Ukraine Seeks Evacuation of Wounded Fighters as War Continues

  • Ukraine in “complex talks” on the evacuation of wounded fighters
  • Finnish leader tells Putin his country plans to join NATO
  • Ukraine’s deputy prime minister says the war “is entering a new and long phase”
  • Hundreds of Russian war dead brought to rail yard
  • G7 countries promise more military and economic aid for Ukraine

kyiv, May 14 (Reuters) – Very complex talks are underway to evacuate a large number of wounded soldiers from a besieged steel mill in the strategic port of Mariupol in the south-east of the country, in exchange for the release of prisoners from Russian war, said the president of Ukraine.

Mariupol, which has seen the heaviest fighting in nearly three months of war, is now in Russian hands, but hundreds of Ukrainian defenders are still holding out at the Azovstal steel mill despite weeks of heavy Russian bombardment.

Fierce Ukrainian resistance, which analysts say Russian President Vladimir Putin and his generals could not have anticipated when they launched the invasion on February 24, has slowed and in some places reversed Russian gains in other parts of Ukraine as well.

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In addition to losing a large number of men and much military equipment, Russia is recovering from economic sanctions. The Group of Seven major Western economies pledged in a statement on Saturday to “further increase economic and political pressure on Russia” and supply more weapons to Ukraine. read more

The war has also prompted Finland and most likely Sweden to abandon their long-awaited military neutrality and seek NATO membership, a move Finnish President Sauli Niinisto defended in a phone call to Putin on Saturday.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy addressed the plight of people trapped in the Azovstal siege in a late-night speech.

“Right now very complex negotiations are taking place on the next phase of the evacuation mission: the transfer of the seriously injured, the doctors,” he said, adding that “influential” international intermediaries were involved in the talks.

Russia, which initially insisted that defenders of the sprawling Soviet-era bunkers beneath the steel mill surrender, has said little publicly about the talks.

Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk told local television on Saturday that efforts are now focused on evacuating some 60 people, including the most seriously injured and medical personnel.

DIPLOMATIC SHAKE

The invasion of Moscow, which it calls a “special operation” to disarm Ukraine and protect it from fascists, has shaken European security. Ukraine and its Western allies say the claim of fascism is a false pretext for an unprovoked war of aggression.

Finland’s Niinisto told Putin his country, which shares an 800-mile (1,300 km) border with Russia, wanted to join NATO to bolster its security following the invasion of Ukraine, in which the Finnish leader’s office said it was a “straight and direct” conversation. “without aggravation”.

Putin told Niinisto that it would be a mistake for Helsinki to abandon its neutrality, the Kremlin said, adding that the move could damage bilateral relations.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko, quoted by Russian news agencies, said Moscow had no hostile intentions towards Finland and Sweden, but would take “adequate precautionary measures” if NATO were to deploy nuclear forces and infrastructure closer. from the border with Russia.

Russian Su-27 fighter jets have taken part in drills to repel a mock airstrike on Russia’s Baltic Sea exclave of Kaliningrad that borders Poland and Lithuania, the Interfax news agency reported on Saturday, citing the Sea Fleet. Baltic.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who spoke to Putin by phone on Friday, said he did not detect any signs of change in the Russian leader’s thinking on the conflict.

In an interview for news website t-online published on Saturday, Scholz also said Western sanctions on Russia would remain in place until it reached an agreement with Ukraine, adding: “Our goal is for this invasion to fail.”

Meeting in Germany, foreign ministers from the G7 group of wealthy nations on Friday backed giving Ukraine more aid and weapons.

In their statement on Saturday, G7 ministers from the United States, Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Canada also pledged to “accelerate our efforts to reduce and end dependence on Russian energy supplies.” read more

PILED CORPSES

Despite Ukrainian resistance, Russian forces have made steady gains in southern Ukraine and the eastern Donbas region.

“We are entering a new and long phase of the war,” Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said in a Facebook post, forecasting extremely difficult weeks in which Ukraine would be largely alone against an “enraged aggressor.”

In its latest bulletin, Russia’s Defense Ministry said its forces attacked Ukrainian command posts, ammunition depots and other military equipment in several regions, including Donbas, killing at least 100 Ukrainian “nationalists.”

Reuters was unable to independently verify the report.

In a grim illustration of the toll on Russia’s own forces, Reuters footage on Friday showed the bodies of Russian soldiers being taken to a rail yard outside kyiv and stacked with hundreds of others in a refrigerated train. waiting for the moment when they can be sent. return to their families.

“Most of them were brought from the kyiv region, there are some from the Chernihiv region and some other regions as well,” Volodymyr Lyamzin, the top civil-military liaison officer, told Reuters as white-clad stretcher-bearers, from head to toe protective suits lifted body bags onto the cars. read more

He said refrigerated trains stationed in other regions of Ukraine were being used for the same grim purpose.

Moscow has imposed a military-civilian administration in the Kherson region of southern Ukraine and plans to hold a referendum there on whether to join the Russian Federation, similar to similar votes held in the adjacent Crimean peninsula in 2014 and in two Donbass regions.

Russia would almost certainly manipulate the results of such a vote, Britain’s Defense Ministry said.

Ukrainian forces have driven their enemies from the second largest city, Kharkiv, near the Russian border, but Moscow continued to bombard nearby villages, including Dergachi, about 10 km (six miles) north of Kharkiv.

“I can’t call it anything other than a terrorist act,” Dergachi Mayor Vyacheslav Zadorenko told Reuters after missiles hit a building used to distribute aid. read more

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Additional reporting by Natalia Zinets, Tom Balmforth, Idrees Ali, David Ljunggren and the Reuters bureaus; Written by Gareth Jones; Edited by William Mallard and David Clarke

Our standards: the Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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