Ukraine is preparing for an intensification of Russian attacks in the Donbass, in the east of the country, a priority objective for Moscow but where its forces are struggling. In Mariupol, at the southern tip of the Donbass, the Russian army continues its bombing and intensive artillery fire on the Azovstal steelworks, the last pocket of Ukrainian resistance in this strategic port, according to the Ukrainian general staff.

For their part, the NATO countries will continue to help Ukraine militarily, still under pressure from Russian bombing, assured Berlin on Sunday May 15, while Finland announced its candidacy for the Atlantic Alliance by welcoming a ” historic day”. In Moscow, this geopolitical rapprochement is seen with a negative eye, Moscow affirming that the accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO will undermine European security.

“We are preparing for new attempts by Russia to attack Donbass, to somehow intensify its movement towards southern Ukraine,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video released Sunday evening. And yet, according to him, “the occupiers still do not want to admit that they are at an impasse”.

The Russians are transferring troops from the Kharkiv region (north) to that of Lugansk, in the Donbass, with the aim of taking Severodonetsk, assured for his part the Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovich on Sunday evening. The Ukrainian general staff confirmed this Monday morning May 16 that the Russian army was concentrating its forces in Izioum, between Kharkiv and Severodonetsk.

Russian forces are also now facing a counter-offensive from Ukrainian forces in the region of Kharkiv, the country’s second largest city, where they are approaching the border with Russia.

“The enemy is concentrating its efforts on maintaining its positions and preventing the advance of our troops towards the border,” the Ukrainian army headquarters said on Monday morning.

In Vilkhivka, a village east of Kharkiv taken over by the Ukrainians, the scars of the violent fighting remain on the houses ripped open by the shells, streets strewn with debris, bullet casings and other remnants of ammunition or even the tanks out of order abandoned on the road.

Russia said Monday that Sweden and Finland joining NATO in response to the Russian offensive against Ukraine was a mistake that would undermine security on the European continent. “We are convinced that the entry into NATO of Finland and Sweden will neither strengthen nor improve the security architecture of our continent,” Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. .

Expressing Moscow’s “concern”, he promised to follow closely “the implications this will have for our security”. In the morning, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergei Ryabkov, had described the candidacies of Helsinki and Stockholm as a “serious error”, judging that “the consequences” would have “considerable significance”.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine, which began on February 24, placed the priests of the Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarchate at odds.

This has retained many parishes across Ukraine, despite the recognition by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in 2019 of an independent Orthodox Church in Ukraine, ending more than 300 years of Russian religious guardianship. But Patriarch Kirill’s absolute support for the Russian invasion is reshuffling the cards.

On February 27, Kirill said he saw it as a fight against the “forces of evil” opposed to the historic “unity” between Russia and Ukraine. Then in April, he called for unity around power against the “external and internal enemies” of Russia. Words that provoked indignation in the West and made Pope Francis react, who accused him of being “Putin’s altar boy”.

At the Vatican, wives of Azovstal fighters were granted a five-minute audience with Pope Francis. In France, a meeting with political figures – starting with President Emmanuel Macron or his wife Brigitte – would obviously be welcome, but “it’s not our main goal, the objective is to attract attention about the situation” in Azovstal, said Hanna Naoumenko, 25.

Their companions are among the Ukrainian fighters entrenched in the Azovstal steelworks, surrounded and besieged by the Russians, who have been trying for weeks to take this last pocket of resistance in Mariupol, a strategic port city in the south-east largely destroyed by the conflict. .

The Ukrainian government has entered into difficult negotiations with the Russians to evacuate at least the most seriously injured. But “it’s not that he doesn’t do enough, but he could do more”, explains diplomatically Olha, leader of a network of crèches in kyiv.

Cornered by the sanctions hitting Russia, the French manufacturer Renault, leader in the country with the Lada brand which it had recovered, sold its assets to the Russian state, the first major nationalization since the offensive against Ukraine. .

The announcement made on Monday by the diamond brand and the Russian authorities provides that the Frenchman will sell his majority stake (67.69%) in the Avtovaz group, the Russian automobile giant with the Lada brand, to NAMI, the Russian institute for research and development of automobiles and engines.

The Minister of Trade and Industry, Denis Mantourov, had indicated at the end of April that the transaction would be made for “a symbolic rouble”, which Renault, Monday, still did not want to confirm.

The American fast food giant McDonald’s, which closed its stores in Russia in early March, decided on Monday to withdraw from the country and sell all its activities in reaction to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“We are committed to our global community and must remain adamant about our values,” Group CEO Chris Kempczinski said in a company statement. “Respecting our values ​​means that we can no longer keep the Arches (McDonald’s logo, editor’s note)” in Russia, he added.

Present in Russia for over 30 years, McDonald’s has 850 restaurants and 62,000 employees. The company had announced the temporary closure of all its restaurants and the suspension of its operations in the country on March 8, following in the footsteps of other multinationals which had distanced themselves from Moscow.

The war in Ukraine and the impact of sanctions against Russia prompted the European Commission to drastically cut its growth forecasts for the European economy on Monday, due in particular to higher than expected inflation.

Brussels lowered its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth forecast for the eurozone in 2022 by 1.3 points to 2.7% and increased its inflation forecast by 3.5 points to 6.1%. , compared to the last figures announced on February 10 before the start of the Russian offensive.