War in the neighborhood: IPN updates

Azovstal, symbol of Ukrainian resistance

Ukrainian side: Hundreds of Ukrainian fighters trapped for more than two months in Mariupol’s Azovstal steelworks have been evacuated. A total of 53 badly wounded soldiers were taken to the town of Novoazovsk, held by Russian-backed rebels, while another 211 were evacuated using a humanitarian corridor to Olenivka - also a rebel-held town. The Russian goal is for them to be part of a prisoner exchange. The evacuation operation goes on.

Russian Defense Ministry: Igor Konashenkov, spokesperson for the Ministry, said that 265 Ukrainian soldiers, including several dozen wounded, surrendered at the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Ukraine’s port city of Mariupol. “Over the past 24 hours, 265 militants laid down their arms and surrendered, including 51 heavily wounded,” he stated.

Deputy Defense Minister of Ukraine Hanna Maliar said the soldiers who left the Azovstal plant “were evacuated”. Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said 52 severely wounded Azovstal defenders will be exchanged for Russian POWs once their condition stabilizes. The negotiations continue and Ukraine is working on the next stages of the humanitarian operation to save soldiers’ lives.

The Prosecutor General’s Office of Russia has asked the Supreme Court to declare Ukraine’s Azov Regiment “terrorist organization”. Russia’s Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the case on May 26.

The State Duma is to consider a draft resolution that bans the exchange of Nazi criminals. The proposal was made by the head of the State Duma Committee on Defense, Andrey Kartapolov, against the backdrop of the Ministry of Defense’s message about the start of the surrender of militants of the nationalist regiment Azov. His proposal was supported by State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin, who stated that it was necessary to prevent the exchange of Azov fighters.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky informed his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron about the operation to evacuate Ukrainian soldiers from the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, as well as his stance on negotiations with Russia, during their phone call on May 17. Zelensky also raised the issue of fuel supplies to Ukraine.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukraine’s President, said: “The 83 days of the defense of Mariupol will go down in history as Thermopylae of the 21st century. The Azovstal defenders thwarted the enemy’s plans to seize eastern Ukraine, drew away enormous numbers of enemy forces, and changed the course of the war.”

Sweden, after Finland, decides to join NATO

PM Magdalena Andersson said Sweden is to start the NATO application process. The government has decided on a bill that will make it possible for Sweden to receive military support from all European Union and NATO countries, she said. The process is expected to last for about a year.

Zelenski in ‘productive’ talks with Scholz

“We discussed the situation on the frontline, further pressure on Russia, increasing sanctions, (and) the prospects for peace,” said Zelensky. He added that Ukraine is counting on Germany’s further support for Kyiv’s EU membership bid.

Earlier, Scholz said that the West would never accept any Russia-imposed peace deal that would attempt to carve out parts of Ukraine’s territory.

War is entering protracted phase

In order to prevent Russia from protracting the war, Ukraine is interested in receiving international military aid and buying weapons as quickly as possible and in the right quantities, said Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov.

“There are many indications of Russia preparing for a long-term military operation. The war is entering a protracted phase. We can already see how the Russian occupiers are beginning engineering and fortification works in the Kherson region, in the Zaporizhzhia region in order to move to defense if necessary,” Reznikov said.

Ukraine thinking about future European security

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov gave a speech at a meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council at the level of defense ministers with the participation of the NATO secretary general. “We can clearly see that Russia can be defeated on the battlefield. This will free the world from tyranny and Europe from a constant threat. And we look forward to the NATO summit in Madrid. A NATO Strategic Concept for the next 10 years will be adopted. What place will Europe see for Ukraine in the interests of protecting Europe's eastern borders? Do we all present here think about updating the security architecture of Europe, at least?” he asked.

EU: Ukraine will not remain without weapons in war

The European Union will not allow Ukraine to run out of weapons and military equipment in the midst of a war with Russia, asserted European Union’s Foreign Policy chief Josep Borrell at a press conference after a meeting of the EU Defense Council.

Borrell noted that the EU has the resources to ensure that the supply of military equipment and weapons remains uninterrupted as long as necessary, reiterating Ukraine’s aim for military triumph. He also said that EU foreign ministers agreed to another €500 million from the European Peace Fund for weaponry shipments to Ukraine on Monday, increasing the total amount committed for these objectives to €2 billion.

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