Russia-Ukraine war live updates: ‘Positive’ signs but no breakthrough after talks with Sweden and Finland, says Turkish official

Russia-Ukraine war live updates: ‘Positive’ signs but no breakthrough after talks with Sweden and Finland, says Turkish official

Yulia Yuliantseva and her son Matviy lived for weeks in the Studentska Metro station in Kharkiv as Russian forces shelled the city. On May 23, they went home. (Video: Fredrick Kunkle, Jason Aldag/The Washington Post)Updated May 25, 2022 at 5:20 p.m. EDT|Published

May 25, 2022 at 2:00 a.m. EDT

ISTANBUL — After talks on Wednesday regarding Turkey’s continued objections to Sweden and Finland’s NATO bids, a senior Turkish official said the meeting yielded “positive” signs but no immediate breakthrough.

Ibrahim Kalin, an adviser to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said that Turkey was in no rush to resolve concerns unless its demands are met and that there was “no time pressure” to include NATO’s secretary general in discussions until a meeting of the alliance scheduled for late next month.

Meanwhile, Russia is attempting to capture Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk region at all costs, with the strategic city of Severodonetsk “under enemy fire around-the-clock,” Sergei Haidai, the regional governor, said Wednesday. Civilians are sheltering in bomb shelters inside the Azot chemical plant, which has been hit by deadly strikes in recent days, Haidai added. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has described the situation in the Donbas region — of which Luhansk is a part — as “extremely difficult,” accusing Russia of wanting “to destroy everything there.”

The British Defense Ministry said Wednesday that Russia’s blockade of the Black Sea has left “significant supplies of Ukrainian grain” stranded and “unable to be exported,” as fears grow that the war could spark a global food crisis.

Here’s what else to know

After European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen accused Russia of using food “as a form of blackmail,” a Russian official suggested Moscow could allow ships carrying Ukrainian grain to leave if the West were to lift sanctions.U.S. financial institutions will no longer be permitted to accept bond payments from Russia, after the Treasury said it would let a sanctions waiver expire Wednesday.The British government approved the sale of Chelsea Football Club after sanctions were placed on the London-based club’s longtime owner, Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich.The Washington Post has lifted its paywall for readers in Russia and Ukraine. Telegram users can subscribe to our channel.U.K. approves sale of Russian oligarch Abramovich’s Chelsea soccer clubReturn to menu

LONDON — The British government has approved the sale of Chelsea Football Club months after it placed sanctions on Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, the longtime owner of the London-based team.

“Last night the Government issued a licence that permits the sale of @ChelseaFC,” Nadine Dorries, the British cabinet minister responsible for sports, tweeted Wednesday morning. “Given the sanctions we placed on those linked to Putin and the bloody invasion of Ukraine, the long-term future of the club can only be secured under a new owner.”

Dorries said the British government was “satisfied the proceeds of the sale will not benefit Roman Abramovich or other sanctioned individuals.” Abramovich, who British officials note has ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin, was placed under sanctions in March after London came under pressure to punish Kremlin-linked oligarchs.

U.S. pushes Russia toward default by blocking debt paymentsReturn to menu

The U.S. Treasury Department took a major step Tuesday toward pushing Russia into a government default, announcing it would no longer allow the Kremlin to make debt payments owed to American bondholders.

The move will make it much harder, if not impossible, for Russia to avoid a default — a breach of its national debt commitments — which Moscow has tried to avoid since launching the war in Ukraine.

The Biden administration imposed sanctions on Russia’s central bank shortly after the start of the war, but it issued a special license exempting bond payments, allowing Russia to continue to pay its loan obligations. But that license was set to expire this week, and Treasury is now saying it will not be renewed. That means American banks will not be able to process debt payments when Russia tries to make them. In total, the Russian government owes about $20 billion worth of bonds, mostly in dollars, and it owes about $500 million in interest payments over the next month, according to Gerard DiPippo, a senior fellow with the economics program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Ex-leaders call for global anti-corruption court to tackle Putin, moreReturn to menu

Forty-two former presidents and prime ministers have added their signatures to a growing list that calls for the creation of an International Anti-Corruption Court, citing both the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the loss of coronavirus funding to fraud as new evidence of the ill effects of grand corruption.

Among those signing the declaration were former leaders of Argentina, Britain, Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Mexico, Peru, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and many others, according to an announcement made Wednesday by nonprofits Integrity Initiatives International and Club de Madrid.

Grand corruption — the abuse of public office for private gain by a nation’s leaders — “has global dimensions and cannot be combated by the affected countries alone,” said Danilo Turk, president of Slovenia between 2007 and 2012 and the current president of Club de Madrid, a forum for former elected world leaders.

Wife of Brittney Griner, U.S. athlete detained in Russia, calls on Biden to actReturn to menu

The wife of Brittney Griner said Wednesday in an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that she hopes to hear from President Biden as the WNBA star’s detention in Russia on drug charges continues, saying: “If they’re holding her because they want you to do something, then I want you to do it.”

The two-time Olympic gold medalist and seven-time WNBA all-star for the Phoenix Mercury was taken into custody when she arrived Feb. 17 at Sheremetyevo International Airport near Moscow, where she plays for the Russian UMMC Ekaterinburg team during the WNBA’s offseason, and accused of having vape cartridges containing hashish oil, which is illegal in Russia.

Since then, Griner’s family and State Department officials have been working behind the scenes to try to secure her release, and the Biden administration recently reclassified her situation as “wrongful detainment.” Publicly, the WNBA sent a message by placing decals with her initials and No. 42 on its teams’ floors.

Turkish official cites ‘positive’ signs but no breakthrough in Sweden, Finland talksReturn to menu

ISTANBUL — A senior Turkish official said Wednesday that a meeting with diplomats from Sweden and Finland, concerning Turkey’s objections to their bids to join NATO, had produced some “positive” signs but no immediate breakthrough.

The official, Ibrahim Kalin, an adviser to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, suggested that unless Turkey’s demands were met, his government was in no great hurry to resolve a dispute that has roiled the transatlantic alliance as it tries to present a united front against Russia.

“Let’s say there is no time pressure” to include NATO’s secretary general in the talks until a meeting of the alliance scheduled for late June, Kalin said during comments to reporters in Ankara, the Turkish capital, following the meeting.

Turkey’s objections have stalled what its NATO partners, including the United States, had assumed would be an easy march toward the expansion of the alliance during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Erdogan’s stated demands have included the extradition of people wanted by Ankara, the termination of support for a Kurdish group and the lifting of sanctions against Turkey. Many analysts, however, see an attempt by Turkey to leverage its position to win concessions on other issues with Western partners, including the Biden administration.

Kalin framed the meetings Wednesday as primarily focused on the airing of Turkish concerns, and repeated familiar complaints about Western support for Kurdish fighters in Syria affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which has fought a long separatist insurgency against Turkey.

He said that dozens of extradition requests sent to Sweden and Finland had gone unanswered. “We have seen that there is no convincing legal or judicial justification,” he said.

During the meetings, he added, “We have seen a positive attitude towards the lifting of sanctions in the field of defense, which is a positive development. In NATO, it is unacceptable for allies to impose an embargo on each other, either explicitly or implicitly.”

The meetings with Sweden and Finland would continue, Kalin said.

European Commission proposes rule to make violating sanctions a crime Return to menu

The European Commission proposed making it a crime to violate European Union restrictive measures — a move it said was critical amid Russia’s continued war.

“While the Russian aggression on Ukraine is ongoing, it is paramount that EU restrictive measures are fully implemented and the violation of those measures must not be allowed to pay off,” the commission said in a statement Wednesday, adding that the new proposals would also push to make it easier to confiscate assets from individuals or entities that violate any sanctions.

Vera Jourova, the commissioner for values and transparency, said in a tweet that E.U. sanctions “must be respected and those trying to go around them punished.”

“As a Union we stand up for our values and we must make those who keep Putin’s war machine running pay the price,” she wrote on Twitter.

Europe gets warning that it needs backup energy sources this winterReturn to menu

The executive director of the International Energy Agency warned European leaders Tuesday of the effects of a global energy crisis triggered by Russia’s war in Ukraine and urged them to make contingency plans for the possibility of a harsh winter ahead.

“Europe is paying for its over-dependence on Russian energy,” Fatih Birol said in an interview with the New York Times. He added that he has advised European leaders to make backup plans, because he could not rule out the possibility that they may have to ration natural gas supplies later this year given the difficulty of securing alternative energy sources.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Birol highlighted the turmoil faced by the global energy market due to the Russian invasion, with oil and gas prices skyrocketing and signs of an economic recession mounting.

Ukraine insists on E.U. membership, says any alternative is unacceptableReturn to menu

An adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says his country should be allowed to join the European Union as soon as possible, rejecting other forms of integration with its Western allies.

“I need to emphasize we don’t think the so-called alternative formats of the integration are acceptable here,” said Andriy Yermak, chief of staff to Ukraine’s presidential office, on Tuesday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Yermak’s remarks came two weeks after French President Emmanuel Macron suggested that Ukraine could join a consortium of European countries that functions parallel to the E.U. as it waits to join the bloc. Macron and his E.U. affairs minister, Clément Beaune, have also recently said Ukraine’s application process could take up to two decades.

But on Tuesday, Beaune sought to reassure Ukraine, telling reporters he is “convinced” the country will become an E.U. member and that the consortium suggestion was not intended as an alternative to that. “We know with honesty that it takes time and in this time we can’t allow ourselves to simply wait,” Beaune said, according to Reuters.

George Soros warns Russia’s invasion could be start of World War III Return to menu

American financier George Soros warned an audience at the World Economic Forum that the Russian invasion of Ukraine may have marked the start of a third world war, saying “the course of history has changed dramatically.”

“This has shaken Europe to its core,” the Hungarian-born Soros, 91, told an audience at the Swiss ski resort of Davos on Tuesday. Even if the fighting ends soon, “the situation will never revert to what it was before,” he said.

“The invasion may have been the beginning of the third world war, and our civilization may not survive it,” he added, noting that climate change and the coronavirus pandemic have been swept to the sidelines in the wake of the war in Ukraine.

He said the conflict, now entering its fourth month, “didn’t come out of the blue.” Instead, he said, the world was struggling with “diametrically opposed” open and closed systems of government. “Repressive regimes are now in the ascendant, and open societies are under siege,” Soros said, naming China and Russia as the largest threats.

The investor, hedge fund manager and philanthropist urged Europe to reduce its dependence on Russian fossil fuels. Russian President Vladimir Putin “seems to have recognized that he made a terrible mistake when he invaded Ukraine,” but he is unlikely to initiate peace talks, Soros said.

Photos: Normal life resumes in parts of Ukraine despite eastern attacksReturn to menu

Even as Russia intensifies its attacks in eastern Ukraine, a semblance of normalcy is beginning to return in some parts of the country.

While 6.6 million Ukrainians have fled their home since Russia’s invasion, a tally from the United Nations shows that more than 2 million have entered the country over the same period. That includes people who left and returned, as well as those who lived outside Ukraine and chose to go back.

Photos show young people working out at an outdoor gym in Odessa, a city that was rocked by a deadly attack on a warehouse and shopping center just a little over two weeks ago.

In the capital, Kyiv, the subway was full of residents on their way to work Tuesday — three months after Russia’s invasion.

In Kharkiv, where Ukrainian forces successfully held off a fierce assault, children played against the backdrop of a school that was destroyed during the war.

Kharkiv’s subway reopened Tuesday for the first time in nearly three months, after it was shut down and repurposed as a shelter from Russian bombardment.

Andrew Jeong and Amy Cheng contributed to this report.

Russia suggests it would allow grain to leave Ukraine if West lifts sanctionsReturn to menu

A Russian official has suggested that Russia would create a humanitarian corridor for ships carrying Ukrainian grain if the West were to lift sanctions, after a European Union official accused Russia of using food “as a form of blackmail.”

The war pitting Russia and Ukraine, two major grain exporters, has sparked fears of a global food crisis. The British Defense Ministry said Wednesday morning that Russia’s blockade of the Black Sea has left “significant supplies of Ukrainian grain” stranded and “unable to be exported.”

“The solution to the food problem requires a comprehensive approach, including those related to the lifting of sanctions restrictions that were imposed on Russian exports and financial transactions, and also requires Ukraine to conduct mine clearing of all ports where ships are docked,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Rudenko said Wednesday. “Russia is ready to provide the necessary humanitarian passage.”

British Defense Minister Ben Wallace rejected that notion later Wednesday and urged Russia to “do the right thing” in allowing grain out of Ukraine amid the war.

“That grain is for starving countries,” Wallace told journalists in Spain, according to Reuters.

Wallace also endorsed the idea of other countries on the Black Sea escorting ships carrying grain exports from Ukraine.

A spokesperson for the British government denied media reports Tuesday that London and like-minded allies were planning to deploy ships to the Black Sea. Rudenko on Wednesday said “this would seriously aggravate the situation in the Black Sea region,” according to Russian state-owned outlet Tass.

Russia fast-tracks citizenship for residents of occupied areas of UkraineReturn to menu

By Mary Ilyushina9:38 a.m.

Moscow has simplified the process of obtaining Russian citizenship for residents of the occupied Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions in Ukraine.

A decree, signed by President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday, allows anyone who can prove they are permanently living in these areas to obtain a Russian passport within roughly three months.

This move extends an existing program that allowed people in the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk republics to claim passports quickly. Nearly 900,000 people from those areas became Russian citizens in the past two years. Shortly before the invasion, Russia recognized the breakaway areas as independent states.

Before the Feb. 24 invasion, 1 million people lived in the Kherson region and over 1.5 million in Zaporizhzhia.

The decree signals an increased Russian effort to pull the occupied areas into its orbit after Moscow installed governors and mayors there.

In Kherson, the Ukrainian governor has been ousted, and the pro-Russian administration said this month that it would ask Moscow to integrate the region into the Russian Federation by the end of the year.

Russia claimed control over the Kherson region in mid-March and holds swaths of land in Zaporizhzhia.

E.U. unveils new rules on freezing assets tied to ‘Russian war machine’Return to menu

The European Commission has announced proposals to criminalize attempts to evade European Union sanctions and to make it easier to freeze and confiscate assets linked to crime, including assets belonging to Russian or Belarusian oligarchs.

“Freezing assets controlled by oligarchs and other individuals linked to the Russian aggression is key to disrupt the Russian war machine,” the commission said in a briefing document.

Governments all over the world are working to identify and freeze the assets of Russian elites and their family members, including luxury apartments, money and yachts. However, the commission noted that oligarchs often attempt to hide their ownership of assets and evade seizures, “for example, by taking a yacht into international waters.”

At a news conference announcing the proposals, European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas said: “In the current geopolitical context, it is clear in this area, there is no time to lose.”

“While the Russian aggression on Ukraine is ongoing, it is paramount that EU restrictive measures are fully implemented and the violation of those measures must not be allowed to pay off,” the commission said in a statement.

Russian bill allows closure of ‘unfriendly’ foreign news bureausReturn to menu

The State Duma, the lower chamber of the Russian legislature, has adopted a bill that would allow authorities to shut down foreign news bureaus in the country if “unfriendly” nations restrict Russian media operations abroad.

The bill would also empower prosecutors to revoke press credentials and suspend broadcasting licenses if news organizations spread information that Moscow deems illegal. Reporting that discredits the Russian military would also trigger a shutdown.

The bill still needs to clear other legislative hurdles and receive Russian President Vladimir Putin’s signature before it becomes law. Putin in March signed a law banning so-called fake news, including any rhetoric that calls the war in Ukraine an “invasion,” as part of a Kremlin-orchestrated attack on independent reporting in the country.

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