The latest on the Russia–Ukraine crisis, May 17. Click here for updates from May 16.
Several Russian Generals Have Reportedly Been Killed, Ukrainian Regional Admin Says
Ukrainian guerrilla fighters reportedly have killed several high-ranking Russian officers in the southern city of Melitopol, the regional administration said on Telegram.
Russian forces have occupied the city since early in the war.
According to the regional administration, the occupiers are trying to conceal the situation but Russian troops were more actively checking private cars in the city Tuesday, most likely looking for the guerrillas.
No details of the killings were given and the report could not immediately be confirmed.
Throughout the war, the Ukrainians have claimed to have killed many Russian generals and other officers. A few of the deaths have been confirmed by the Russians.
US Launches Program to Capture, Analyze Evidence of Russian War Crimes in Ukraine
The U.S. State Department on Tuesday announced the launch of a new program to capture and analyze evidence of war crimes and other atrocities allegedly perpetrated by Russia in Ukraine, as Washington seeks to ensure Moscow is held accountable for its actions.
The State Department in a statement said the so-called Conflict Observatory will encompass documentation, verification, and dissemination of open-source evidence of Russia’s actions in Ukraine. Reports and analyses will be made available through the Conflict Observatory’s website.
U.S. President Joe Biden has hammered Russia over what he calls “major war crimes” committed in Ukraine, and has underscored his resolve to hold Moscow accountable for launching the largest land war in Europe since World War II.
The Kyiv government has accused Russia of atrocities and brutality against civilians during the invasion and said it has identified more than 10,000 possible war crimes.
Russia denies targeting civilians and says, without evidence, that signs of atrocities were staged.
McConnell Urges Biden Administration to Ensure Sustained Aid to Ukraine
U.S. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell urged the Biden administration on Tuesday to lead an effort to ensure broad, sustained international support for Ukraine and said Washington should remain a reliable supplier of advanced weaponry for the besieged country.
Canada Introduces Bill to Ban Russia’s Putin and Others From Entering Country
Canada on Tuesday introduced a bill in the Senate that will ban Russian President Vladimir Putin and some 1,000 other members of his government and military from entering the country as it continues to ratchet up sanctions after the invasion of Ukraine.
“Banning close associates and key supporters of Putin’s regime, including those responsible for this unprovoked aggression, from entering our country is one of the many ways in which we’re holding Russia accountable for its crimes,” Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said in a statement.
Canada has imposed a number of sanctions against Russia, along with other Western allies, since Russia began what it calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine in February.
Canada has sanctioned the Russian defense sector and hundreds of individuals and entities while at the same time sending weapons to Ukraine. Earlier this month during a trip to Kyiv, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised more weapons and equipment.
In response to sanctions, Russia has banned Trudeau, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, and almost 600 other Canadians from entering the country.
Ukraine Official: 7 Killed in Donetsk Region
Seven civilians have been killed in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region as a result of Russian attacks, the Ukrainian regional governor says.
Pavlo Kyrylenko wrote in a Telegram post that Tuesday’s Russian attacks killed seven civilians of the Donbas: two in Bakhmutsky, two in Bakhmut, and one each in Avdiivka, Drobyshev, and Soledar. Another six people were injured.
The post did not provide further details of the alleged attacks. The Donetsk region has been a focus of fierce fighting over the recent days.
US Commerce Secretary: Combined Efforts by EU and the US to Cut Off Russia’s Access to Technology Have Greatly Succeeded
U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo says concerted efforts by the European Union and the U.S. to cut off Russia’s access to technology over its war on Ukraine have greatly succeeded.
She spoke Tuesday after returning from a meeting near Paris of the EU-U.S. Trade and Technology Council.
Representatives of the EU Commission, the bloc of 27 nations’ executive body, and the Biden administration agreed to further coordinate their actions “to mitigate the negative impacts” of Russia’s war in Ukraine on the global economy.
Raimondo told reporters on a call that the cooperative efforts to implement a series of export controls against Russia “are having a strong and significant effect.”
For the United States, she said, exports to Russia have decreased by 80 percent from February, when Russia invaded Ukraine.
“We’ve essentially stopped sending high-tech to Russia, which is what they need for their military,” Raimondo said.
Ukraine Hopes for Mariupol Fighter Exchange
Ukraine’s deputy defense minister expressed hope on Tuesday that the 264 Ukrainian fighters extracted from the Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol will be exchanged for Russian prisoners of war, despite remarks by a top Russian official who called them “criminals” who have to be “brought to justice.”
Hanna Maliar said at a briefing Tuesday that the comment by Russian State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin is a political statement, “conceived as internal propaganda, [with an eye to] internal political processes in the Russian Federation.”
Maliar said that from Ukraine’s perspective both the negotiation process and rescue operation itself is ongoing.
Ukraine’s Azov Battalion Surrenders to Russia, Evacuates Azovstal Steel Plant in Mariupol
Ukrainian forces began evacuating soldiers from their last stronghold in the besieged port city of Mariupol on May 16, likely signaling the end of the Russia–Ukraine conflict that ran for 82 days, and marking a significant defeat for Ukraine.
Roughly 600 members of the Azov battalion were estimated to be inside the Soviet-era Azovstal steel plant in the eastern portion of the country for weeks, including dozens of wounded, many of them without enough supplies of food and water.
Eastern Ukraine is home to two pro-Russian separatist states—the Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic—recognized by Russia as independent from Ukraine but regarded by the Azov battalion as occupying terrorist states.
Russia Warns Massive Toxic Cloud Moving Toward City After ‘False-Flag’ Attack
Russia’s ministry of defense on Tuesday claimed a toxic cloud is now moving toward the Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk following an alleged “false-flag” attack by Ukrainian special forces.
“The Kyiv regime continues to organize false-flag attacks to accuse the Russian Armed Forces of allegedly using poisonous substances,” the Russian Defense Ministry stated, according to state-run media. The alleged poisonous cloud went as far as one kilometer, or about half a mile, into the air.
Russian officials said the toxic cloud was caused after Kyiv’s forces detonated an explosive device that contains ammonium nitrate. The detonation, the ministry alleged, occurred near the village of Mazanovka, located in the vicinity of Kramatorsk at around 1:35 p.m. local time.
The Epoch Times could not immediately verify Russia’s claims. Ukrainian officials have not issued public comments on the incident.
Azovstal Fighters Brought to Russian-Controlled Olenivka After Surrender: Witness
Seven buses carrying Ukrainian fighters who held out for weeks against Russian forces at the Azovstal steelworks in the port city of Mariupol arrived on Tuesday at a former penal colony in the Russian-controlled town of Olenivka near Donetsk, according to a Reuters witness.
The TASS news agency said the Russian Investigative Committee planned to question the soldiers, many of them members of the Azov Battalion, as part of an investigation into what Moscow calls “Ukrainian regime crimes.”
EU to Make Significant Contributions to Ukraine, Other G7 Members Might Too: Yellen
The European Union is likely to make significant financial contributions to keep Ukraine going, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said on Tuesday, adding she would look to G7 members like Britain, Canada, and Japan to step up help too.
G7 finance ministers and central bank governors are to meet on Thursday and Friday in Germany, with the Russian invasion of Ukraine high on their agenda.
Yellen said the United States has made a strong commitment to Ukraine funding and it was clear that the EU was “very serious about wanting to provide the necessary aid as well.”
“We’ll need to look to other partners in the G7—to Japan, Canada, the UK—to contribute as well, but I do believe that the European Union will make a significant contribution,” she said.
Yellen also said the United States would support the European Union’s efforts to impose an embargo on buying Russian oil and said the ban on purchases phased to start next year, could be combined with tariffs.
G7 Finance Ministers Plan 15 Billion Euros Aid for Ukraine
The finance ministers of the Group of Seven economic powers want to put together a 15 billion euro ($15.8 billion) aid package for Ukraine at their meeting in Bonn this week, a senior German government official said on Tuesday.
The package would cover three months, with a short-term financing arrangement mainly in the form of grants, which unlike loans do not have to be repaid, the official said, adding that the aid was needed because Ukraine’s revenues have collapsed.
The United States had already offered to contribute half of the aid in the form of grants worth $7.5 billion, the official said, adding that the G7 ministers wanted to agree on a joint communique at their meeting starting on Wednesday.
Earlier, German Finance Minister Christian Lindner was quoted as saying there was also a discussion among Western powers about how Russia could be made to help pay for the massive, longer-term task of rebuilding Ukraine.
“I am politically open to the idea of seizing foreign assets of the Russian Central Bank,” Lindner said in an interview with German business daily Handelsblatt and three other European newspapers.
“In the case of private assets, we have to see what is legally possible,” Lindner added. “We have to respect the rule of law, even if we are dealing with Russian oligarchs.”
Ukrainian President and France’s Macron Discuss Ukraine’s War With Russia
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Tuesday he had a “long and meaningful” phone conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron about the war in Ukraine.
“Told about the course of hostilities, the operation to rescue the military from Azovstal and the vision of the prospects of the negotiation process. Raised the issue of fuel supply to Ukraine,” Zelenskyy said on Twitter.
“We also discussed defense support from France, preparation of the 6th package of (European Union) sanctions (against Russia), possible ways to export Ukrainian agricultural products. Held a substantive discussion of our application for the status of a candidate for EU membership.”
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Visited the Kherson Region: RIA
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin visited the Kherson region of southern Ukraine on Tuesday, according to the RIA Novosti state news agency.
It’s a sign of Russia’s increasing influence over areas held by its forces,
The Kherson region is in southern Ukraine outside of the areas claimed by Russia-backed separatists and has been under control of Russian forces since soon after the invasion began in February.
Khusnullin was quoted by RIA as saying Kherson could take “a worthy place in our Russian family.” He also said Russia was organizing road and bridge repairs and signaled produce from the largely agricultural region could be exported to Russia.
A Kremlin-installed politician in the Kherson region said last week that officials there planned to appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin to incorporate the region into Russia.
Biden to Host Swedish Prime Minister and Finnish President at the White House on Thursday
President Joe Biden Biden will host Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson of Sweden and President Sauli Niinistö of Finland at the White House for a meeting Thursday amid their push to join NATO.
The White House said they would discuss the two countries’ applications to join the alliance, as well as European security broadly. The meeting is set to take place before Biden departs for a 4-day trip to South Korea and Japan.
Turkish Nationalist Chief Opposes NATO Bids
The leader of a Turkish nationalist party that is allied with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expressing concern that NATO’s expansion to include Sweden and Finland will provoke Russia and cause an expansion of the war in Ukraine.
Devlet Bahceli, the leader of the Nationalist Action Party, on Tuesday told his party’s lawmakers that the most “logical” option would be for the two countries to be kept in “NATO’s waiting room.”
Bahceli says that Sweden and Finland’s entry into NATO “will mean the lengthening of the war in Ukraine and even its geographical expansion.”
Bahceli’s speech comes a day after Erdogan said Sweden and Finland should not be allowed in. Erdogan has cited the two countries’ perceived support for groups Turkey considers to be terrorists, refusal to extradite “terrorists” wanted by Turkey, and arms export restrictions on Turkey.
All 30 current NATO countries must agree to open the door to new members.
Putin Says It’s Impossible for Some EU Countries to Ditch Russian Oil Now
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that it was impossible for some European countries to quickly ditch Russian oil, as the European Union is proposing.
EU members are negotiating a proposed oil embargo on Russia over Ukraine, but talks failed this week because of a veto from Hungary, which is heavily dependent on Russian oil imports.
“Obviously, some EU states, in whose energy balance the share of Russian hydrocarbons is especially high, will not be able to do this for a long time, to ditch our oil,” Putin said.
Speaking at a televised meeting with domestic oil managers and government officials, Putin also said that Western sanctions and a possible embargo on Russian oil had resulted in an increase in global oil prices.
He said that by abandoning Russian energy supplies, Europe risked paying the most expensive energy prices in the world long-term, while the competitiveness of its industry would be undermined.
He also said that Western sanctions had stoked inflation across Europe itself.
War Crimes Investigators Going to Ukraine
The International Criminal Court prosecutor says he’s sent a team of 42 investigators, forensic experts, and support personnel to Ukraine as part of a probe into suspected war crimes during Russia’s invasion.
ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan said Tuesday that the team “will significantly enhance the impact of our forensic and investigative actions on the ground.”
Khan says the team will improve the gathering of witness testimony, the identification of forensic materials, and help ensure that “evidence is collected in a manner that strengthens its admissibility in future proceedings” at the Netherlands-based court.
Russian Airstrike Kills Eight in Northern Ukraine: Emergency Service
Eight people were killed and 12 wounded in a Russian airstrike on the village of Desna in the northern Ukrainian region of Chernihiv on Tuesday, the regional emergency service said.
The Chernihiv region’s governor, Viacheslav Chaus, said earlier on Tuesday: “Yes, there are no more occupiers in Chernihiv region but it is easy for them to reach us. Don’t ignore air raid warnings!”
Russia Says It Is Expelling Two Finnish Diplomats
Russia says it is expelling two Finnish diplomats and will leave a multinational organization focused on the Baltic Sea, as tensions remain high over Finland and Sweden’s ambitions to join NATO.
The Russian Foreign Ministry on Tuesday framed the expulsion of the two Finnish diplomats as a response to Finland expelling two Russians last month.
It also said the Finnish ambassador was read a protest against “Finland’s confrontational course in relation to Russia,” including its role in international sanctions against Russia and arms supplies to Ukraine. The statement made no mention of NATO.
More Than 250 Ukrainian Troops Surrender as Kyiv Orders Mariupol to Yield
More than 250 Ukrainian fighters surrendered to Russian forces at the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol and Kyiv said it had ordered its entire garrison to evacuate, heralding the end of Europe’s bloodiest battle in decades.
Reuters saw buses leave the steelworks overnight and five of them arrive in the Russian-held town of Novoazovsk, where Moscow said they would be treated for wounds.
In one, marked with the Latin letter “Z” that has become the symbol of Russia’s assault, wounded men were lying on stretchers three bunks high. One man was wheeled out, his head tightly wrapped in thick bandages.
While both sides spoke of a deal under which all Ukrainian troops would abandon the huge steelworks, many details were not yet public, including how many fighters remained inside and whether any form of prisoner swap had been agreed to in advance.
The Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin had personally guaranteed the prisoners would be treated according to international standards.
Sweden Signs NATO Request, Finland Formally Endorses Move
Finland’s Parliament has overwhelmingly endorsed a bid from the Nordic country’s government to join NATO.
Lawmakers at the 200-seat Eduskunta legislature voted 188–8 Tuesday to approve Finland seeking membership in the 30-member Western military alliance.
The vote was seen as a formality as Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin announced the intention on Sunday, and lawmakers’ approval wasn’t necessarily required. However, both Niniisto and Marin stressed that it was important for the Parliament to weigh in on the NATO bid, described by the Finnish head of state as “historic.”
Finland is now expected to sign a formal application and file it to NATO headquarters in the coming days together with Nordic neighbor Sweden where the government announced a similar NATO bid on Monday.
Russian Negotiator Says Ukraine’s Azov Fighters ‘Don’t Deserve to Live’
A Russian lawmaker taking part in peace talks with Kyiv said on Tuesday that Russia should consider the death penalty for what he called nationalist fighters from Ukraine’s Azov regiment.
In a debate in the lower house of Russia’s parliament after the defenders of Ukraine’s Azovstal steelworks surrendered, lawmaker Leonid Slutsky said although Russia has a moratorium on the death penalty, it should “think carefully” about capital punishment for the neo-Nazi Azov fighters.
“They do not deserve to live after the monstrous crimes against humanity that they have committed and that are committed continuously against our prisoners,” he said.
Russia Says It Hit US and European Arms Shipments in Western Ukraine
Russia’s defense ministry said on Tuesday that its missiles destroyed U.S. and European arms shipments in Ukraine’s western Lviv region.
It also confirmed an earlier report from Russian-backed separatists that more than 250 Ukrainian fighters holed up in Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant had laid down their arms and surrendered, of whom 51 were wounded.
The Epoch Times was not able to independently verify the report.
Finnish President Optimistic Turkey’s NATO Objections Can Be Overcome
Finland and Sweden should be able to reach an agreement with Turkey over Ankara’s objections to the two Nordic countries joining the 30-nation NATO alliance, Finland’s president said on Tuesday.
Turkey surprised many NATO allies on Monday by saying it would not support membership for Sweden and Finland after the two countries took the widely anticipated step of agreeing to apply to join the U.S.-led alliance this week.
“Statements from Turkey have very quickly changed and become harder during the last few days,” President Sauli Niinisto said during an address to Sweden’s parliament.
“But I am sure that, with the help of constructive discussions, we will solve the situation.”
Kremlin Says G7 Using Russia’s Reserves for Ukraine Would Be ‘Outright Theft’
The Kremlin said on Tuesday it would be “outright theft” for the Group of Seven economic powers and European Union to seize Russia’s frozen reserves and spend them on behalf of Ukraine.
German Finance Minister Christian Lindner told four European newspapers that he was open to the idea of seizing Russian state assets to finance the reconstruction of Ukraine and that proposals to that effect were already being discussed among the G7 and in the EU.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that no one had informed Russia of such an initiative, which he said would be “illegal, blatant and of course requiring an appropriate response … It would be, in fact, outright theft.”
The Group of Seven major Western powers banned transactions with Russia’s central bank and froze its assets held in their jurisdictions, worth around $300 billion, after Russia launched what it called its special military operation in Ukraine in February.
Azovstal Fighters Who Surrendered Will Be Treated in Line With International Norms: Kremlin
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday that Ukrainian fighters who surrendered at the Azovstal steel plant would be treated “in accordance with international standards,” and that Russian President Vladimir Putin had guaranteed this.
Russia’s defense ministry said on Tuesday that more than 250 Ukrainian fighters holed up in Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant had surrendered after many weeks under siege.
Russia Says Fertilizer Producers Want to Ship Potas
The Kremlin said on Tuesday that Russian fertilizer producers were trying to fulfill contracts despite Western sanctions against them, which posed a risk to global food security.
Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov was responding to a question about a reported proposal by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that Russia allow the shipment of some Ukrainian grain to alleviate a global food crisis in return for facilitation of Russian and Belarusian exports of potash fertilizer, currently restricted under sanctions over the conflict in Ukraine.
Peskov said Russia’s suppliers were interested in fulfilling international contracts, but that “sanctions have been introduced, which are boomeranging all over the world.”
Russia’s decision to send its troops into Ukraine almost three months ago has prevented Ukraine using its main ports on the Black and Azov seas, and cut its grain exports alone this month by more than half compared to the same period last year.
Ukraine Will Get Worse for Isolated Russia, Analyst Says on State TV
One military analyst had a brutally frank message for viewers of Russian state television: The war in Ukraine will get much worse for Russia, which is facing a mass mobilization supported by the United States while Russia is almost totally isolated.
Since President Vladimir Putin ordered the Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, Russian state media—and especially state television—have supported the Kremlin’s position. Few dissenting voices have been given air time.
That appeared to have changed on Monday night when one well-known military analyst gave a blunt assessment to Russia’s main state television channel of what Putin casts as the “special military operation.”
“You should not swallow informational tranquilizers,” Mikhail Khodaryonok, a retired colonel, told the “60 Minutes” talk show on Rossiya-1 hosted by Olga Skabeyeva, one of the most pro-Kremlin journalists on television.
“The situation, frankly speaking, will get worse for us,” said Khodaryonok, a regular guest on state TV who gives often candid assessments of the situation.
He said that Ukraine could mobilize 1 armed million men.
Russia Says Talks With Ukraine Are Not Going on ‘In Any Form’: Ifax
Russia and Ukraine are not holding talks “in any form,” Interfax news agency cited Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Rudenko as saying on Tuesday.
“No, negotiations are not going on. Ukraine has practically withdrawn from the negotiation process,” Interfax cited Rudenko as saying.
Lviv Is Rocked by a Number of Loud Explosions
The western Ukrainian city of Lviv has been rocked by number of very loud explosions.
An Associated Press team in the city witnessed the glare of bright explosions which lit up the night sky to the west of the city shortly after midnight local time. Witnesses counted at least eight explosions accompanied by distant booms. The smell of burning was apparent some time later. The city is currently under curfew from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Makysym Kozytskyy, chairman of the Lviv Regional Military Administration, said the Russians had fired on military infrastructure in the Yavoriv district. The city of Yavoriv is about 15 kilometers (less than 10 miles) from the Polish border.
Andriy Sadovyi, the mayor of Lviv, said on Facebook that there was no confirmed information about the missiles hitting the city.
“Let’s thank those who protect our sky for this!,” Sadovyi said. “In the morning we will give more accurate information. Take care of yourself and do not ignore air alarms!”
Moscow Says G7 Attempts to Isolate Russia Make Global Food Crisis Worse
Russia’s foreign ministry said on Monday that attempts by the West and the G7 group of nations in particular to isolate Moscow have worsened global food shortages.
G7 foreign ministers promised on Saturday to reinforce Russia’s economic and political isolation, continue supplying weapons to Ukraine and work to ease food shortages stemming from Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of its neighbor.
“Attempts to divert Russia economically, financially and logistically from long-standing channels of international cooperation are only exacerbating economic and food crises,” the foreign ministry said in a statement on its website.
“It should be noted that it was the unilateral actions of Western countries, primarily from the Group of Seven, that exacerbated the problem of breaking the logistics and financial chains of food supplies to world markets.”
Before the war, Ukraine and Russia combined accounted for about 29 percent of wheat production for the world market.
Moscow calls its actions in Ukraine a “special military operation” to disarm Ukraine and protect it from fascists. Ukraine and the West say the fascist allegation is baseless and that the war is an unprovoked act of aggression.
US Backs UN Push to Get Ukraine Grain Back to Global Market
The United States supports efforts by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to get Ukrainian grain back into the international marketplace amid the war, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said on Monday.
“He has spoken to us about his plans and his discussions with the Ukrainians and the Russians on this issue,” Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield told reporters without giving further details.
After visiting Moscow and Kyiv late last month, Guterres said he was determined to help bring back to world markets the agriculture production of Ukraine and the food and fertilizer production of Russia and Belarus despite the war.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that Guterres has asked Russia to allow the shipment of some Ukrainian grain in return for moves to help facilitate Russian and Belarusian exports of potash fertilizer.
Guterres’ spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, declined to comment. Russia’s mission to the United Nations in New York did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Katabella Roberts, Jack Phillips, The Associated Press, and Reuters contributed to this report.