- Ukrainian soldiers, many wounded, taken to towns under Russian control
- The United States reopens its embassy in Kyiv
- Ukraine says saboteurs targeted Russian armored train
KYIV/MARIUPOL, Ukraine, May 19 (Reuters) – Moscow said nearly 700 more Ukrainian fighters had moved into Russian-held Mariupol as it consolidated a key gain in the south as the United States became the last western country to reopen its embassy. in Kyiv.
Ukraine has ordered its Mariupol garrison to withdraw, but the ultimate outcome of Europe’s bloodiest battle in decades remains unresolved.
The main commanders of the Ukrainian fighters who last fought at the Azovstal steelworks in the port city are still inside the plant, according to the leader of the pro-Russian separatists who control the area, Denis Pushilin, quoted by local news agency DNA on Wednesday.
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Ukrainian officials declined to comment publicly on the fate of the fighters.
“The state is doing everything possible to carry out the rescue of our military personnel,” military spokesman Oleksandr Motuzaynik told a press conference. “Any information to the public could jeopardize this process.”
Ukraine on Tuesday confirmed the surrender of more than 250 fighters but did not say how many more were inside.
Russia said on Wednesday that 694 more fighters had surrendered, bringing the total number to 959. Its Defense Ministry released videos of what it said were Ukrainian fighters receiving hospital treatment after surrendering. in Azovstal.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the Red Cross and the United Nations participated in the talks, Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boichenko said, without giving details.
Mariupol is the largest city Russia has captured so far and allows Russian President Vladimir Putin to claim a rare victory in the invasion it began on February 24.
Moscow has focused on the southeast in its recent offensives after pulling back from Kyiv, where, in a further sign of normalization, the United States said it resumed operations at its embassy on Wednesday.
The US Senate has approved veteran diplomat Bridget Brink as ambassador to Ukraine, filling a post that has been vacant for three years. Read more
Canada, Britain and others have also recently resumed embassy operations.
Moscow says it is engaged in a “special military operation” to demilitarize and “denazify” its neighbor. The West and kyiv call it a false pretext for invasion.
On the battlefront, Russian forces continued their main offensive, trying to capture more territory in the eastern Donbass region that Moscow claims on behalf of the separatists.
Ukraine’s General Staff said in a statement on Thursday that Russia’s attacks were focused on the Donetsk region in the Donbass.
Around Sloviansk, north of Donetsk, Russian forces “suffered significant losses” around the settlement of Velyka Komyshuvakha, he added.
Ukrainian forces shelled a border village in western Russia’s Kursk region at dawn on Thursday, killing at least one civilian, regional governor Roman Starovoit said.
Reuters was unable to verify the information.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said Ukrainian saboteurs blew up railway tracks in front of an armored train carrying Russian troops in the occupied southern city of Melitopol. Read more
“The partisans got it, although they didn’t detonate the armored train itself,” he said in a video posted to social media, contradicting an earlier defense force statement. Ukrainian Territorial Authority that the train had exploded.
Arestovitch said the incident showed the partisan movement was actively disrupting Russian forces.
Finland and Sweden formally applied for NATO membership on Wednesday, a move in the wake of Ukraine’s invasion and the very kind of expansion that Putin cited as the reason for attacking Ukraine.
US Ambassador to NATO Julianne Smith has called for an expedited membership process that could be ‘achieved within months’, but NATO member Turkey has said its approval depends on the return “terrorists”, namely Kurdish militants and supporters of Fethullah Gulen.
Both Finland and Sweden were militarily unaligned throughout the Cold War.
Although Russia has threatened retaliation against the plans, Putin said on Monday their NATO membership would not be a problem unless the alliance sends more troops or weapons there.
Russia could, however, cut off gas supplies to Finland this week, Finnish state energy supplier Gasum said.
The European Commission has announced a 210 billion euro ($220 billion) plan for Europe to end its dependence on Russian oil, gas and coal by 2027. read the after
Meanwhile, Google (GOOGL.O) has become the latest major Western company to pull out of Russia, saying its local unit has filed for bankruptcy and was forced to shut down after its bank accounts were seized. Read more
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Reporting by Natalia Zinets and Max Hunder in Kyiv and a Reuters reporter in Mariupol; Additional reports by Reuters offices; Written by Stephen Coates; Editing by Richard Pullin
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