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Latest Developments in Ukraine: May 21


A Ukrainian serviceman inspects a school damaged during a battle between Russian and Ukrainian forces in the village of Vilkhivka, on the outskirts of Kharkiv, in eastern Ukraine, May 20, 2022.

For full coverage of the crisis in Ukraine, visit Flashpoint Ukraine.

Recap of May 21
FIGHTING
* Mayor Gennady Trukhanov, of the southern port city of Odesa, told Agence France-Presse: "The Russians are on our soil today and they are bombing our cities, killing our people and our soldiers. Our people are dying.”
* Ukraine will not agree to a cease-fire with Russia and will not accept any peace deal that involves ceding territory to Russia, presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said Saturday.
* Russian forces continue to prevent people from evacuating the Kherson region into Ukrainian-controlled territory, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said.
ECONOMY
* President Joe Biden signed on Saturday a $40 billion bill set to ensure a steady supply of weaponry and economic support for Ukraine in its fight against Russia.
HUMANITARIAN
* EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders has vowed that war crimes in Ukraine will be criminally prosecuted and that atrocities committed during the Russian invasion "will not go unpunished."
* The Ukrainian government is using facial recognition software to identify Russian soldiers captured and dead.
DIPLOMACY
* Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said war will not be waged on Russian territory but reminded the international community that the Donbas region remains sovereign to Ukraine.
* Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg that Ankara will not look positively on Sweden and Finland's membership of the alliance unless they clearly show cooperation on the fight against terrorism and other issues.
SANCTIONS
* Russia's Gazprom halted gas exports to neighboring Finland after Helsinki refused to agree to Russian demands to pay for Russian gas supplies in rubles.
* Russia said it was banning entry to 963 Americans, including U.S. President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and CIA chief William Burns.
* Ukraine's ambassador to neighboring Poland, Andrii Deshchytsia, said his country is grateful for the welcome that Poles have given to millions of Ukrainians, but hopes the European Union will soon release billions of euros to Poland to help those fleeing.

The latest developments in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. All times EDT:

10:13 p.m.: "The situation in Donbas is extremely difficult," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly address Saturday, as Russian forces have ramped up attacks on Slovyansk and Severodonetsk in the last few days.

"The Armed Forces of Ukraine are deterring this offensive. Every day that our defenders take away from these offensive plans of Russia, disrupting them, is a concrete contribution to the approach of the main day. The desired day that we are all looking forward to and fighting for: Victory Day," Zelenskyy said.

"No Russian strikes; neither by missiles in the Rivne region, nor by artillery in the Kharkiv or Sumy region, nor by all possible weapons in Donbas, will give Russia any result," Zelenskyy added.

9:04 p.m.: International sanctions imposed on Russia after it invaded Ukraine have “practically broken” logistics in the country, its transportation minister said Saturday, the state news agency Tass reported.

Since the invasion, the U.S., European Union, other nations and private businesses have layered on sanctions.

“Those sanctions that are presently imposed on the Russian Federation have practically broken all logistics in our country,” the minister, Vitaly Savelyev, said as he visited the city of Astrakhan in southern Russia.

8:40 p.m.:

8:15 p.m.: Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Russian monuments have been dismantled or taken down and Russian street names have been changed in a "desrussification" of Ukraine, The Kyiv Independent reported.

7 p.m.: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said war will not be waged on Russian territory but reminded the international community that the Donbas region remains sovereign to Ukraine.

6:17 p.m.: Children in a class in the village of Novyi Bykiv returned to school recently, The Guardian reported. The building lacks windows or electricity, they have no textbooks, but classes in the village have been under way for two weeks. Asked by the newspaper if they were happy to be back in school, the class of fifth-grade students said, “Yes!” with genuine enthusiasm. The village had been one of a series of settlements occupied by Russian forces for a month.

5:50 p.m.: Mayor Gennady Trukhanov, of the southern port city of Odesa, told Agence France-Presse: "The Russians are on our soil today and they are bombing our cities, killing our people and our soldiers. Our people are dying.”

Trukhanov, 57, once a Kremlin sympathizer, told AFP that Russian President Vladimir Putin “destroyed everything.”

He said it would be "hard for me to speak of any kind of future friendship or relationship” with Russia as its forces are responsible for airstrikes, and the Black Sea blockade that has left millions of metric tons of grain trapped in his ports, AFP reported.

5:12 p.m.: Ukraine will not agree to a cease-fire with Russia and will not accept any peace deal that involves ceding territory to Russia, presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said Saturday, acknowledging Kyiv's increasingly uncompromising stance.

"The war will not stop (after any concessions). It will just be put on pause for some time," he told Reuters.

"After a while, with renewed intensity, the Russians will build up their weapons, manpower and work on their mistakes, modernize a little, fire many generals. … And they'll start a new offensive, even more bloody and large-scale."

Podolyak dismissed as "very strange" calls in the West for a cease-fire that would involve Russian forces remaining in Ukraine's south and east.

"The (Russian) forces must leave the country and after that the resumption of the peace process will be possible," he said.

4:46 p.m.: A woman who stripped off her clothes to reveal a message against rape written on her body crashed the Cannes Film Festival red carpet, media reported. The unidentified woman had the message “Stop raping us” written across her torso as well as the blue and yellow colors of the Ukraine flag. She stripped off her clothes during the red carpet for the premiere of George Miller's “Three Thousand Years of Longing” on Friday. Representatives for the festival didn't immediately comment, Agence France-Presse reported. The festival had barred Russians with ties to the Kremlin from attending.

4:06 p.m.: A Russian “Terminator” has been seen in the Donbas, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports. The military equipment is a Russian tank-support fighting vehicle (BMPT), dubbed "Terminators" by their manufacturer, Uralvagonzavod. Terminators are the result of Russia's quest to develop vehicles designed for fighting in tight urban spaces, RFE/RL reports. That need became urgent after the first Chechen war in which massive numbers of Russian armored vehicles were wiped out by Chechen fighters.

3:33 p.m.: EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders has vowed that war crimes in Ukraine will be criminally prosecuted and that atrocities committed during the Russian invasion "will not go unpunished." Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports that Reynders told the Italian daily La Stampa that 11 EU member states were investigating war crimes in Ukraine with more than 600 suspects identified so far.

3 p.m.: Liberated Ukrainians have told the truth behind a propaganda video they were forced to take part in while their village was occupied by pro-Kremlin Chechen fighters. Current Time has this report.

2:34 p.m.: Patriarch Kirill I, the leader of about 100 million followers of Orthodox Christianity, has provided spiritual cover for the invasion of Ukraine, The New York Times reports, saying he reaped vast resources for his church in return. Now, in an extraordinary step, the EU is threatening him with sanctions, the NYT reported.

2:10 p.m.: Russian forces continue to prevent people from evacuating the Kherson region into Ukrainian-controlled territory, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said, according to CNN. Villages there are on the verge of a humanitarian crisis, President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office said, CNN reported.

1:27 p.m.: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg that Ankara will not look positively on Sweden and Finland's membership of the alliance unless they clearly show cooperation on the fight against terrorism and other issues, Reuters reported. In a statement by the presidency, Erdogan said he supported NATO's open-door policy, Reuters reported. In a tweet following the call, Stoltenberg said the security concerns of all allies must be taken into account and talks need to continue to find a solution.

12:50 p.m.: Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the graduating cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point that the next generation of Army soldiers to prepare to fight future wars that may look little like the wars of today, The Associated Press reported. He painted a grim picture of a world that is becoming more unstable, AP reported.

"The potential for significant international conflict between great powers is increasing, not decreasing,” Milley said in prepared remarks, according to AP. “Whatever overmatch we enjoyed militarily for the last 70 years is closing quickly, and the United States will be, in fact, we already are challenged in every domain of warfare, space, cyber, maritime, air, and of course land.”

Milley drew a parallel with what military officials are seeing in Russia's war on Ukraine, AP reported. He said future warfare will be highly complex, with elusive enemies and urban warfare that requires long-range precision weapons, and new advanced technologies.

12:15 p.m.: The Russian military said it had destroyed a major consignment of Western arms in Ukraine's Zhytomyr region, west of Kyiv, using sea-launched Kalibr cruise missiles, media reported. Reuters could not independently verify the report, which also said Russian missiles had struck fuel storage facilities near Odesa on the Black Sea coast and shot down two Ukrainian Su-25 aircraft and 14 drones.

11:48 a.m.: Ukraine needs to become a full candidate to join the EU, rather than signing up to the kind of broader "European political community" antechamber proposed by France, President Volodymyr Zelensky said Saturday.

"We don't need any alternatives to the application of Ukraine to join the European Union, we don't need such compromises," Zelensky told reporters in Kyiv during a joint press conference with visiting Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa.

11:02 a.m.: Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has a simple message for his fellow politicians in Ukraine and leaders across the world: stay united and don't compromise when dealing with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported. "Putin only understands force [and he] will go as far as the world allows him," the 56-year-old politician and chocolate magnate said during an interview with Current Time. "We can't create a precedent for the world -- and even more so in Europe -- where one state can forcefully change the borders that were established after World War II."

10:16 a.m.: Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said only a diplomatic breakthrough could end Russia's war on his country, Agence France-Presse reported. "There are things that can only be reached at the negotiating table," Zelensky said.

9:31 a.m.: Russia's Gazprom halted gas exports to neighboring Finland after Helsinki refused to agree to Russian demands to pay for Russian gas supplies in rubles because of Western sanctions imposed over the invasion of Ukraine, Reuters reported. The move comes days after Finland and Sweden decided to apply to join the NATO military alliance, a decision spurred by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

9:04 a.m.: Russia said it was banning entry to 963 Americans, including U.S. President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and CIA chief William Burns, Reuters reported. The travel bans have only symbolic impact but form part of a continued downward spiral in Russia's relations with the United States and its allies since its Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.

8:31 a.m.: Ukraine's ambassador to neighboring Poland, Andrii Deshchytsia, said his country is grateful for the welcome that Poles have given to millions of Ukrainians, but hopes the European Union will soon release billions of euros to Poland so that helping those fleeing the war does not come “at the cost of the Polish people,” The Associated Press reported. Deshchytsia said there have been no real social tensions in the three months since Ukrainians began crossing into Poland seeking safety, but he worries they could appear in the future given how much Poland has done, AP reported. Warsaw has extended free medical care, education and other social services to the Ukrainians, while more than 80% of them are being housed in private Polish homes, AP reported.

8:05 a.m.: While visiting Seoul, South Korea, President Joe Biden signed a $40 billion bill set to ensure a steady supply of weaponry and economic support for Ukraine in its fight against Russia, the White House said. The legislation, passed Thursday, includes $20 billion in military assistance, $8 billion in general economic support, $5 billion to address global food shortages that could result from the collapse of Ukrainian agriculture and more than $1 billion to help refugees.

7:32 a.m.: The Ukrainian government is using facial recognition software to identify Russian soldiers captured and dead. VOA's Julie Taboh spoke with one software company CEO and an official with the Ukrainian national police about how the technology is contributing to the war effort.

Scanning the Corpse's Face: Ukrainians Using Facial Recognition Technology to Identify Russian Soldiers
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5:58 a.m.: Al Jazeera reports that the U.K. wants to arm Moldova to protect it from any Russian threat. British Foreign Secretary Liz TRuss told The Telegraph newspaper that Russian President Vladimir Putin intended to form a "greater Russia."

5:06 a.m.: The latest intelligence update from the U.K.'s defense ministry details the role of drones in the Ukraine conflict. They've played a pivotal role for both sides, the update says, though they remain "vulnerable to being shot down and to electronic jamming." If Russia continues to lose drones at its current rate, the update says, it'll affect its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.

Russia has been avoiding used manned aircraft over Ukrainian territory, the update says, because of Ukrainian air defenses.

4:07 a.m.: Reuters reports that representatives of several nations, including the United States, walked out of a trade ministers meeting in Bangkok to protest Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The ministers were at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting. Representatives from New Zealand, Japan, Australia, the United States and Canada walked out during the Russian representative's remarks.

3:04 a.m.: Al Jazeera reports that Russia is considering opening its military to older recruits, specifically Russians older than 40 and foreigners older than 30 who would join the military as contract soldiers.

2:02 a.m.: In its latest assessment of the war in Ukraine, the Institute for the Study of War, a U.S. think tank, says Russian forces are digging in around Kharkiv and may be preparing for a major Ukrainian counter-offensive. Additionally, the update notes that Russia may be overstating the number of Ukrainians it captured at the Azovstal steel plant, either to make the victory sound more impressive or to maximize the number of Russian prisoners of war it hopes to get in exchange.

1:03 a.m.: Al Jazeera reports that Russia has removed the last bodies from the Mariupol theater it bombed in March. Ukrainian officials said that more than 1,300 people were hiding in the theater when it was hit and that some 300 died.

12:02 a.m.: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy took to Telegram to criticize Russia's destruction of a cultural center in the city of Lazova, CNN reports.

The airstrike injured at least seven people, including a child, when it hit the “newly renovated House of Culture," he wrote.

“The occupiers identified culture, education and humanity as their enemies," he wrote. "They do not spare missiles or bombs for them. What is in the minds of people who choose such targets? Absolute evil, absolute stupidity."

Some information in this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.

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