The latest on the Russia–Ukraine crisis, May 22. Click here for updates from May 21.
Ukraine, Poland Agree on Joint Customs Control
Ukraine and Poland agreed on Sunday to establish a joint border customs control and work on a shared railway company to ease the movement of people and increase Ukraine’s export potential.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Polish President Andrzej Duda touted the increased cooperation between the countries during a meeting in Kyiv on Sunday, with Duda offering Warsaw’s backing for the embattled neighbor.
“The Polish-Ukrainian border should unite not divide,” Duda told lawmakers as he became the first foreign leader to give a speech in person to the Ukrainian parliament since Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion.
Zelenskyy called the joint border customs control a “revolutionary” move.
“This will significantly speed up border procedures,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address, after Duda’s visit.
Most Ukrainian refugees fleeing the war, have crossed to the European Union through border points in Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania. Poland has granted the right to live and work and claim social security payments to over 3 million Ukrainians.
Ukraine’s Infrastructure Minister Oleksander Kubrakov said that the two neighbors were working on easing transport of Ukraine’s goods to the European Union.
“We are also working on the creation of a joint venture railway company to increase the export potential of the Ukrainian economy,” Kurbakov said in a statement.
Russian Troops Demine Azovstal Steelworks
Russian soldiers entered the industrial grounds of Mariupol’s Azovstal Steelworks on Sunday, as part of an operation to clear mines and debris from the area.
Soldiers walked through the compound and swung mine detectors over roads littered with debris, while some checked under objects for the explosive devices. Sunday’s operation saw mines detonated in controlled explosions and debris cleared from the steelworks’ roads using military bulldozers.
One Russian serviceman, with the nom-de-guerre “Babai,” said the landmines were planted by both Ukrainian and Russian forces, with over 100 mines being cleared by the operation in the last two days. Drone footage also captured the extensive damage to the steelworks’ buildings, where a weeks-long siege trapping Ukrainian fighters inside the compound ended in surrender on Friday.
Many of the industrial buildings were left charred and partially collapsed following Russia’s intense campaign in Mariupol, which began following the invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24. The last Ukrainian forces holed up in the steelworks surrendered on Friday, according to the Russian defense ministry.
Ukraine has not confirmed that development, but a commander of one of the units in the factory said in a video that the troops had been ordered to stand down.
Ukraine Parliament Bans Russian War Symbols
Ukraine’s parliament on Sunday banned the symbols “Z” and “V,” used by Russia’s military to promote its war in Ukraine but agreed to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s call to allow their use for educational or historic purposes.
Yaroslav Zheleznyak, an opposition member, announced the decision on the Telegram messaging app, saying 313 deputies had voted in favor in the 423-member Verkhovna Rada assembly.
Zelenskyy had vetoed an earlier version of the bill and called for the two symbols to be allowed in displays in museums, libraries, scientific works, re-enactments, textbooks, and similar instances.
Neither of the two letters exists in the Russian alphabet. They have been widely used, particularly on Russian military vehicles and equipment, to promote the aims of the conflict.
Moscow calls its invasion of Ukraine a “special military operation” to disarm its neighbor and protect it from fascists. Ukraine and the West say the fascist allegation is baseless and the war is an unprovoked act of aggression.
The new bill bans the creation of non-governmental organizations using Russian war symbols or undermining Ukraine’s sovereignty.
The Ukrainian parliament on Sunday also extended for another 90 days, or until Aug. 23, the period of martial law in the country.
Ukraine Rejects Concessions to Russia
Ukraine ruled out a ceasefire or any territorial concessions to Moscow as Russia stepped up its attack in the eastern and southern parts of the country, pounding the Donbass and Mykolaiv regions with airstrikes and artillery fire.
“The war must end with the complete restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty,” Andriy Yermak, Ukraine’s presidential chief of staff said in a Twitter post on Sunday.
Polish President Andrzej Duda offered Warsaw’s backing, telling lawmakers in Kyiv on Sunday that the international community had to demand Russia’s complete withdrawal and that sacrificing any territory would be a “huge blow” to the entire West.
“Worrying voices have appeared, saying that Ukraine should give in to (President Vladimir) Putin’s demands,” Duda said, the first foreign leader to address the Ukrainian parliament in person since Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion.
“Only Ukraine has the right to decide about its future,” he said.
Speaking to the same parliamentary session, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy renewed a plea for stronger economic sanctions against Moscow.
Russia Pounds Ukraine’s East and South
Russia pounded Ukrainian forces with airstrikes and artillery in the east and the south, targeting command centers, troops, and ammunition depots, the Russian defense ministry said on Sunday.
Major General Igor Konashenkov, spokesman for the defense ministry, said air-launched missiles hit three command points, 13 areas where troops and Ukrainian military equipment amassed, as well as four ammunition depots in the Donbass.
In Ukraine’s southern region of Mykolaiv, Russian rockets hit a mobile anti-drone system near the settlement of Hannivka, around 100 kilometers northeast of Mykolaiv city, Konashenkov said.
Rockets “and artillery hit 583 areas where troops and Ukrainian military equipment amassed, 41 control points, 76 artillery and mortar units in firing positions, including three Grad batteries, as well as a Bukovel Ukrainian electronic warfare station near the settlement of Hannivka, Mykolaiv region,” he said.
Since the Feb. 24 start of what Moscow calls its “special military operation,” Russia has destroyed 174 aircraft, 125 helicopters, 977 unmanned aerial vehicles, 317 anti-aircraft missile systems, 3,198 tanks, and other armored combat vehicles, and 408 multiple rocket launchers, Konashenkov said.
Polish President Meets Zelenskyy in Kyiv
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Poland’s President Andrzej Duda met in Kyiv on Sunday, posing for photographs together and shaking hands.
The two presidents walked in the Ukrainian capital and held talks.
Duda also attended a session of the Ukrainian parliament on Sunday, telling lawmakers there that only Ukraine has the right to decide its future, as he became the first foreign leader to give a speech in person to the Ukrainian parliament since Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion.
Duda offered Warsaw’s backing, telling lawmakers in Kyiv that the international community had to demand Russia’s complete withdrawal and that sacrificing any of it would be a “huge blow” to the entire West.
Russia-Appointed Head of Occupied Ukraine Town Wounded in Blast
The Russian-appointed head of the occupied Ukrainian town next to Europe’s largest nuclear power plant was injured in an explosion on Sunday, a Ukrainian official and a Russian news agency said.
Andrei Shevchik, who was named mayor of Enerhodar by Russia following its occupation of the town, was in intensive care following the blast, Russia’s RIA news agency said, citing a source in the emergency services.
“We have accurate confirmation that during the explosion the self-proclaimed head of the ‘people’s administration’ Shevchik and his bodyguards were injured,” Dmytro Orlov, who Ukraine still recognizes as the legitimate mayor of the town, said in a post on the Telegram messaging app.
Orlov wrote on Telegram on Sunday evening that Shevchik had been taken to the Russian-occupied city of Melitopol to recover from his injuries, and that he would be temporarily replaced as leader of the town.
Enerhodar had a pre-war population of over 50,000. Many residents work at the two power plants located next to the town, one of which is the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, the largest nuclear power station in Europe.
Top Putin Adviser Warns of ‘Global Famine’ by the End of This Year
A top aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that a “global famine” may start by the end of 2022 because of grain shortages caused by the conflict in Ukraine.
“It is important that in the conditions, for example, of a global famine that will occur closer to autumn, by the end of this year all over the world, Russia should not suffer, but be fully provided with food,” Maxim Oreshkin, Putin’s adviser, told a forum in Moscow late last week, according to state-run media RT.
Oreshkin said the famine will be, in part, caused by the United States’ monetary policy.
“Until about 2020, wheat prices on the world market were stable, but following the increased printing of the dollar, which started around July 2020, prices started rising sharply,” he said, referring to Washington’s measures to deal with effect of COVID-19-related lockdown policies.
“In fact, what America is trying to do with Ukraine now is to take out the grain reserves that Ukraine currently has in its possession—just another action that dooms Ukraine to serious humanitarian problems, but also dooms the global community to having big problems with hunger,” Oreshkin warned.
Jack Phillips and Reuters contributed to this report.