- Ukrainian soldiers, many of whom were wounded, moved to Russian-controlled towns
- The United States reopens the Kyiv embassy
- Ukraine says saboteurs targeted a Russian armored train
Kyiv/MARIPOL, Ukraine, May 19 (Reuters) – Nearly 700 additional Ukrainian fighters have surrendered in Russia-controlled Mariupol, Moscow said, as it consolidated major gains in the south, while the United States became the latest Western country to reopen its embassy. in Kyiv.
Ukraine has ordered its garrison in Mariupol to step down, but the end result of Europe’s bloodiest battle in decades remains unresolved.
Top leaders of Ukrainian fighters who made their last stand at the coastal city’s Azovstal steel plants are still inside the plant, according to the leader of the pro-Russian separatists who control the region, Denis Pushlin, citing the local news agency DNA on. Wednesday.
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Ukrainian officials declined to comment publicly on the fighters’ fate.
“The state is doing everything possible to save our service members,” military spokesman Oleksandr Motozynik told a news conference. “Any information to the public could jeopardize this process.”
Ukraine confirmed the surrender of more than 250 fighters on Tuesday, but did not say how many were inside.
On Wednesday, Russia said an additional 694 fighters had surrendered, bringing the total to 959. The Russian Defense Ministry released videos of what it said were Ukrainian fighters receiving treatment in hospital after their surrender in Azovstal.
Mariupol Mayor Vadim Boychenko said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the Red Cross and the United Nations were involved in the talks, but did not give details.
Mariupol is the largest city captured by Russia to date and allows Russian President Vladimir Putin to declare a rare victory in the invasion that began on February 24.
Moscow has focused on the southeast in recent attacks after the withdrawal from Kyiv, where the United States, in another sign of normalization, said it had resumed operations at its embassy on Wednesday.
“The Ukrainian people defended their homeland in the face of an unreasonable Russian invasion, and as a result, stars and stripes once again flew over the embassy,” said US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.
Embassy spokesman Daniel Langenkamp said a small number of diplomats would initially return to mission staff, but consular operations would not resume immediately. The US Senate later approved veteran diplomat Bridget Brink as ambassador to Ukraine to fill a position that has been vacant for three years.
Canada, Britain and other countries have also recently resumed embassy operations.
Moscow says it is engaged in a “special military operation” to disarm and “discredit” its neighbor. The West and Kiev call this a false pretext for the invasion.
Finland and Sweden formally applied for NATO membership on Wednesday, a decision made in the wake of the Ukrainian invasion and the type of expansion Putin cited as a reason to attack Ukraine.
US Ambassador to NATO Julian Smith called for an urgent accession process that could take place “in two months”, but NATO member Turkey said its approval depended on the return of “terrorists”, that is, Kurdish militants and followers of Fethullah Gulen.
Both Finland and Sweden were militarily non-aligned during the Cold War.
Although Russia has threatened retaliation for the plans, Putin said on Monday that their NATO membership would not be a problem unless the alliance sends more troops or weapons there.
Finland’s state-owned Gazum said Russia may cut off gas supplies to Finland this week.
The European Commission has announced a 210 billion euro ($220 billion) plan for Europe to end its dependence on Russian oil, gas and coal by 2027. Read more
Meanwhile, Google (GOOGL.O) It became the latest major Western company to withdraw from Russia, saying its local unit had filed for bankruptcy and had to close operations after its bank accounts were confiscated. Read more
On the battlefront, Russian forces continued their main offensive, trying to seize more territory in the eastern Donbass region claimed by Moscow on behalf of the separatists.
Ukrainian presidential advisor Oleksiy Aristovich said that Ukrainian saboteurs blew up the tracks before an armored train carrying Russian troops in the occupied southern city of Melitopol. Read more
“The revolutionaries got it, even though they didn’t blow up the armored train itself,” he said in a video posted on social media, contradicting an earlier statement by the Ukrainian Regional Defense Force that the train had been blown up.
Aristovich said the incident showed that the partisan movement was actively disrupting the Russian forces.
The capture of Mariupol, the principal port of the Donbass, gave Moscow complete control of the Sea of Azov and a continuous swathe of territory across eastern and southern Ukraine.
The governor of Luhansk region, which is part of Donbass, said there had been a number of attacks.
“Most of the bombing today took place in Severodonetsk and nearby villages… The Russians are still trying to cut the ‘Road of Life’ through the center of the Luhansk region, which connects Lyschansk and Bakhmut,” Serhiti Gaidai wrote in Telegram.
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(Natalia Zenets and Max Hunder report in Kyiv and a Reuters journalist in Mariupol.) Additional reporting by Reuters offices; Written by Costas Pettas and Stephen Coates; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien and Richard Boleyn
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