Russia-Ukraine war: Zelenskiy ‘ready to speak to Putin’; Russia to cut electricity supply to Finland after Nato decision – live | Russia


Russia to cut electricity supplies to Finland from Saturday

Russia will suspend electricity supplies to Finland from 1am on Saturday the supplier, RAO Nordic, said, amid rising tensions over Helsinki’s bid to join Nato.

RAO Nordic, a subsidiary of the Russian state energy holding Inter RAO, said in a statement that it was “forced to suspend the electricity import”, starting from 14 May.

RAO Nordic “is not able to make payments for the imported electricity from Russia”, the statement said.

It added:

This situation is exceptional and happened for the first time in over 20 years of our trading history.

The Finnish grid company, Fingrid, said trade in electricity imported from Russia would be suspended “for the time being” due to difficulties in receiving payments for electricity sold on the market.

Fingrid added:

There is no threat to the adequacy of electricity in Finland.

It said that power from Russia accounted for some 10% of Finland’s total power consumption, adding:

Missing imports can be replaced in the electricity market by importing more electricity from Sweden and partly also by domestic production.

Finnish leaders yesterday declared the country must apply to join the Nato alliance “without delay”. In response, the Kremlin said Russia would “definitely” see Finnish membership as a threat, and Russia’s foreign ministry said Moscow would be “forced to take reciprocal steps, military-technical and other”.

The United States accused Russia of using the UN Security Council to spout disinformation and conspiracy theories about biological weapons in Ukraine, to distract from its invasion of the country, the Associated Press reported.

US deputy ambassador Richard Mills called the Russian claims of alleged US involvement in a biological weapons program “categorically false and ludicrous”.

He warned the council Friday that Moscow’s actions follow a pattern of accusing others of violations it has perpetrated or intends to perpetrate, adding that they need to be watched closely “for the possibility of a false flag chemical or biological attack by Russia’s forces”.

UN deputy disarmament chief Thomas Markram reiterated to the council what his boss said at council meetings on 11 March and 18 March on similar Russian allegations: the United Nations is not aware of any biological weapons program in Ukraine.

Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia had earlier said in the meeting that he had called for a third council meeting because his government continues to receive “very worrying documentary evidence” that the US defense department is directly involved in carrying out “dangerous biological projects that look like a secret biological military program” in Ukraine.

Lloyd Austin, the US defense secretary, held a call with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on Friday in which he called for an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine, the Pentagon said.

During the call Austin also “emphasized the importance of maintaining lines of communication”, the Pentagon said. It was the first time Austin had spoken with Shoigu since 18 February, six days before Russia invaded Ukraine.

The New York Times reported that the call came “at the initiative of the American side”.

“What motivated them to change their mind and be open to it, I don’t think we know for sure,” a senior Pentagon official told the Times. The hourlong conversation was “professional”, the Times reported, but broke no new ground.

“The call itself didn’t specifically solve any acute issues or lead to a direct change in what the Russians are doing or saying,” the official told the Times. He said Austin hoped the call would “serve as a springboard for future conversations”.

The call came after Republican US senator Rand Paul blocked the passage of a $40bn aid bill for Ukraine on Thursday. The bill will be taken up again next week.

“Difficult negotiations” are taking place to remove Ukrainian defenders holed up under the Azovstal steelworks in besieged Mariupol, CNN reported.

Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of Donetsk region military administration, told CNN that attempts to save the fighters were ongoing.

“Difficult negotiations are underway, and they are still going on at this time, in order to save the defenders – gradually – because the Russian Federation is trying to dictate its conditions and requirements as much as possible. Therefore, in the first place, it will be seriously wounded fighters,” he said.

Kyrylenko said that Russians continue to bombard Avozstal. “These are heavy, vacuum, high-explosive bombs,” he said.

“We have to talk about it only when people will be safe. Only then we shall give any comments. Negotiations are ongoing and they are really very difficult. Because, first, the Russian Federation always changes them [the conditions]. And even those agreements that are reached are not a 100% agreement with Russia,” Kyrylenko said.

Consumer inflation in Russia accelerated in April to 17.83% in year-on-year terms, its highest level since January 2002, Reuters reported.

Data released showed inflation was boosted by the volatile rouble and unprecedented western sanctions, which have disrupted logistics chains.

But monthly inflation slowed to 1.56% in April from 7.61% in March, when it staged the biggest month-on-month increase since January 1999, data from the federal statistics service Rosstat showed.

Inflation in Russia has accelerated sharply after Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February.

High inflation has been the key concern among households for years as it dents living standards, a fall which this year will be aggravated by a steep economic contraction.

Summary

It is 9pm in Kyiv. Here’s where we stand:

  • Ukrainians have repelled multiple attempts by the Russians to cross a strategically significant river in the Donbas, inflicting heavy losses in the process, according to local officials and British intelligence. Serhiy Haidai, the governor of the Luhansk region, said Russian forces had been repulsed three times as they tried to cross the Siversky Donets River, 12 miles (20km) west of Severodonetsk, losing armour and bridging equipment.
  • Ukraine’s defence minister, Oleksii Reznikov, said Kyiv hopes to arm a million people as the country prepares for a “new, long phase of war”. He warned that “extremely tough weeks are ahead” and that Ukraine needed “unity, cohesion, will and patience” during this difficult period.
  • Russia will suspend electricity supplies to Finland from 1am on Saturday the supplier, RAO Nordic, said, amid rising tensions over Helsinki’s bid to join Nato. The Finnish grid company, Fingrid, said trade in electricity imported from Russia would be suspended “for the time being” due to difficulties in receiving payments for electricity sold on the market, but insisted there was “no threat to the adequacy of electricity in Finland”.
  • A Russian soldier has appeared in court accused of murdering an unarmed man on a bicycle, at the start of the first war crime trial in Ukraine since Vladimir Putin invaded the country. Vadim Shysimarin, a commander of the Kantemirovskaya tank division, is charged with the premeditated murder of a 62-year-old man. The case is scheduled to resume on Wednesday.
  • Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, remarked to journalists after leaving Friday prayers in Istanbul that Turkey would not welcome either Sweden or Finland joining the Nato. He said that Turkey was “currently following developments regarding Sweden and Finland, but we don’t feel positively about this”.
  • The US defence secretary, Lloyd Austin, spoke to his Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoigu, for the first time since before Moscow’s troops invaded Ukraine on 24 February, the Pentagon said. Austin “urged an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine and emphasised the importance of maintaining lines of communication”, the Pentagon press secretary, John Kirby, said.
  • The EU could agree on a phased embargo on Russian oil next week, despite concerns about supply in eastern Europe, according to diplomats and officials. A senior EU diplomat told Reuters an agreement could come as early as Monday when EU foreign ministers meet in Brussels. A third diplomat said there was a chance of an agreement later in the week.

That’s it from me, Léonie Chao-Fong, today as I hand the blog over to my US colleagues. I’ll be back on Monday. Thank you for reading.

US president Joe Biden spoke with the leaders of Sweden and Finland today to show his support “for Nato’s open door policy” and for the right of both Nordic countries “to decide their own future, foreign policy, and security arrangements”, the White House said.

Biden spoke with his Finnish counterpart, Sauli Niinistö, and Sweden’s prime minister, Magdalena Andersson, to discuss the “close defence and security cooperation” between the countries as well as their efforts “aimed at strengthening translatlantic security”, the White House said in a statement.

The leaders also discussed the “close partnership” among the countries across a range of global issues, and “reiterated their shared commitment to continued coordination” to help Ukraine, it said.

Ukraine ‘to arm a million people’ in new phase of war

Ukraine’s defence minister, Oleksii Reznikov, said Kyiv hopes to arm a million people as the country prepares for a “new, long phase of war”.

In a Facebook post published earlier today, Reznikov said:

We are entering a new, long phase of the war. To win it, we must plan resources carefully, avoid mistakes and project our strength in such a way that the enemy ultimately breaks.

Reznikov thanked the British defence secretary, Ben Wallace, for his support to increase assistance for Kyiv, as well as American partners, including his US counterpart, Lloyd Austin.

Ukraine’s goal is to “restore our sovereignty and territorial integrity within the internationally recognised borders”, he said.

Reznikov added that he was “focusing on the need to provide for one million people who will be facing the enemy”.

He warned that “extremely tough weeks are ahead” and that Ukraine needed “unity, cohesion, will and patience” during this extremely difficult period.

Finland’s president, Sauli Niinistö, said he discussed his country’s “next steps towards Nato membership” in a call with his US counterpart, Joe Biden, and Sweden’s prime minister, Magdalena Andersson, today.

A joint phone call with @POTUS @JoeBiden and @SwedishPM Magdalena Andersson. We shared a deep concern over Russia’s war on Ukraine. I went through Finland’s next steps towards NATO membership. Finland deeply appreciates all the necessary support from the US.

— Sauli Niinistö (@niinisto) May 13, 2022

Andersson also tweeted about the call:

Important call with @POTUS Biden and President @niinisto on Russian aggression against Ukraine, and on 🇸🇪 🇫🇮 security policy. Much appreciate 🇺🇸 support for our security and respective security policy choices.

— SwedishPM (@SwedishPM) May 13, 2022

The call lasted about 40 minutes, the White House said.

The call came at about midday on Wednesday. There had been “chemical poisoning” after a blast and patients needed collecting, Emma Graham-Harrison and Kateryna Semchuk report.

Fears of a Russian chemical weapons attack have haunted Ukraine almost since the war began. And as the volunteer medics in Sloviansk pulled on the ageing gas masks and plastic overalls that were their only protection, they wondered if this was it.

They set off anyway, inured to personal risks after weeks of driving through shelling to patch up the men and women injured on one of the most intensely fought-over sections of the frontline.

A medic holds a gas mask she was given at a hospital in Sloviansk.
A medic holds a gas mask she was given at a hospital in Sloviansk. Photograph: Ed Ram/The Guardian

“We got a call saying there was a yellow-brown cloud after the hit, and yellow-white flakes in the air like snow. The soldiers immediately started having breathing problems,” said Vit, a paramedic who asked to go only by his nickname, which refers to his peacetime role as mayor of a small town. He was worried about being captured and tortured by Russian troops who were just a few miles away.

The ambulance team listened to the warning and then went to get the choking soldiers. Like the troops they support, they are supplementing limited, outdated equipment with courage and determination.

After dropping off their patient, who had gone into spasms in the ambulance, they were told the gas came not from chemical weapons but from a chemical plant that had been hit by Russian munitions.

But if the fear of one particular horror was put on hold for a moment, the other terrors of this war are drawing closer to this city in Donbas, less than 20 miles behind the frontline.

Read the full article: Trial by fire: volunteer medics brave Russian shells in Donbas

Italy would be “very happy” to support Nato membership for Finland and Sweden, the Italian foreign minister, Luigi Di Maio, said.

Speaking to reporters in Berlin, Di Maio said:

We as Italy will be very happy to welcome these two countries in this great alliance that defends its member countries and … which has guaranteed peace for decades.

Russia to cut electricity supplies to Finland from Saturday

Russia will suspend electricity supplies to Finland from 1am on Saturday the supplier, RAO Nordic, said, amid rising tensions over Helsinki’s bid to join Nato.

RAO Nordic, a subsidiary of the Russian state energy holding Inter RAO, said in a statement that it was “forced to suspend the electricity import”, starting from 14 May.

RAO Nordic “is not able to make payments for the imported electricity from Russia”, the statement said.

It added:

This situation is exceptional and happened for the first time in over 20 years of our trading history.

The Finnish grid company, Fingrid, said trade in electricity imported from Russia would be suspended “for the time being” due to difficulties in receiving payments for electricity sold on the market.

Fingrid added:

There is no threat to the adequacy of electricity in Finland.

It said that power from Russia accounted for some 10% of Finland’s total power consumption, adding:

Missing imports can be replaced in the electricity market by importing more electricity from Sweden and partly also by domestic production.

Finnish leaders yesterday declared the country must apply to join the Nato alliance “without delay”. In response, the Kremlin said Russia would “definitely” see Finnish membership as a threat, and Russia’s foreign ministry said Moscow would be “forced to take reciprocal steps, military-technical and other”.

The EU could agree on a phased embargo on Russian oil next week, despite concerns about supply in eastern Europe, according to diplomats and officials.

A senior EU diplomat told Reuters “there will be a deal”, while a second senior diplomat said an agreement could come as early as Monday when EU foreign ministers meet in Brussels. A third diplomat said there was a chance of an agreement later in the week.

One diplomat said:

This is going to be decided at the highest political level, between Budapest and Brussels. I am optimistic.

The embargo deal was first proposed by the European Commission in early May but dependence on Russian oil in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia has posed the biggest obstacle.

Hungary has already obtained an exemption until the end of 2024, as has Slovakia, and the Czech Republic until mid-2024.

More on the US defence secretary, Lloyd Austin, who also spoke to his British counterpart, Ben Wallace, to discuss the next steps to help Ukraine, including military aid.

Wallace issued a statement after meeting Austin in talks held in the US:

We will continue to work with unity and resolve to provide Ukraine with what it needs to defend itself against Russia’s unprovoked invasion.

The pair discussed “the next steps to provide defensive support for Ukraine, as well as Aukus (a defence pact between Australia, the US and Britain), the future of Nato, and other aspects of our shared security”, Wallace said.

The US defence secretary, Lloyd Austin, spoke to his Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoigu, for the first time since before Moscow’s troops invaded Ukraine on 24 February, the Pentagon said.

The Pentagon press secretary, John Kirby, said in a statement:

On 13 May, secretary of defence Lloyd J. Austin III spoke with Russian minister of defence Sergey Shoygu for the first time since 18 February.

Austin “urged an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine and emphasised the importance of maintaining lines of communication”, Kirby added.

Peter Walker

Peter Walker

The UK has issued sanctions against a dozen members of Vladimir Putin’s family and inner circle, including his long-rumoured girlfriend, arguing that given the Russian president officially owns only modest assets, these are the people who help support his lavish lifestyle.

The Foreign Office announcement means asset freezes and travel bans will be imposed on, among others: Lyudmila Ocheretnaya, Putin’s former wife; Alina Kabaeva, a media executive and the Russian president’s presumed partner; and Anna Zatseplina, Kabaeva’s grandmother.

The Foreign Office statement noted that Putin’s official assets ran to little more than a small flat in St Petersburg and two Soviet-era cars, despite his very obvious enormous personal wealth, including a yacht and the vast Putin’s Palace mansion on the Black Sea coast.

Alina Kabaeva on phone
Alina Kabaeva, the Russian president’s presumed partner, has been added to Britain’s sanctions list. Photograph: Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images

The sanctions targeted what the statement called a “wallet” of relatives and associates. The statement said: “Putin relies on his network of family, childhood friends, and selected elite who have benefited from his rule and in turn support his lifestyle. Their reward is influence over the affairs of the Russian state that goes far beyond their formal positions.”

Those named in the latest sanctions comprise seven family members and five people listed as financiers of Putin’s lifestyle.

Kabaeva, a former Olympic rhythmic gymnast, holds several powerful positions and has long been rumoured to be Putin’s girlfriend. She chairs the board of Russia’s National Media Group, which controls several television stations. Zatseplina is associated with Gennady Timchenko, a billionaire with close links to Putin.

Kabaeva, who is originally from Tashkent in Uzbekistan and won gold in the 2004 Athens Olympics, spent more than six years as an MP for Putin’s United Russia party. In 2014, she stepped back from politics to begin her role with National Media Group, despite her apparent lack of relevant experience beyond hosting a TV chat show.

Ocheretnaya and Putin divorced in 2014, but she had since, the statement said, “benefited from preferential business relationships with state-owned entities and exhibited significant unexplained wealth”.

The other family members issued with sanctions are Igor Putin, a businessman and cousin of the president; Mikhail Putin, another businessman believed to be related to the president; Roman Putin, who is Igor Putin’s son and runs a consulting firm; and Mikhail Shelomov, a business owner and Putin’s first cousin, once removed.



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