War in Ukraine: Latest developments

AFP , Wednesday 18 May 2022

Here are the latest developments in the war in Ukraine:

Militia men of Azov group
Ukrainian servicemen sit in a bus after they were evacuated from the besieged Mariupol s Azovstal steel plant, near a prison in Olyonivka, in territory under the government of the Donetsk People s Republic, eastern Ukraine, Tuesday, May 17, 2022. AP


Finland, Sweden submit NATO bids

Finland and Sweden submit their highly anticipated bids to join NATO, sealing their decision to jettison decades of military non-alignment, despite threats of reprisals from Moscow.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg calls the move a "historic step". He has promised to welcome them "with open arms" despite Turkey's threat to veto their membership over its claim that the Nordic neighbours harbour members of armed groups opposed to Ankara.

NATO ambassadors are expected to discuss the applications on Wednesday.

Finland, which shares a 1,300-kilometre (800-mile) border with Russia, and Sweden fear they could be future targets of Russian aggression following Moscow's invasion of Ukraine. Public support in the two countries for NATO membership skyrocketed after the war began.

First war crimes trial

A 21-year-old Russian soldier accused of killing an unarmed Ukrainian civilian on his bicycle is due to go on trial in Kyiv for war crimes, in the first such case to go to court since the start of the offensive.

Vadim Shishimarin from Irkutsk in Siberia is accused of gunning down the 62-year-old man near the central village of Chupakhiva to prevent him reporting a carjacking by fleeing Russian troops.

He faces possible life imprisonment on charges of war crimes and premeditated murder. In a video shot in custody he said he was ordered to shoot the cyclist, who has not been named.

"By this first trial, we are sending a clear signal that every perpetrator, every person who ordered or assisted in the commission of crimes in Ukraine shall not avoid responsibility," prosecutor general Iryna Venediktova said.

Kyiv seeks way out for last Mariupol fighters

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says negotiations are continuing with Russia over the fate of the last soldiers holed up at the Azovstal steelworks in the southeastern city of Mariupol.

"The most influential international mediators are involved," he says in his nightly address to the nation.

On Tuesday, Moscow said that 265 of the fighters who had been holding out at the besieged plant for weeks had surrendered and that 51, who were badly injured, were being treated in a hospital in a part of the eastern Donetsk region controlled by pro-Russian rebels.

It is unclear how many troops remain inside the plant, which became a symbol of Ukrainian resistance to the invasion.

Peace talks on hold

Ukraine says that peace talks to end the war have been suspended, blaming Moscow for failing to find areas for compromise.

"The negotiation process is on hold," Mykhaylo Podolyak, a presidential aide is cited as saying in a statement issued by the presidency.

The two sides reported progress at talks in Istanbul in late March but have stalled since the discovery of hundreds of bodies of civilians allegedly massacred by Russian forces around Kyiv.

ICC sends investigators

The International Criminal Court says it is sending a team of 42 investigators, forensic experts and support staff to Ukraine to probe war crimes and crimes against humanity.

ICC prosecutor Karim Khan says it is the largest ever deployment of investigators by the court since its establishment.

Zelensky calls Cannes

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky makes a surprise video address to the opening ceremony of the Cannes Film Festival in France.

"In the end, hatred will disappear and dictators will die," he tells the audience who give him a standing ovation.

The Ukrainian leader also addressed the Grammys in April.

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