Ukraine War Update: Russian General Speaks With US Military Chief, Biden, First Hand Horror of Mariupol and Ukraine Needs $5 Billion Per Month In Social And Humanitarian Aid, 12 killed, over 40 injured in Russia’s shelling of Sievierodonetsk

UKRAINE (May 19, 2022)—Top US general Mark Milley has spoken with Russia’s chief of general staff Valery Gerasimov, the US military confirmed today.

“The military leaders discussed several security-related issues of concern and agreed to keep the lines of communication open,” a spokesman for Mr. Milley, the chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, said.

“In accordance with past practice, the specific details of their conversation will be kept private,” the spokesman added.

The call took place after US defence secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with his Russian counterpart last week, the first time since Russia started its invasion of Ukraine in February.

Medic’s bodycam footage shows first-hand horror of Mariupol

We reported earlier on Ukrainian medic Yuliia Paievska who recorded the horrors taking place in the ruined city of Mariupol on a body camera before smuggling the data card out in a tampon.

The 53-year-old recorded 256 gigabytes of her team’s frantic efforts over two weeks to save people from the brink of death.

She managed to get the harrowing clips to journalists from the Associated Press as they left the city in a rare humanitarian convoy.

The data card was hidden inside a tampon, and the team passed through 15 Russian checkpoints before reaching Ukrainian-controlled territory.

Ms. Paievska and her driver were then captured by Russian soldiers the next day on 16 March.

She is now a prisoner of the Russians and has not been seen since.

Russia ‘will only open Ukraine’s ports if sanctions are removed’

Russia’s foreign ministry has said it will only open access to Ukraine’s Black Sea ports if sanctions against the Kremlin are removed, the Interfax news agency reports.

Ukraine, one of the world’s biggest grain producers, used to export most of its goods through its seaports, but since Russia sent troops into Ukraine, it has been forced to export by train or via its small Danube River ports.

UN food chief David Beasley appealed on Wednesday to Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying: “If you have any heart at all, please open these ports.”

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was ‘watershed moment’ for Sweden

Sweden’s Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson has said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was a “watershed moment” for the country.

Speaking to reporters during a news conference at the White House, Ms Andersson said her government had come to the conclusion that the security of the Swedish people would be “best protected within the NATO alliance”.

She said: “Today, the situation in Ukraine reminds us of the darkest days of European history and I must say that during dark times it is great to be among close friends.

“Over these past months, we have shown trans-Atlantic unity and strength at its best. Together, we have responded forcefully to Russia’s aggression and given unprecedented support to Ukraine. We have not flinched.”

She said that after 200 years of military non-alignment Sweden had “chosen a new path”.

“Yesterday Sweden and Finland submitted our formal requests to join NATO and Russia’s full scale aggression against a sovereign and democratic neighbour, that was a watershed moment for Sweden,” she added.

“My government has come to the conclusion that the security of the Swedish people will be best protected within the NATO alliance.”

‘We take our security very seriously,’ Finnish president says

Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto said his country was “taking a historic step” in choosing to join NATO during a news conference at the White House.

“Finland has made its decision after a rapid but a very thorough process,” he told reporters.

“The process has once again shown the strength of Finnish democracy.

“Starting from the strong public support, the decision was made with an overwhelming parliamentary majority and it also got huge strong popular support.”

Mr Niinisto thanked US leader Joe Biden for his “steadfast support” though the process as she assured other NATO countries that Finland would become a “strong ally”.

He said: “I want to assure you that Finland will become a strong NATO ally. We take our security very seriously. The Finnish armed forces are one of the strongest in Europe.

“We have also consistently invested in developing our capabilities.”

The Finnish leader went on to say that his country’s willingness to defend their land was “one of the highest in the whole world”.

He also said that Finland was open to discussing Turkey’s concerns over its accession application to NATO.

President Joe Biden says Sweden and Finland ‘meet every NATO requirement and then some’

 President Joe Biden is speaking at a news conference after meeting with Sweden’s Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto at the White House today.

He says their applications for NATO membership “meet every requirement” and having two new members in the defence alliance will “enhance security”.

“This is about the future. It’s about a revived NATO that has the tools and resources and the clarity and conviction to defend out shared values and lead the world,” he says.

Mr Biden says Sweden and Finland are “already among our closest partners” on a range of issues.

He continues: “They meet every NATO requirement and then some. Having two new NATO members in the high north will enhance the security of our alliance and deepen our security cooperation across the board.

“Today, the president and the prime minister and I had a very good discussion about NATO accession, about the war in Ukraine and strengthening trans-Atlantic security.”

Mr Biden goes on to say conversations about Sweden and Finland joining NATO “began well before today”.

“President Niinisto and I spoke last December and again in January and the weeks leading up to Russia’s unjust and unprovoked assault on Ukraine,” he says.

Johnson discusses ways to open ‘critical sea and land supply routes’ for grain exports with Ukrainian leader

Boris Johnson today discussed with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy how to open “critical sea and land supply routes” for grain exports amid Vladimir Putin’s “reckless blockade of Black Sea ports”.

In a statement, the prime minister said: “I updated the president on support flowing to Ukraine’s defence, including long-range artillery, shore-to-ship missiles and unmanned drones. This is part of our additional £1.3 billion military aid package for Ukraine.

“We also discussed how we can stem the global economic damage caused by Putin’s reckless blockade of Black Sea ports. We’re looking urgently at options to open up critical sea and land supply routes for Ukrainian grain stocks.”

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also tweeted about the conversation, saying that he had spoken with Mr Johnson about “the operation to rescue military from Azovstal” and “ways to export agricultural products”.

Turkish president tells allies he will ‘say no’ to Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has told allies he will “say no” to Sweden and Finland’s NATO bid 

In an interview with students, Mr Erdogan said: “We will continue our policy in a determined way. We have told allies that we will say no to Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership.”

Turkey’s approval of Finland and Sweden’s application to join the Western military alliance is crucial because NATO makes decisions by consensus. 

Each of its 30 member countries has the power to veto a membership bid. 

Mr Erdogan has said Turkey’s objection stems from its security concerns and grievances with Sweden’s – and to a lesser degree Finland’s – perceived support of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and an armed group in Syria that Turkey sees as an extension of the PKK. 

The conflict with the PKK has killed tens of thousands of people since 1984.

Earlier today, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said he was “confident that we will come to a quick decision to welcome both Sweden and Finland to join the NATO family” despite Turkey’s opposition.

“We are addressing the concerns that Turkey has expressed because when an important ally (like) Turkey raises security concerns, raises issues, then of course the only way to deal with that is to sit down and find common ground,” he told reporters.

McDonald’s starts process of selling Russian restaurants

McDonald’s has started the process of selling its restaurants in Russia after more than 30 years in the country.

The Chicago burger giant said Alexander Govor, who operates 25 restaurants in Siberia, has agreed to buy McDonald’s 850 Russian restaurants and operate them under a new name.

McDonald’s did not disclose the sale price.

The company said on Monday that it would leave Russia after its invasion of Ukraine.

The sale agreement is subject to regulatory approval and is expected to close within a few weeks, McDonald’s said.

Mr Govor, a licensee since 2015, has also agreed to retain McDonald’s 62,000 Russian employees for at least two years on equivalent terms.

He also agreed to pay the salaries of McDonald’s corporate employees until the sale closes.

Captured medic reveals first hand horrors inside besieged city after smuggling in recording device

A Ukrainian medic has managed to record her time in the besieged city of Mariupol by using a data card no bigger than a thumbnail. 

Yuliia Paievska smuggled the device in a tampon and used it to record her team’s frantic efforts over two weeks. 

She got the harrowing clips to an Associated Press team as they left in a rare humanitarian convoy.

The next day, the 53-year-old was captured by Russian soldiers, who portrayed her as working for the nationalist Azov Battalion. 

The military hospital where she led evacuations of the wounded is not affiliated with Azov and the video she recorded shows her trying to save wounded Russian soldiers along with Ukrainian civilians. 

On the first day of the war, Yuliia chronicled efforts to bandage a Ukrainian soldier’s open head wound. 

Later that night, two young children – a brother and sister – arrive gravely wounded from a checkpoint shootout.

Their parents are dead. By the end of the night, despite Yuliia’s efforts, so is the boy.  

A 10 March clip shows two Russian soldiers are taken roughly out of an ambulance by a Ukrainian soldier. One is in a wheelchair. The other is on his knees, hands bound behind his back, with an obvious leg injury. 

A woman asks her: “Are you going to treat the Russians?”

“They will not be as kind to us,” she replies. “But I couldn’t do otherwise. They are prisoners of war.”

Yuliia, who went by the name Taira, 53, is now a prisoner of the Russians, like hundreds of local officials, journalists and other prominent Ukrainians who have been kidnapped or captured.

The UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine has recorded 204 cases of enforced disappearances, saying that some victims may have been tortured and five were later found dead. 

Russia soldier asks victim’s widow to forgive him after telling court he was ordered to shoot civilian

A Russian soldier facing a war crimes trial over his actions during the Ukraine war has said he shot a Ukrainian civilian on an officer’s orders.

Vadim Shishimarin could get a life sentence if convicted of shooting the 62-year-old man in the head through an open car window in a village in the northeastern Sumy region. 

The 21-year-old told a court in Kyiv that the officer insisted the man, who was speaking on his mobile phone, could pinpoint their location to Ukrainian forces.

Looking subdued, Shishimarin said he had to obey the orders of the officer.

He asked the victim’s widow, who was also in court, to forgive him for what he did.

The woman, Kateryna Shelipova, said she saw her husband, Oleksandr Shelipov, shot dead just outside their home.

Ms Shelipova told the court that Shishimarin deserves a life sentence for killing her husband but added that she would not mind if he was exchanged as part of a possible swap for the Ukrainian defenders of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol.

WHO chief speaks with Russia’s foreign minister

The head of the World Health Organisation (WHO) said today that he had spoken with Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov.

In a message on Twitter, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “I requested safe access to Mariupol, Kherson, southern Zaporizhzhia and other besieged areas to deliver health aid. Civilians must be protected.”

Yesterday, officials said that peace negotiations between Russia and Ukraine had stagnated, with both sides trading blame and Moscow indicating a return to talks may be difficult.

Russia accused Ukraine of hardening its stance and the West for bolstering the government in Kyiv, with Mr Lavrov saying that Washington, London and Brussels wanted to use Ukraine to their strategic advantage.

Mr Lavrov also said that he believed no peace deal could be made if negotiators tried to “transfer the dialogue” to focus on what the West had to say instead of the immediate situation in Ukraine.

Evacuation of Ukrainian soldiers from besieged city continuing today, governor claims

The evacuation of Ukrainian soldiers from the besieged port city of Mariupol is continuing to take place, a Ukrainian general has said. 

“In the Mariupol direction, measures are being taken to evacuate our heroes,” Oleksiy Gromov said. 

It comes after Russia claimed that more than half of Ukrainian troops inside Azovstal steelworks in the city had surrendered. 

It said a total of 1,730 Ukrainian fighters had left over the last three days, including 771 in the past 24 hours. 

The steel plant is considered to be the last major stronghold in the city, which has been a key target for Russia’s President Vladimir Putin since the war began. 

Financing Ukraine During The War

Finance minister: Ukraine needs $5 billion per month to finance social and humanitarian aid. Finance Minister Serhiy Marchenko said on May 19 to G7 finance ministers that frozen Russian assets should be used to rebuild Ukraine.

50,000 Ukrainian refugees fleeing Russia’s war have arrived in UK. According to U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, they are doing “everything possible” to help Ukrainians “build lives here.”

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, a total of over 6 million people left Ukraine since Feb. 24, with nearly 3.5 million have been registered in Poland, followed by nearly 1 million people settling in Romania.

Russians block civilians from leaving occupied areas in southern Ukraine. Russians have held over 1,000 cars with people at their checkpoint in Vasylivka, Zaporizhzhia Oblast, not allowing them to either enter Ukrainian-controlled territories, regional administration reports.

Germany To Allocate 1 Billion Euros To Ukraine’s Budget

Germany to allocate 1 billion euros to support Ukraine’s budget. Finance Minister Christian Lindner announced the new assistance package during a G7 finance minister meeting. According to Lindner, the U.S. wants to mobilize $7.5 billion to help Ukraine’s short-term budget.

Russia’s Shelling of Sievierodonetsk

12 killed, over 40 injured in Russia’s shelling of Sievierodonetsk, Luhansk Oblast. Russian troops have been “chaotically” shelling Sievierodonetsk with heavy weapons, mostly targeting residential buildings, according to Luhansk Oblast Governor Serhiy Haidai.

Stoltenberg: Russia’s offensive in Donbas stalled, but ‘war may continue for a long time.’ NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on NATO doesn’t believe that Russia has given up on its strategic goals & that NATO has to be prepared to support Ukraine “for a long time.”

Ukrainian forces liberated 23 settlements in Kharkiv Oblast within 2 weeks. Russian troops continue to shell Chernihiv and Sumy oblasts “to divert our forces from the main directions,” says Ukrainian General Oleksiy Hromov.

37 people evacuated from Sievierodonetsk amid heavy shelling. Five of those evacuated were children, Luhansk Oblast Governor Serhiy Haidai reported on May 19. According to him, the evacuation was “beyond difficult” due to Russia’s non-stop heavy shelling of Sievierodonetsk.

European Parliament Approved Suspending Import Duties 

European Parliament approves suspending import duties on Ukrainian exports to EU for 1 year. To “support Ukraine’s economy,” the measures will remove import duties on Ukrainian industrial products, along with entry duties on fruit and vegetables, anti-dumping duties, etc.

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Source: Sky News, Kyiv  and Bee News Daily contributed.

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