Kasparov63) May 20, 2022
Russia again accuses Ukraine of firing on Kursk region
The governor of Russia’s Kursk region has again accused Ukraine of firing on its settlements, TASS news agency reports.
“Tetkino and nearby residential areas were subjected to Ukraine’s fire once again,” Roman Starovoit said on Saturday, adding he would provide further details on the situation later.
The governor said there were no casualties or damage to infrastructure as a result of the attack.
Ukraine’s army deterring Russia’s attacks on Slovyansk, Severodonetsk: Zelenskyy
Zelenskyy has said that Ukraine’s army has for days been deterring Russia’s advances on Slovyansk and Severodonetsk.
“The situation in Donbas is extremely difficult. As in previous days, the Russian army is trying to attack Slovyansk and Severodonetsk. The Armed Forces of Ukraine are deterring this offensive,” Zelenskyy said in his nighttime address.
Russia’s defence minister said on Friday that Moscow’s forces had almost taken full control of Luhansk. Russia is intensifying its offensive on Severodonetsk, which is the last Ukrainian stronghold in the region.
Russian separatist says six men died at Azovstal during surrender
A Russian separatist leader has said that six Ukrainian fighters were killed at the Azovstal steel plant during an evacuation procedure in which the fighters were surrendering to the Russians in groups.
The self-proclaimed leader of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), Denis Pushilin, said that this happened due to Ukrainian men blowing up their own caches of ammunition.
“It is unclear who did this, no one is assuming responsibility, but after the main group walked out… someone ordered to blow up ammunition caches… six people died immediately, and, as far as I know, four were injured,” Pushilin said on the Soloviev Live YouTube channel on Saturday.
Pushilin also said that an unknown number of Ukrainian servicemen could still be at the Azovstal plant, adding that they had some stocks of food and water, but were short on medicines.
Russia has blocked 22 m tonnes of Ukraine’s food exports: Zelenskyy
Zelenskyy has said that Russia has blocked Ukraine from exporting 22 million tonnes of food products.
Speaking with media after a meeting with Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa, Zelenskyy said if the global community didn’t help Ukraine unblock its ports, the energy crisis would be followed by a food crisis.
“You can unblock them in different ways. One of the ways is a military solution. That is why we turn to our partners with inquiries regarding the relevant weapons,” he added.
Nearly 60 people evacuated from Luhansk region: Governor
The Luhansk governor has said 57 people were evacuated from the region on Saturday, adding that it was very “hot” in Severodonetsk, Lysychansk and the village of Bilohorivka.
“The shelling does not stop even for an hour. The Russians use artillery day and night,” Serhey Haidai said.
“Every life of the 57 rescued from these communities is important to us today. They are intact and already safe,” he added.
Ukraine says agreeing to ceasefire with Russia will only escalate war
Ukraine’s presidential advisor has dismissed as “very strange” calls in the West to negotiate an urgent ceasefire with Russia that would involve its forces remaining in territory they have occupied in Ukraine’s south and east.
Mykhailo Podolyak told Reuters making concessions would backfire on Ukraine because Russia would hit back harder after any break in fighting.
“Any concession to the Russian Federation would instantly lead to an escalation of the war. So the war will not stop. It will just be put on pause for some time,” he said.
“After a while, with renewed intensity, the Russians will build up their weapons, manpower and work on their mistakes, modernise a little, fire many generals… And they’ll start a new offensive, even more bloody and large scale, taking into account all mistakes,” Podolyak added.
Russian forces intensify efforts to capture Severodonetsk: Think-tank
Russian forces have intensified efforts to encircle and capture Ukraine’s Severodonetsk city in Luhansk Oblast and will likely continue to do so in the coming days, the Institute for the Study of War has said.
“Russian troops in Luhansk will likely move to capitalise on recent gains made in the Rubizhne-Severodonetsk-Luhansk-Popasna arc to encircle and besiege Severodonetsk – the final Ukrainian strongpoint in Luhansk Oblast,” the US-based think-tank said.
According to ISW, Russian military bloggers are hypothesising on the success of Russian tactics in the area and have dubbed it the “Battle of Severodonetsk”.
#Russian forces intensified efforts to encircle and capture #Severodonetsk on May 21 and will likely continue to do so in the coming days as efforts on other axes of advance, including #Izyum, remain largely stalled.
— ISW (@TheStudyofWar) May 21, 2022
Ukrainian director denounces Russian presence at Cannes
Ukrainian director Dmytro Sukholytkyy-Sobchuk has criticised the Cannes Film Festival for including a Russian director in its line-up.
The festival has banned official Russian delegations from attending, but Russian dissident Kirill Serebrennikov, who has spoken out against the invasion of Ukraine, premiered his in-competition film “Tchaikovsky’s Wife” at the festival on Wednesday.
“When he’s here, he is part of the Russian propaganda, and they can use him,” Sukholytkyy-Sobchuk told Reuters.
The Russian director Serebrennikov had said earlier this week that Russian culture should not be boycotted, saying that his culture “has always promoted human values”.
The Ukrainian director Sukholytkyy-Sobchuk described the sensation of being in Cannes while his country fights against a Russian invasion as “alien”.
Women among Azovstal fighters now prisoners of Russia: TASS news agency
There are 78 women among the people captured by Russian forces from the besieged Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol, a pro-Russian separatist leader said.
Russia’s TASS news agency reported the Donetsk separatist leader Denis Pushilin as saying there were also foreigners among those taken prisoner from the Azovstal steelworks. He did not state how many foreigners were taken prisoner.
“They had enough food and water, they also had enough weapons,” Pushilin told TASS.
“The problem was the lack of medicine,” he said, referring to the Ukrainian forces that had held out at the steel plant.
Moscow may swap Ukraine prisoners for Putin ally Medvedchuk: Negotiator
Moscow will consider exchanging prisoners from Ukraine’s Azov battalion for Viktor Medvedchuk, a wealthy Ukrainian businessman close to President Vladimir Putin, a Russian negotiator has said.
“We are going to study the possibility,” said Leonid Slutsky, a senior member of Russia’s negotiating team on Ukraine, the RIA Novosti news agency reported.
Slutsky did not say the number of Azov fighters Moscow was considering for exchange. A separatist leader in eastern Ukraine has said nearly 2,500 Ukrainian fighters were in custody and were sure to face tribunals.
Medvedchuk, 67, is a politician and one of Ukraine’s richest people and is known for his close ties to Putin. He escaped from house arrest after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February but was re-arrested by Ukrainian forces in mid-April.
Russian troops responsible for 7 civilians’ deaths: Ukraine governor
Ukraine says Russian forces are responsible for the deaths of seven civilians in the area of Donetsk in the east of the country that is under Moscow’s control.
Three people were killed in the town of Lyman alone, regional governor Pavlo Kirilenko wrote on Telegram.
Meanwhile in Kherson, occupied by Russian forces, local administrators accused Ukraine of killing three civilians and injuring 10 in the village of Biloserka, in a statement on Telegram.
Ukraine ready to exchange its soldiers for Russian prisoners of war: Zelenskyy
Zelenskyy says his country is prepared to exchange its troops who surrendered at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol for Russian prisoners.
In an interview with a Ukrainian television channel, Zelenskyy said the most important thing for him was to save the maximum number of people and soldiers. “We will bring them home,” he said.
Russia claims to have taken full control of the besieged city of Mariupol after the last group of Ukrainian soldiers surrendered.
Zelenskyy talks to Italian PM, urges more Russia sanctions
Zelenskyy has said he talked to Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and stressed the importance of more sanctions on Russia and unblocking Ukrainian ports.
Zelenskyy tweeted that he had also thanked Draghi for his “unconditional support” of Ukraine’s bid to become a member of the EU. Draghi had initiated the call, he said.
Had a phone conversation with #MarioDraghi at his initiative. Talked about defensive cooperation, the need to accelerate the 6th package of sanctions and unblock Ukrainian ports. Thanked for the unconditional support for Ukraine on the path to the #EU.
— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) May 21, 2022
Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the war in Ukraine.
Read all the updates from Saturday, May 21 here.