Russian anger at Finland’s request for NATO membership is materializing. The supply of natural gas to the Nordic country by Moscow was interrupted this Saturday, May 21. On the ground, in Ukraine, Russian forces continue to shell kyiv’s positions in the Donbass, after announcing the day before the total takeover of Mariupol. But thanks to the weapons supplied by the West, the Ukrainians are hoping for a counter-attack in the region by June.
“Natural gas deliveries to Finland under the Gasum supply contract have been interrupted,” said the Finnish public energy company, which claims to be able to obtain gas from other suppliers and continue “normally” its activities. Russian supplier Gazprom confirmed the suspension.
The Nordic country, which angered Moscow by deciding to join NATO, thus joins Poland and Bulgaria, other countries to which Gazprom cut gas because they refused to pay in rubles – a requirement formulated by the Russian authorities in April. Finland has already been deprived of Russian electricity exports since mid-May.
In Ukraine, where Russian forces launched their invasion on February 24, the Azovstal steel complex in Mariupol, the last pocket of resistance in this strategic port on the Sea of Azov, “passed under the complete control of the Russian armed forces” after the surrender of the last Ukrainian soldiers, the spokesman for the Russian Ministry of Defense said on Friday evening, adding that the news had been transmitted to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Footage released earlier in the week by Moscow showed cohorts of men in combat gear emerging from the steelworks, some with crutches or bandages, after a long battle that had become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance to the Russian invasion.
“The higher military command has given the order to save the lives of the soldiers of our garrison and to stop defending the city”, said in a video on Telegram the commander of the Azov regiment, Denys Prokopenko, a large bandage on the right arm and the swollen left, from what appeared to be an underground room. kyiv rejects the term surrender, Volodymyr Zelensky evoking “the rescue of our heroes”.
Ukraine hopes to exchange prisoners of war but Russia has let it be known, implicitly targeting the Azov regiment, that it considers some of them to be “neo-Nazi” fighters. The International Committee of the Red Cross has urged both sides to grant it access to prisoners of war and civilian internees, “wherever they are held”.
The battle for control of Mariupol has resulted in multiple accusations of war crimes by Western powers, including the attack on a maternity hospital. Ukraine has opened more than 12,000 war crimes investigations since February 24, according to the Ukrainian Prosecutor’s Office.
Sergeant Vadim Chichimarine, 21, on Friday admitted killing an unarmed civilian at the start of the offensive, in the first trial of a Russian soldier accused of war crimes since the start of the invasion, whose verdict is expected on Monday. The young soldier said he was “sincerely sorry”, but his lawyer declared him “not guilty” of premeditated murder and war crimes in his closing arguments.
After failing to take kyiv and Kharkiv, the second Ukrainian city (northeast), Russia is concentrating its military efforts in the east and south. “The enemy is constantly carrying out offensive operations in the eastern operational zone in order to establish full control over the territory of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions and to maintain the land corridor with temporarily occupied Crimea,” the state said. -major of the Ukrainian forces on Facebook, this Saturday morning.
In the Donbass coal basin, partially controlled since 2014 by pro-Russian separatists, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu assured that the conquest of the Lugansk region was “almost complete”.
Ukrainian Defense Ministry spokesman Oleksandre Motouzianyk said the situation “showed signs of worsening”, and that “Russian occupation forces are conducting intense fire along the entire front line”. “While we resist, our troops receive foreign weapons, rearm, regroup, and I think that in June we will see the counter-attack”, however assured, in the night from Friday to Saturday, the local governor Serguiï Gaidai.
In Lozova, a town in the east, at least eight people, including a child, were injured by a Russian missile strike on a newly rebuilt cultural center, Ukrainian officials said on Friday. Russian strikes left 12 dead and 40 injured on Thursday in Severodonetsk, in the Lugansk region. An attack described by Volodymyr Zelensky as “brutal and absolutely useless”, while the inhabitants cowered in the basements described an endless ordeal of terror. Severodonetsk and Lyssytchansk, separated by a river, constitute the last pocket of Ukrainian resistance in the region.
While the negotiations carried out a few weeks ago under Turkish mediation are at a standstill, Italy indicated on Friday that it had proposed the formation of an “international facilitation group composed of international organizations” such as the UN, the EU and the OSCE.
“The objective is to work step by step (…) starting, for example, from localized truces, the evacuation of civilians, the possibility of opening secure humanitarian corridors, and then obviously to increase in power to arrive to a general ceasefire, then a lasting peace with a real peace agreement,” Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said in Turin.
The war in Ukraine can only end through “diplomatic” means, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky assured Saturday, while negotiations between Moscow and kyiv are at an impasse.
“The end (of the conflict) will be diplomatic”, assured this Saturday the Ukrainian president declared during an interview with a television channel. The war “will be bloody, it will be fighting, but it will definitely end via diplomacy […] There are things that we will only be able to achieve at the negotiating table. We want everything to come back (like before)”, which “Russia does not want”, he added, without giving further details.
It is now time for war, and the G7 countries meeting in Germany promised on Friday to mobilize 19.8 billion dollars (18.7 billion euros) to help Ukraine “fill its financial deficit.
The day before, the American Congress released a gigantic envelope of 40 billion dollars for Ukraine, aiming in particular to allow Ukraine to equip itself with armored vehicles and to strengthen its anti-aircraft defense.