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The Russian Foreign Ministry said Thursday that Finland's possible accession to NATO would force Moscow to take "military-technical" retaliatory measures.

Ukraine is negotiating with Russia over the evacuation of seriously injured soldiers from the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on Thursday.

The US House of Representatives on Tuesday overwhelmingly passed a nearly $40 billion aid bill for Ukraine.

08:10 2022-05-14
Russia sees threat in Ukraine's EU bid
By REN QI in Moscow
US Black Hawk helicopters fly as NATO allied troops carry out Swift Response 22 exercises during a media open day at Krivolak army base, North Macedonia, May 12, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

Russia sees the prospect of Ukraine's membership of the European Union as the equivalent of its joining NATO, a senior Russian diplomat at the United Nations said on Thursday.

The Financial Times earlier reported that Moscow had indicated, during cease-fire talks in March, that it was not opposed to Ukraine joining the EU.

The Kremlin has long been outspoken in its criticism of NATO, stating that Ukraine's association with the Western military alliance was a direct threat to Russian security.

"Our position on the European Union now is more similar to NATO because we don't see a big difference," said Dmitry Polyansky, Russia's first deputy UN representative.

The European Commission is expected to decide whether to grant Ukraine candidate status next month.

Polyansky said Moscow's stance changed when top EU diplomat Josep Borrell asserted that the Russia-Ukraine conflict "will be won on the battlefield" during a visit to Ukraine last month.

On Thursday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba expressed the hope that the EU would soon approve Ukraine's application to start the process of joining the bloc.

Kuleba, who was invited to join the G7 foreign ministers' meeting in northern Germany on Thursday, said he considered it a "signal of strength" that Chancellor Olaf Scholz's party had dropped its opposition to providing Ukraine with heavy weapons.

Aside from the actions taken by Western countries, Japan has expanded the list of goods and technologies that it has banned for export to Russia, the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said on Friday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said at a meeting on economic issues that the culpability for the global consequences of sanctions against Russia, including possible hunger in a number of countries, rests with Western countries. In their pursuit of domination, they are ready to sacrifice the rest of the world, he said.

In military developments, Ukraine said it had damaged a Russian navy logistics ship near Snake Island, a small but strategic outpost in the Black Sea, Reuters reported.

"Thanks to the actions of our naval seamen, the support vessel Vsevolod Bobrov caught fire-it is one of the newest in the Russian fleet," said Serhiy Bratchuk, a spokesman for the Odessa regional military administration.

Russia's defense ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

 

13:30 2022-05-13
Russia vows retaliation against Finland's NATO bid

The Russian Foreign Ministry said Thursday that Finland's possible accession to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) would force Moscow to take "military-technical" retaliatory measures.

Russia has repeatedly noted that while it is up to Finland to decide which measures it will take to ensure its national security, it must also be aware of the consequences of its actions, the ministry said.

"Finland's accession to NATO will seriously damage Russian-Finnish relations as well as stability and security in Northern Europe," it added.

10:51 2022-05-13
Achieving peace is best protection for children in Ukraine: Chinese envoy
Children are seen at a temporary accommodation center in the village of Bezimenne in Donetsk, Ukraine, May 1, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

UNITED NATIONS - A Chinese envoy said Thursday that achieving peace is the best protection for children in Ukraine.

"Achieving peace is the best protection for children. Dialogue and negotiation is the most realistic and feasible way to reach a cease-fire," said Dai Bing, China's deputy permanent representative to the United Nations. "The international community should encourage Russia and Ukraine to return to the negotiation track and to keep accumulating political conditions for the restoration of peace."

China welcomes the presidential statement adopted by the Security Council on Ukraine on Friday, which calls for the peaceful settlement of international disputes and voices support for the UN secretary-general's efforts to promote peace, he told a Security Council meeting on the issue of children and education in Ukraine.

Sanctions will not bring peace, but will only accelerate the spillover of the crisis, triggering sweeping food, energy, and financial crises across the globe, and making children around the world suffer the bitter consequences. Children living in conflict situations in Afghanistan, Yemen, the Horn of Africa, as well as the Sahel region are bearing the brunt of the humanitarian impact, he warned.

"China once again calls on all parties to stay rational and exercise restraint, transcend prejudice and divisions, and make unremitting efforts for the early resolution of the crisis in Ukraine and for children to enjoy a peaceful future," said Dai.

The conflict in Ukraine is inflicting on children pains foreign to their age. Protecting children from harm is an obligation under international law that must be fulfilled by parties to the conflict. China reiterates its call for securing children and the civilian infrastructure on which they depend, and to give priority to children in evacuation and humanitarian relief operations, he said.

The conflict has uprooted more than half of the Ukrainian children. Millions of children have taken refuge in neighboring countries. China appreciates the safe shelter, humanitarian assistance, and psychological support provided by Ukraine and neighboring countries, as well as various UN agencies and other humanitarian organizations for those children. China calls on the international community to continue to step up relief efforts to ensure that every child in need can receive effective assistance, he said.

Dai also called for efforts to reduce the risk of human trafficking, sexual exploitation and abuse faced by Ukrainian children seeking refuge, especially those separated or unaccompanied.

China supports the World Health Organization in cooperating with Ukraine and the countries concerned to ensure that children can get routine immunization. China supports the UN Children's Fund in helping the Ukrainian government to provide educational supplies and learning opportunities for internally displaced children, and encourages host countries to integrate refugee children into their own education systems, in order to ensure that children's right to education is not disrupted, he said.

10:50 2022-05-13
Ukraine says in talks with Russia over evacuation of injured from Mariupol's Azovstal
Photo taken on April 7, 2022 shows damaged buildings in Mariupol. [Photo/Xinhua]

KYIV - Ukraine is holding negotiations with Russia over the evacuation of seriously injured soldiers from the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on Thursday.

Ukraine seeks to exchange 38 severely injured soldiers from Azovstal for the captured Russian military, Vereshchuk wrote on Telegram.

Currently, there are no talks on the exchange of 500 or 600 people, which has been reported by some media outlets, Vereshchuk said.

She emphasized that the ongoing negotiations between Ukraine and Russia on the Azovstal evacuation are very difficult.

On May 7, Vereshchuk said that Ukraine has evacuated all women, children and the elderly from the Azovstal plant.

Mariupol, a key Azov Sea port city in eastern Ukraine, saw one of the worst bouts of violence in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

The Azovstal plant, which covers an area of about 11 square kilometers, is the holdout of the Ukrainian forces in Mariupol.

09:30 2022-05-13
EU to open 'solidarity lanes' to help Ukraine's grain exports
A driver unloads a truck at a grain store during barley harvesting in the village of Zhovtneve, Ukraine, July 14, 2016. [Photo/Agencies]

BRUSSELS -- The European Commission on Thursday proposed to establish new so-called "solidarity lanes" to ensure that Ukraine can export grain to the European Union (EU) and also import the goods it needs, from humanitarian aid to animal feed and fertilizers, as Ukraine's ports have been blocked due to Russia-Ukraine.

Ukraine's inability to export its agricultural produce through Black Sea ports because of the blockade is threatening global food security and has prompted the development of an action plan to overcome this hurdle, the Commission said in a statement.

Under normal circumstances, Ukraine exports 75 percent of the grain it produces, generating around 20 percent of its annual export revenues. Before the conflict, Ukraine's Black Sea ports handled 90 percent of its grain and oilseed exports.

"Twenty million tonnes of grains have to leave Ukraine in less than three months using the EU infrastructure," Transport Commissioner Adina Valean said in a statement. "This is a gigantesque challenge, so it is essential to coordinate and optimize the logistic chains, put in place new routes and avoid, as much as possible, the bottlenecks."

The Commission said that in spite of immediate efforts by the EU and its member states to ease border crossings between Ukraine and the EU, thousands of wagons and lorries are waiting for clearance on the Ukrainian side. The average current waiting time for wagons is 16 days, while it is up to 30 days at some borders. More grain is still stored and held back in Ukrainian silos ready for export.

Among the challenges are differing rail gauge widths since the wagons used in Ukraine are not compatible with most of the EU rail network, so most goods need to be transhipped to lorries or wagons that fit the EU standard gauge.

09:29 2022-05-13
Russian forces attack major oil refinery in central Ukraine

KYIV -- Russian forces carried out a rocket attack on a major oil refinery in Kremenchuk town in Ukraine's central Poltava region on Thursday, said the head of Poltava regional military-civilian administration Dmytro Lunin.

"Today's shelling of the Poltava region is perhaps the largest during the full-scale war," Lunin wrote on Telegram.

Twelve rockets hit the infrastructure facilities in Kremenchuk, with most of them striking the oil refinery, Lunin said.

The attack caused fire at the oil refinery, Lunin said, adding there were no casualties in the shelling.

According to local media, the Kremenchuk refinery with a design capacity of 18.6 million tons is the largest oil refinery in Ukraine.

The facility suspended operation after it was struck by Russian missiles in early April.

07:42 2022-05-13
Russian governor tells of deadly attack in village
By REN QI in Moscow
Firemen work to extinguish a fire at a Rosneft fuel depot in the town of Belgorod, Russia on April 1, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

A senior Russian official accused Ukraine of targeting a Russian village in an attack in a border area that killed one person and injured seven others on Thursday.

The governor of Belgorod, a region in Russia's southwest near the Ukrainian border, said that in the Ukrainian forces' attack on the village of Solokhi, 17 houses and six cars were partially destroyed.

Vyacheslav Gladkov described the attack as the "most difficult situation "in his region since Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a "special military operation" in late February.

Authorities in Russian regions next to Ukraine have repeatedly accused Ukrainian forces of launching cross-border attacks. In April, Gladkov said Ukrainian helicopters carried out a strike on a fuel storage facility in Belgorod.

On a day that brought increasing anxieties in Russia's border areas, Finland's President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin announced their support for joining NATO, moving the Nordic nation that shares an almost 1,300-kilometer border with Russia one step closer to membership of the military alliance.

Path outlined

The announcement on Thursday came after the Finnish government recently submitted a report on national security to the country's parliament that outlined the path to joining the alliance as one of Finland's options.

In the joint statement, Niinisto and Marin said: "NATO membership would strengthen Finland's security. As a member of NATO, Finland would strengthen the entire defense alliance. Finland must apply for NATO membership without delay. We hope that the national steps still needed to make this decision will be taken rapidly within the next few days."

Once parliament has approved the idea in principle and any other domestic legislative hurdles have been cleared, it is expected that NATO would invite Finland to negotiate its accession.

It is also expected that Sweden, Finland's neighbor to the west, will soon announce its intention to join the alliance through a similar process, the CNN network reported. Russia has warned both countries against joining NATO, saying there would be consequences.

European diplomats and security officials widely assume that Finland could join the alliance quickly once negotiations start, as it has been buying military hardware compatible with that of its Western allies, including the United States, for decades and already meets many of the criteria for membership.

Moscow by no means wishes to see a war in Europe, while the West keeps talking about the need for Russia to be defeated in the Ukraine conflict, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.

On the economic front, Moscow has imposed sanctions on the owner of the Polish section of the Yamal pipeline that carries Russian gas to Europe, as well as the former German unit of the Russian gas producer Gazprom, whose subsidiaries service Europe's gas consumption.

The entities on a list of affected firms on a Russian government website on Wednesday were largely based in countries that have imposed sanctions on Russia, most of them members of the European Union.

Agencies contributed to this story.

11:17 2022-05-12
Billions more in US Ukraine aid spurs reaction
By HENG WEILI in New York
An American flag flies outside of the US Capitol dome in Washington, Jan 15, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

The flow of billions of dollars from the US government to Ukraine in its military conflict with Russia has gone largely unopposed, with both major political parties in support.

But the latest tranche — $40 billion — which was approved by the House of Representatives late Tuesday by a vote of 368-57, sparked an outcry on social media and by some politicians as it was contrasted with US domestic issues such as a shortage of baby formula, record high gasoline prices and soaring inflation.

The appropriation is also expected to pass the Senate.

"Act quickly we must," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said Wednesday. "I will make sure this is a priority for the Senate. We have a moral obligation to stand with our friends in Ukraine."

"I think there'll be substantial support," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican. "We're going to try to process it as soon as possible."

All the votes in opposition to the Ukraine aid in the House were by Republicans.

The new legislation would bring American support for Ukraine to nearly $54 billion, including the $13.6 billion Congress enacted in March. That is about $6 billion more than the US spent on all its foreign and military aid in 2019, according to a January report by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.

The $40 billion package also was $7 billion more than President Joe Biden had requested.

A senior Russian official said in Moscow on Wednesday that the aid was part of Washington's proxy war against Russia.

Dmitry Medvedev, deputy head of Russia's Security Council, said that the funding was driven by a desire to "inflict a heavy defeat on our country, restrict its economic development and political influence in the world".

Despite the Western sanctions against Russia, the Russian ruble is the world's best-performing currency this year, up more than 11 percent against the US dollar. The ruble also has made the most gains among 31 major currencies, according to data tracked by Bloomberg, and has overtaken the Brazilian real, which is up 9 percent this year.

A major factor in the ruble's rebound is that Moscow has demanded payments for its natural gas exports in rubles.

Of the latest US aid to Kyiv, journalist Glenn Greenwald wrote on Substack: "While some of that is earmarked for economic and humanitarian assistance for Ukraine, most of it will go into the coffers of the weapons industry — including Raytheon, on whose Board of Directors the current Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, sat immediately before being chosen by Biden to run the Pentagon.

Raytheon and Lockheed Martin manufacture Javelin anti-tank missiles that have been shipped to the Ukraine military.

"But as gargantuan as Biden's already-spent and newly requested sums are — for a ten-week war in which the US claims not to be a belligerent — it was apparently woefully inadequate in the eyes of the bipartisan establishment in Congress, who is ostensibly elected to serve the needs and interests of American citizens, not Ukrainians," Greenwald wrote.

He said that "it is extremely difficult to isolate any benefit to ordinary American citizens from all of this, it requires no effort to see that there is a tiny group of Americans who do benefit greatly from this massive expenditure of funds. That is the industry of weapons manufacturers."

Greenwald wrote, "Typically, what we see in such situations is what we are seeing now: the establishment wings of both parties are in complete lockstep unity, always breathlessly supporting the new proposed US role in any new war, eager to empty the coffers of the US Treasury and transfer it to the weapons industry while their constituents suffer."

He said that "surely the US government should be prioritizing the ability of its own citizens to live above the poverty line, have health insurance, send their kids to college, and buy insulin and baby formula".

US Senator Tommy Tuberville, an Alabama Republican, warned Tuesday that the US is risking war with Russia by "poking the bear".

He made the comments during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing with Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines and the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Lieutenant General Scott Berrier.

"You know, we're kind of poking the bear here … we're bragging about it. Even President Biden said today, 'Wait a minute. We got to cut back on this,'" Tuberville said of intelligence leaks to the media detailing how the US has assisted Ukraine on military strategy.

Sohrab Ahmari, founding editor of Compact magazine, tweeted: "$40 billion for Ukraine while Americans can't afford gas and there's a baby-formula shortage: This is a great line of political attack for populist Republicans in the Senate. Hahaha, just kidding, most of them will back the $40 billion package."

Elise Stefanik, a Republican member of Congress from New York state tweeted: "I have heard from countless #NY21 (congressional district) parents who are suffering because of Biden's baby formula shortage."

But her tweet drew this response from Catharine O'Neill, CEO of Meriwether Farms in Wyoming: "Why did you then just vote to ship another $40 billion overseas to Ukraine? Save it."

One user, @RedWingGrips tweeted: "Time it took for Congress to send you a $600 stimulus check: 5 months. Time it took for Congress to send Ukraine $40 billion: 36 hours."

Doug Bandow, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, wrote Tuesday on antiwar.com: "Instead of talking about victory (in Ukraine), the Biden administration should promote peace. Ukraine is being ravaged. Europe would be the immediate target if the conflict spreads.

"And America's homeland would be the final target if a US-Russian military confrontation spiraled out of control. Nothing involved in today's conflict is worth taking these kinds of risks."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

10:26 2022-05-12
Russia accuses Pentagon of experimenting on patients in Ukraine
Photo taken on Feb 19, 2020 shows the Pentagon seen from an airplane over Washington DC, the United States. [Photo/Xinhua]

MOSCOW -- The Russian military said that it had obtained new information revealing details of "the Pentagon's inhuman experiments on Ukrainian citizens" in a psychiatric hospital in Ukraine's Kharkov region.

"The main category of the experimental subjects was a group of male patients aged 40-60 with a high stage of physical exhaustion," said Igor Kirillov, chief of the Radiation, Chemical and Biological Defense Forces of the Russian Armed Forces, on Wednesday.

"In order to conceal their belonging to the United States, the experts who conducted the biological research arrived through the territories of third countries," he said at a briefing, adding that the foreign researchers were evacuated in January 2022.

Some large pharmaceutical companies, including those affiliated with the Pentagon, have been involved in the US military biological activities in Ukraine, he said.

Russian specialists carried out work directly in two biological laboratories in Mariupol and found that the United States used the city as a regional center for the collection and certification of the cholera pathogen, Kirillov said.

10:08 2022-05-12
Ukraine blames Russia for gas transit interruption
A view shows valves near a drilling rig at a gas processing facility, operated by Gazprom company, at Bovanenkovo gas field on the Arctic Yamal peninsula, Russia, on May 21, 2019. [Photo/Agencies]

KYIV - The gas transmission system operator of Ukraine (GSTOU) has accused Russia of interrupting Russian gas transit through Ukraine to the consumers in Ukraine and Europe.

Sergiy Makogon, head of the GSTOU, said on Wednesday that Gazprom has stopped transportation of gas from Russia to the gas measuring station Sokhranivka, thus suspending supplies to Ukraine's eastern Donetsk and Lugansk regions.

On Tuesday, the GSTOU said that it was forced to suspend the Russian gas transit to Europe via the territories in eastern Ukraine controlled by Russian forces due to "force majeure".

The gas transit via the Sokhranivka and the border compressor station Novopskov were halted over unauthorized interference in technical processes and withdrawals of gas, the GSTOU said.

"The actions of the occupiers led to the interruption of gas transit," it said.

Novopskov is the gas compressor station in the conflict-affected Lugansk region, which pumps up to 32.6 million cubic meters of gas per day via Sokhranivka or a third of Russia's gas transit to Europe.

The GSTOU said it is ready to reroute the gas flows from Sokhranivka to the Sudzha physical interconnection point located in the territory controlled by Ukraine.

A similar transfer of capacity from Sokhranivka to Sudzha took place from Oct 12 to 25, 2020 due to scheduled repairs, the GSTOU said.

According to it, Sudzha has a capacity of pumping 72 million cubic meters of gas per day.

On March 31, the GSTOU said that 44 gas-distributing stations in Ukraine suspended their operations due to the damage caused by shelling in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

On March 10, Makogon said that the daily transit of Russian gas via Ukraine almost doubled since the start of the conflict to a contracted maximum of 109 million cubic meters per day.

On April 12, local media reported that Russia's gas transit through Ukraine fell to about 68 percent of the contracted maximum.

In 2021, Ukraine transited some 41.6 billion cubic meters of Russian gas to consumers in Europe, down 25 percent from 2020.

10:00 2022-05-12
Inflow of Ukrainian migrates put Poland's hospitality to test
Children from Ukraine wait to receive aid supplies at the border in Medyka, Poland, on Feb 28, 2022. [Photo/Xinhua]

WARSAW -- If it were not for the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the office building at 7 Woloska Street in Warsaw might have been demolished to make way for a new business park.

Today, it is home to about 400 Ukrainian refugees.

In this eight-story building, the offices have been transformed into bedrooms, a cloakroom on the first floor is now a playground for children, and the third floor is used by visiting therapists and psychologists.

There is also an infant room on the top floor. So far, three Ukrainians have given birth in the building.

There are some 30 similar reception centers in Warsaw alone for people fleeing the conflict in Ukraine.

Poland has already taken in over three million Ukrainians, according to the country's Border Guard. Over 300,000 of them, including 120,000 children, have ended up in Warsaw, a city with a population of less than 1.8 million.

The influx undoubtedly presents a huge challenge to both the country and its capital.

Michalina Wieczorek, one of the center's two full-time employees, told Xinhua that the COVID-19 pandemic has posed a challenge for them as infections were reported in the building both in March and April.

"We isolate them, test the others, and bring back those who test negative," she said.

Financing is another headache, according to Wieczorek. She said that if the European Union fund does not arrive soon, it will be very difficult for them.

"Prices are high. And (there's) the inflation. But people keep coming," her colleague Bartosz Domanski added.

Poland's Deputy Foreign Minister Pawel Jablonski said in mid-April that in the face of the "biggest refugee crisis since World War II (WWII)," the burden of helping those affected by the conflict "shouldn't be borne only by Ukraine's neighbors."

Then there is the shortage of manpower.

For now, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and volunteers still provide the lion's share of support. Many of the latter take time off from their jobs to help at the center, which is anything but sustainable in the long run.

Ptak Warsaw Expo, the largest exhibition center in central Europe and now a major aid point for Ukrainians arriving in Poland, has already hosted 65,000 of them since the onset of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

"Actually, the very beginning was difficult and it was easier because everybody wanted to help. Everybody wanted to be engaged. So it was fine. We were full with supplies; our warehouse was full. But now, you know, engagement is much, much lower," said Marta Pasternak, the expo's international key account manager.

"But people are a little bit tired now. They don't have the resources anymore," She said, adding that the supply is running low in the center.

Dominika Pszczolkowska is a migration researcher at the Center of Migration Research of the University of Warsaw. Her research interests include migration and integration policies. She told Xinhua that Poland's health and education systems are now under equal pressure.

"Even before the conflict, we had a shortage of teachers, quite an acute shortage," she said. "If you want to add 100,000 students, obviously, the shortage is going to be much larger."

Housing is the same.

Finding temporary shelter appears to be relatively easy for the Ukrainians, but "the problem is finding something for longer term, because people put up guests for a week or two, but that's not the solution that can last for months," Pszczolkowska said.

"At least in Warsaw, the housing market was already pretty tight before the conflict. And now we have added about 17 percent of inhabitants of the city. So, they have difficulty finding rental apartments, even if they can pay as they have savings or a job," she added.

Due to various problems, such as assimilation and integration issues, many Ukrainian refugees are about to leave. According to data released in mid-April by the United Nation's aid coordination office, more than 870,000 Ukrainians who fled abroad since Feb. 24 have already returned to their home country, and about 30,000 Ukrainians are crossing back into Ukraine every day.

07:46 2022-05-12
Ukraine in line for fresh US funding
By REN QI in Moscow
Russia's emergency personnel clear debris at the site of a destroyed theater in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol on Tuesday. AFP

Bill moving through Congress would see $40b more sent as battles drag on

With Russian and Ukrainian forces entrenched in battles in Ukraine's eastern and southern regions, lawmakers in the United States on Tuesday approved an additional $40 billion in aid to Kyiv.

Washington's fresh supplies came after Ukraine said its much sought-after membership of the European Union was a question of "war and peace" for the whole continent against the backdrop of its conflict with Russia, well over two months after Moscow launched its "special military operation".

On Tuesday, the US House of Representatives' approval of the bill enabling fresh aid means that it will be sent to the Senate. Should the Senate approve it, the bill will be forwarded to US President Joe Biden for signing.

The bill implies the allocation of funds for military, economic and humanitarian aid to Kyiv, in line with requests made by Biden.

In response to the fresh supplies, former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev accused the US on Wednesday of waging a "proxy war" against Russia.

Writing on social media network Telegram, Medvedev said that the bill approved by the House on Tuesday was a bid "to deal a serious defeat to our country and limit its economic development and political influence in the world".

Medvedev said: "It won't work. The printing press by which America is constantly increasing its already inflated government debt will break faster."

Aside from the US support, Kyiv also hailed what it said was EU powerhouse Germany's change of stance on a Russian oil embargo and on supplying arms to Ukraine.

The West has been under criticism for providing arms to Ukraine that many see as fueling the conflict.

Violence raged in the south, where missile strikes in Odessa overnight destroyed buildings, set ablaze a shopping center and killed one person, just hours after a visit by European Council President Charles Michel.

Officials also said some 1,000 troops remain trapped in increasingly dire circumstances in the Azovstal steelworks in the southern city of Mariupol.

Ukrainian border guards said on their social media channel that Russian forces were shelling the Sumy and Chernihiv regions close to the border.

In the country's south, Ukrainian armed forces said they struck nine enemy targets.

Russian forces also continued to bombard the Azovstal plant in Mariupol, trying to capture the last bastion of resistance in the city.

Elsewhere, Russia was trying to reinforce exposed troops on Zmiinyi Island, also known as Snake Island, reports said.

Although Russian President Vladimir Putin gave no hints on the military operation schedule in his speech before the Victory Day parade on Monday as expected, US Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said on Tuesday that the Russian leader will not end the Donbass campaign.

US intelligence also views it as increasingly likely that Putin will mobilize his entire country, including ordering martial law, and is counting on his perseverance to wear down Western support for Ukraine.

Fuel supply disruptions

Ukraine has remained a major route for Russian gas to Europe, though flows of Russian gas to Europe through a transit point in Ukraine dried up on Wednesday.

Ukraine's gas pipeline operator said it would redirect gas from the Sokhranivka transit point, an area occupied by Russian forces, to another site in a Ukraine-controlled area.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Wednesday that contacts between Moscow and Kyiv regarding talks were continuing.

Zakharova also commented on US statements that Washington does not see a "viable negotiating path" for resolving the Ukrainian conflict.

"I think many of the statements are made under the influence of the change of the current US administration, which is now taking place. We should not be surprised at the scattered and contradictory statements we hear," she said.

Agencies contributed to this story.

07:26 2022-05-12
Zelensky, Scholz discuss defensive aid for Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted Wednesday that he had a conversation with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to discuss defensive aid for Ukraine.

"We appreciate the high level of dialogue with Germany and support in our struggle," Zelensky said.

In their talks, the parties touched upon the sanctions against Russia over its conflict with Ukraine and the cooperation between Ukraine and Germany in the energy sector.

According to a statement issued Wednesday by the German government, the two leaders exchanged views on specific and practical options for further supporting Ukraine during the phone conversation.

Scholz also expressed his condolences to Zelensky over the passing of Leonid Kravchuk, the first president of independent Ukraine.

On Tuesday, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said the government of Germany was working with the country's enterprises to provide modern weapons to Ukraine.

Baerbock said that in the coming days Germany would begin training Ukrainian soldiers on using mobile howitzers.

11:40 2022-05-11
US House passes nearly $40 billion Ukrainian aid bill

The US House of Representatives on Tuesday overwhelmingly passed a nearly $40-billion aid bill for Ukraine.

The 368-57 vote sends the defense, humanitarian and economic funding to the Senate, which is expected to vote on and pass it as soon as this week.

Across the Capitol, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has promised the Senate "will move swiftly" to pass the package for US President Joe Biden's signature.

10:35 2022-05-11
Russia won't participate in special session of UNHRC on Ukraine
Photo taken on March 10, 2022 shows the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia. [Photo/Xinhua]

MOSCOW - The Russian Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that Russia has chosen not to participate in an upcoming special session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on Ukraine, calling the event biased.

"Unfortunately, our arguments and explanations with regard to the true goals of the special military operation and the situation on the ground are being completely ignored," the country's foreign ministry said in a statement, citing spokesperson Maria Zakharova.

The UNHRC announced Monday that it will hold a special session on Thursday "to address the deteriorating human rights situation in Ukraine stemming from the Russian aggression."

"The Russian delegation will not legitimize another biased political show with its presence," Zakharova was quoted as saying.

She also said that the West had traditionally used human rights to pursue their own interests through opportunistic behavior.

The UNHRC seems not to be bothered that its reputation could be discredited, and the body has turned into a "closed club of genuine democracies" that imposes rules on the rest of the world and punishes those who violate them, according to the spokesperson.

10:33 2022-05-11
Ukrainian govt approves seizure of Russian assets: PM
Prime Minister of Ukraine Denys Shmyhal delivers remarks as he meets with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) at the US Capitol on April 21, 2022 in Washington, DC. [Photo/Agencies]

Kyiv - The Ukrainian government has approved the seizure of Russian assets in Ukraine, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said on Tuesday.

"Today, the Cabinet of Ministers approved a document according to which Russian assets in Ukraine are transferred to the state, or rather to the state enterprise 'National Investment Fund'," Shmyhal wrote on Telegram.

The Russian assets will be placed under the management of the National Investment Fund of Ukraine and will be used for strengthening the Ukrainian army, supporting the people and rebuilding infrastructure, Shmyhal said.

The Ukrainian government is working with other countries to seize Russian assets abroad and use the funds for Ukraine's post-conflict recovery, he added.

In April, Shmyhal said Kyiv sought to seize Russian assets to finance Ukraine's post-conflict recovery. "The funds of the Russian government and oligarchs will be one of the main sources for filling the Fund for the Reconstruction of our country," Shmyhal said on Telegram.

09:28 2022-05-11
EU steps back over ban on Russian oil shipping
By JULIAN SHEA in London
A general view shows the oil refinery of the Lukoil company in Volgograd, Russia, April 22, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

Plans for the European Union's shipping industry to stop carrying Russian crude oil as a sanction for the conflict in Ukraine have been dropped after fears of the issue causing division among the bloc's 27 member states.

The idea was put forward last week but after vocal protests from Greece and Malta, which are both significant players in Europe's shipping industry and so could feel the economic impact more than most, the European Commission has reportedly decided not to follow through with the proposal.

Some states suggested that it would only be effective if there was an agreement among the G7 nations, including the United States and United Kingdom, which could help put pressure on other key maritime hubs, such as Panama and Liberia, but there is no sign of that happening any time soon.

However, there is still expected to be an indirect sanction on the shipping of oil, with the commission suggesting a ban on European companies providing essential services, such as maritime insurance, which would hit Russia's export channels.

Although the EU is trying to present a united front, a variety of national interests and concerns means that there are widely differing opinions and attitudes toward Russia, which make it a major challenge finding common ground.

Elsewhere, commission President Ursula von der Leyen has had talks with Hungary's prime minister, Viktor Orban, about his country's resistance to a proposed European ban on all Russian crude oil and refined oil products.

Previously, Orban had said his country could not accept any proposal that ignores the fact that "Russian or any kind of oil can only come to Hungary by pipeline... this proposal in its current form is like an atomic bomb dropped on the Hungarian economy".

A spokesperson for the commission said the discussions demonstrated "there is a path forward "over the issue.

Slovakia and the Czech Republic have also been skeptical about the plans and want special dispensation to cater for their own domestic circumstances.

Euronews reported that an initial compromise reached last week would allow Hungary and Slovakia two years beyond the proposed end-of-year cut-off point to complete the phasing out of Russian fuel.

Slovakia is 100 percent reliant on oil from Russia and said adapting the country's only oil refinery for different products would take between four and six years of work, at a cost of 250 million euros ($264 million). A ban by the end of the year would cause "a complete recession", a government official said.

The Czech Republic is also seeking extra time while it can be connected to the Transalpine Pipeline, which supplies central European refineries via the Italian port of Trieste.

08:40 2022-05-11
Germany works to provide modern weapons to Ukraine: FM
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba speaks during a joint news conference with German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock in Kyiv, Ukraine, May 10, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

Kyiv - Visiting German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on Tuesday said the government of Germany is working to provide modern weapons to Ukraine, the Ukrainian government-run Ukrinform news agency reported.

"We are working with German enterprises to ensure that Ukraine receives the most modern weapons," Baerbock told reporters during a press conference with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.

In the coming days, Germany will begin training Ukrainian soldiers on using mobile howitzers, Baerbock added.

Besides, she said Germany will assist Ukraine in demining efforts and support Ukraine's aspirations to join the European Union (EU).

"We insist on Ukraine's full membership in the EU," said Baerbock.

For his part, Kuleba voiced his hope that European countries will continue to provide Ukraine with economic and military support and continue sanctions on Russia over the conflict with Ukraine.

Baerbock also held talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, according to a statement from the German Foreign Ministry.

Baerbock's trip marks the first visit by a German government member to Ukraine since the outbreak of the conflict.

09:41 2022-05-10
Ukrainian president, Swedish PM discuss defense support for Ukraine over phone
People evacuated from the Azovstal plant and adjacent houses in Mariupol arrive at a temporary accommodation center in the village of Bezimenne in Donetsk, May 1, 2022. [Photo/Xinhua]

KYIV - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Monday he had discussed defense support for his country amid the conflict with Russia with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson.

According to Zelensky, other topics of the conversation were energy cooperation between Ukraine and Sweden and the strengthening of sanctions on Russia.

For her part, Andersson tweeted that she expressed steadfast support for Ukraine during the phone call with Zelensky.

09:30 2022-05-10
Financial markets experience strains on market liquidity amid Russia-Ukraine conflict: US Fed report
The Federal Reserve building is seen in Washington, US, Jan 26, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

WASHINGTON - Amid Russia-Ukraine conflict and elevated inflation, financial markets experienced high volatility and some strains on market liquidity, US Federal Reserve said in a report Monday.

In the near term, the conflict and related events are likely to create "additional upward pressure" on inflation and weigh on economic activity, the Fed said in its semi-annual Financial Stability Report.

The report noted that inflation has been higher and more persistent than expected, even before the conflict in Ukraine, and uncertainty over the inflation outlook "poses risks" to financial conditions and economic activity.

"Banks remained well-capitalized, but some money market and bond funds are still exposed to sizable liquidity risks," the report said, noting that a few signs of funding pressures emerged amid the escalation of geopolitical tensions.

The Fed report noted that funding risks at domestic banks remained low as a result of large holdings of liquid assets and a limited reliance on short-term wholesale funding.

However, it warned that some types of money market funds and stablecoins - a digital currency that's designed to maintain a steady value in relation to stable reserve asset like the US dollar - "remain prone to runs," and many bond and bank loan mutual funds "continue to be vulnerable to redemption risks."

Broad funding markets proved "resilient," and spillovers have been "limited" to date, according to the report.

In a separate statement, Fed Governor Lael Brainard said Russia-Ukraine conflict has sparked large price movements and margin calls in commodities market and "highlighted a potential channel through which large financial institutions could be exposed to contagion."

"From a financial stability perspective, since most participants access commodities futures markets through a large bank or broker-dealer that is a member of the relevant clearing house, these clearing members are exposed to risk when clients face unusually elevated margin calls," Brainard said.

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