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Ukraine thwarts Russian forces at river, sees long fight ahead

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6/6

© Reuters. A satellite image shows a closer view of a barge, a Serna-class landing craft and a sunken Serna craft in Snake Island, Ukraine May 12, 2022. Satellite image 2022 Maxar Technologies/Handout via REUTERS

2/6

By Jonathan Landay

DERGACHI, Ukraine (Reuters) -Ukrainian forces destroyed parts of a Russian armoured column as it tried to cross a river in the Donbas region, video from Ukraine’s military showed on Friday, as the Ukrainian defence minister predicted many weeks of grinding fighting ahead.

Ukrainian forces have driven Russia from the second-largest Ukrainian city of Kharkiv in their fastest advance since Kremlin troops pulled away from Kyiv and the northeast over a month ago to focus their offensive on the Donbas region bordering Russia.

The city, which had been under fierce bombardment, has been quiet for at least two weeks and Reuters journalists have confirmed Ukraine now controls territory stretching to the Siverskyi Donets River, around 40 km (25 miles) to the east.

However, Moscow is still bombarding villages north of Kharkiv.

Some 10 km (six miles) north of the city, firefighters doused smouldering wreckage in Dergachi after what local officials said was an overnight Russian missile attack on the House of Culture, used to distribute aid. Volunteers inside were trying to salvage packages of baby diapers and formula.

“I can’t call it anything but a terrorist act,” the mayor, Vyacheslav Zadorenko, told Reuters. “They wanted to hit the base where we store provisions and create a humanitarian catastrophe.”

Another missile had slammed into the building on Thursday and Russian shelling had wounded a staff member at a clinic and killed a young couple in their home, he said.

Russia, which denies targeting civilians, said its forces had shot down a Ukrainian Su-27 aircraft in the Kharkiv region and disabled the Kremenchuk oil refinery in central Ukraine.

It was not immediately possible to verify the reports.

Southeast of Kharkiv, Britain said Ukraine had stopped Russian forces crossing the Siverskyi Donets river west of Severodonetsk. Footage released by Ukrainian Airborne Forces Command appeared to show several burnt out military vehicles near segments of a partially submerged bridge and many other damaged or abandoned vehicles, including tanks, nearby.

Reuters could not immediately verify the report, or when or where the clash took place.

The Kremlin calls its Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine a “special military operation” to demilitarise a neighbour threatening its security. Ukraine says it poses no threat to Russia and that the deaths of thousands of civilians and destruction of cities and towns show Russia is waging a war of aggression.

“We are entering a new, long phase of the war,” Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov said in a Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) post, predicting “extremely tough weeks” ahead during which he said Ukraine would largely be alone against an “enraged aggressor”.

In their first conversation since the invasion, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke by telephone on Friday with Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, seeking an immediate ceasefire and stressing the importance of open lines of communication.

KYIV SAYS CHILDREN DEPORTED

Ukraine accused Russia of forcibly deporting more than 210,000 children since its invasion, saying they were among 1.2 million Ukrainians transferred against their will. The Kremlin says people have come to Russia to escape fighting.

In Kyiv, a court began hearing the first case of what Ukraine says are more than 10,000 possible war crimes. A Russian soldier is accused of murdering a civilian. Moscow has accused Kyiv of staging such crimes.

In the southern port of Mariupol, Russian forces intensified their bombardment of the Azovstal steelworks, the last bastion of Ukrainian defenders in a city almost completely controlled by Russia after a siege of more than two months.

Some of the civilians evacuated recently from tunnels under the plant where they sheltered described terrifying conditions.

“Every second was hellish,” 51-year-old nurse Valentyna Demyanchuk told Reuters.

Around Snake Island, which Ukrainian military intelligence said allows control of civilian shipping, renewed fighting could help Kyiv resume grain exports vital to world supplies.

Ukraine said it had damaged a Russian navy logistics ship near Snake Island. Russia’s defence ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

Satellite imagery from Maxar, a private U.S.-based company, showed the aftermath of what it called probable missile attacks on a Russian landing craft near the island.

NATO EXPANSION

Meeting in Germany, foreign ministers from the G7 group of rich nations backed giving Ukraine more aid and arms and the European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell announced a further 500 million euros ($520 million) worth of military support that should be approved next week by EU members. He voiced confidence the bloc will agree an embargo on Russian oil.

Ukraine’s foreign minister told the meeting he hoped EU holdout Hungary would agree to the oil embargo. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban wants hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation before agreeing to a ban.

In a late night video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the Russian invasion could cause famine in dozens of countries, triggering political instability and migration.

“How much would you then have to spend to overcome the consequences? These are the questions which should be answered by those who are dragging their feet on sanctions against Russia or are trying to delay aid for Ukraine,” he said.

A day after Finland committed to applying to join NATO, Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde (NYSE:LIN) said membership for her country would bring stability and benefit countries around the Baltic sea.

Joining the 30-nation Western military alliance would end the neutrality the two states maintained during the Cold War and further expand NATO, something Russian President Vladimir Putin said his invasion of Ukraine aimed to prevent.

Moscow has called Finland’s announcement hostile and threatened retaliation but said a newspaper report the Kremlin might cut gas supplies to Finland was mostly likely a “hoax”.

($1 = 0.9605 euros)

Commodities

Kyiv rules out ceasefire as Russia steps up offensive in Ukraine’s east

Published

on

6/6

© Reuters. A local resident walks by a destroyed building after a rocket attack on a university campus, amid Russia’s invasion, in Bakhmut, in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, May 21, 2022. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

2/6

By Natalia Zinets

KYIV (Reuters) – Ukraine ruled out a ceasefire or concessions to Moscow while Russia intensified an offensive in the eastern Donbas region and stopped sending gas to Finland in its latest salvo in response to Western sanctions and its deepening international isolation.

Polish President Andrzej Duda, who met President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Kyiv last month, was back to address the Ukrainian parliament on Sunday, the first foreign leader to do so in person.

After ending weeks of resistance by the last Ukrainian fighters in the strategic southeastern port of Mariupol, Russia is waging a major offensive in Luhansk, one of two provinces in Donbas.

Russian-backed separatists already controlled swathes of Luhansk and the neighbouring Donetsk provinces before Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, but Moscow wants to seize the last remaining Ukrainian-held territory in the region.

On the Donetsk frontline, Russian forces were trying to break through Ukrainian defences to reach the administrative borders of the Luhansk region, while further north they continued heavy shelling of Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk, Ukraine’s general staff said in its daily update on Sunday.

Sievierodonetsk and its twin Lysychansk across the Siverskiy Donets River form the eastern part of a Ukrainian-held pocket that Russia has been trying to overrun since mid-April after failing to capture Kyiv and shifting its focus to the east and south of the country.

The British Defence Ministry said on Sunday that Russia was deploying its BMP-T “Terminator” tank-support vehicles in that offensive. With only 10 available for a unit that already suffered heavy losses in the failed attempt on Kyiv, however, the ministry said they were “unlikely to have a significant impact”.

Ukraine’s lead negotiator, speaking to Reuters on Saturday, ruled out a ceasefire or any deal with Moscow that involved ceding territory. Making concessions would backfire because Russia would hit back harder after any break in fighting, Zelenskiy’s adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said.

“The war will not stop. It will just be put on pause for some time,” Podolyak said in an interview in the heavily guarded presidential office. “They’ll start a new offensive, even more bloody and large-scale.”

Recent calls for an immediate ceasefire have come from U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi.

The end of fighting in Mariupol, the biggest city Russia has captured, gives Russian President Vladimir Putin a rare victory after a series of setbacks in nearly three months of combat.

The last Ukrainian forces holed up Mariupol’s vast Azovstal steelworks have surrendered, the Russian defence ministry said on Friday.

Full control of Mariupol gives Russia command of a land route linking the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow seized in 2014, with mainland Russia and parts of eastern Ukraine held by pro-Russia separatists.

GAS DISPUTE

Russian state gas company Gazprom (MCX:GAZP) said on Saturday it had halted gas exports to Finland, which has refused Moscow’s demands to pay in roubles for Russian gas after Western countries imposed sanctions over the invasion.

Finland said it was prepared for the cutoff of Russian flows. It applied together with its Nordic neighbour Sweden on Wednesday to join the NATO military alliance, although that is facing resistance from NATO member Turkey.

Most European supply contracts are denominated in euros or dollars. Last month, Moscow cut off gas to Bulgaria and Poland after they rejected the new terms.

Western nations have also stepped up weapons supplies to Ukraine. On Saturday, Kyiv got another huge boost when U.S. President Joe Biden signed a bill to provide nearly $40 billion in military, economic and humanitarian aid.

Moscow says Western sanctions, along with arms deliveries for Kyiv, amount to a “proxy war” by the United States and its allies.

Putin calls the invasion a “special military operation” to disarm Ukraine and rid it of radical anti-Russian nationalists. Ukraine and its allies have dismissed that as a baseless pretext for the war, which has killed thousands of people in Ukraine, displaced millions and shattered cities.

Zelenskiy said he stressed the importance of more sanctions on Russia and unblocking Ukrainian ports in a call with Italy’s Draghi on Saturday.

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Commodities

Ukraine rules out ceasefire as fighting intensifies in Donbas

Published

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5/5

© Reuters. A local resident walks by a destroyed building after a rocket attack on a university campus, amid Russia’s invasion, in Bakhmut, in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, May 21, 2022. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

2/5

By Tom Balmforth, Pavel Polityuk and Terje Solsvik

(Reuters) – Ukraine ruled out a ceasefire or concessions to Moscow while Russia intensified an offensive in the eastern Donbas region and stopped providing gas to Finland, as Polish President Andrzej Duda prepared to address the Ukrainian parliament on Sunday.

After ending weeks of resistance by the last Ukrainian fighters in the strategic southeastern city of Mariupol, Russia is waging a major offensive in Luhansk, one of two provinces in Donbas.

Russian-backed separatists already controlled swathes of territory in Luhansk and the neighbouring Donetsk province before the Feb. 24 invasion, but Moscow wants to seize the last remaining Ukrainian-held territory in Donbas.

“The situation in Donbas is extremely difficult,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in his nightly address. The Russian army was trying to attack the cities of Sloviansk and Sievierodonetsk, but Ukrainian forces were holding off their advance, he said.

Zelenskiy adviser Mykhailo Podolyak ruled out agreeing to a ceasefire and said Kyiv would not accept any deal with Moscow that involved ceding territory. Making concessions would backfire on Ukraine because Russia would hit back harder after any break in fighting, he said.

“The war will not stop (after concessions). It will just be put on pause for some time,” Podolyak, Ukraine’s lead negotiator, told Reuters in an interview in the heavily guarded presidential office. “They’ll start a new offensive, even more bloody and large-scale.”

Recent calls for an immediate ceasefire have come from U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi.

The end of fighting in Mariupol, the biggest city Russia has captured, gives Russian President Vladimir Putin a rare victory after a series of setbacks in nearly three months of combat.

The last Ukrainian forces holed up Mariupol’s vast Azovstal steelworks surrendered on Friday, Russia said.

Full control of Mariupol gives Russia command of a land route linking the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow seized in 2014, with mainland Russia and areas of eastern Ukraine held by pro-Russia separatists.

Ukrainian forces in the separatist-controlled regions of Luhansk and Donetsk said on Saturday they had repelled nine attacks and destroyed five tanks and 10 other armoured vehicles in the previous 24 hours.

Russian forces were using aircraft, artillery, tanks, rockets, mortars and missiles along the entire front line to attack civilian structures and residential areas, the Ukrainians said in a Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) post. At least seven people had been killed in the Donetsk region, they said.

Russian troops destroyed a bridge on the Siverskiy Donets River between Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk, Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Gaidai said. There was fighting on the outskirts of Sievierodonetsk from morning through the night, he said on the Telegram messaging app.

Sievierodonetsk and its twin Lysychansk across the Siverskiy Donets River form the eastern part of a Ukrainian-held pocket that Russia has been trying to overrun since mid-April after failing to capture Kyiv.

GAS DISPUTE

Russia’s state gas company, Gazprom (MCX:GAZP), said it had halted gas exports to Finland, which has refused Moscow’s demands to pay in roubles for Russian gas after Western countries imposed sanctions over the invasion.

Finland and Sweden applied this week to join the NATO military alliance.

Finnish state-owned gas wholesaler Gasum, the Finnish government and individual gas-consuming companies in Finland have said they were prepared for a shutdown of Russian flows.

Most European supply contracts are denominated in euros or dollars. Last month, Moscow cut off gas to Bulgaria and Poland after they refused to comply with the new terms.

Western nations also have stepped up weapons supplies to Ukraine. On Saturday, Kyiv got another huge boost when U.S. President Joe Biden signed a bill to provide nearly $40 billion in military, economic and humanitarian aid.

Moscow says Western sanctions, along with arms deliveries for Kyiv, amount to a “proxy war” by the United States and its allies. Thousands of people in Ukraine have been killed in the war that has displaced millions and shattered cities.

Zelenskiy said he stressed the importance of more sanctions on Russia and unblocking Ukrainian ports in a call with Draghi on Saturday.

Duda, who also met with Zelenskiy in Kyiv last month, is the first head of state to address parliament in person since the invasion, his office said.

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Commodities

Indian government trims tax on fuel, essential commodities to fight inflation

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A worker holds a nozzle to pump petrol into a vehicle at a fuel station in Mumbai, India, May 21, 2018. REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas

By Munsif Vengattil

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India on Saturday announced a series of changes to the tax structure levied on crucial commodities in a bid to insulate consumers from rising prices amid high inflation.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced a cut in excise duty on petrol by 8 rupees ($0.1028) per litre, and 6 rupees per litre on diesel.

The new tax regime on petrol and diesel could result in a loss of about 1 trillion Indian rupees to the government in annual revenue due to the lower collection, she said in a series of tweets.

The government also removed the import duty on anthracite, PCI coal and coking coal in a bid to reduce raw material costs for local market demand.

The latest measures will be effective from May 22, the government said in a notification after the announcement by Sitharaman, who also urged state governments to follow suit with similar reductions on fuel prices keeping in line with federal plans.

A litre of petrol currently costs 105.41 rupees, while diesel is at 96.67 rupees in New Delhi.

The government will also provide a fresh subsidy of 200 rupees per cooking gas cylinder to over 90 million beneficiaries under a welfare scheme introduced for women below the poverty line.

The subsidy will have an annual revenue implication of nearly 61 billion Indian rupees, Sitharaman said.

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi has specifically asked all arms of the government to work with sensitivity and give relief to the common man,” she said.

The government was also working to reduce taxes on raw materials for plastic products to lower down the cost of final products.

Experts said the latest moves will likely increase fiscal concerns and raise doubts about government meeting its deficit target of 6.4% of GDP for 2022-23.

But inflation has become a major headache for Modi’s government ahead of elections to several Indian state assemblies this year.

A sharp jump in inflation meant input costs escalated for businesses.

The rise prompted the central bank to hike interest rates at an unscheduled policy meeting this month.

“Today’s decisions, especially the one relating to a significant drop in petrol and diesel prices, will positively impact various sectors, provide relief to our citizens,” Modi wrote on Twitter (NYSE:TWTR). “It is always people first for us!”

($1 = 77.8500 Indian rupees)

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