Ukraine war: Russia 'takes full control' of Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol

Ukrainian servicemen leave the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine, seen in a video from Russia's defence ministry released on May 18, 2022.
Ukrainian servicemen leave the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukraine, seen in a video from Russia's defence ministry released on May 18, 2022.   -  Copyright  Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP, File
By Euronews  with AP, AFP

The Russian army says it has "fully liberated" the Azovstal steel plant in the strategic southeastern city after the last Ukrainian soldiers surrendered.

See a summary of the day's developments below and watch Euronews TV coverage in the video player above.


Friday's key points:

  • The Russian military says it has fully taken over the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol after the last Ukrainian fighters gave themselves up. Earlier, Moscow said more than 1,900 Ukrainian fighters at the plant had surrendered.

  • Russian forces stepped up their assaults in eastern Ukraine. Friday saw fierce bombardment of Severodonetsk in Luhansk region, which Moscow says is almost under its control.

  • Ukraine's Donbas region has been turned into 'hell', Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said earlier.

  • Russia is to suspend supplies of natural gas to Finland from Saturday morning.

  • Russia's parliament has said it will consider allowing Russians over 40 and foreigners over 30 to sign up for the military.

  • Russia is to set up 12 new military bases in the west of the country in response to Sweden and Finland's NATO bids.

  • Turkish President held "telephone diplomacy" talks over Sweden and Finland's NATO bids.

  • The G7 is pledging $19.8 billion (€18.75 billion) in aid to boost Ukraine's finances and more than $18 billion (€17 billion) in aid for Ukrainian defence efforts .

  • Ex German chancellor Gerhard Schröder has stepped down from the board of Russian oil producer Rosneft.

  • Wimbledon's ban on Russian and Belarusian tennis players prompts tours to cut ranking points from this summer's tournament.


That's it from the live blog for tonight -- though you can still watch our TV coverage in the video player.

Join us again on Saturday morning for more updates on Russia's war in Ukraine.


Wimbledon's Russia ban prompts tours to cut ranking points

Professional tennis players will not receive ATP and WTA ranking points at this year's Wimbledon Championships following the decision to ban Russian and Belarusian competitors from the tournament.

Players from the two countries have been banned by the All England Lawn Tennis Club from all UK grass-court events after Russia's military invasion of Ukraine.

However, events outside of Wimbledon, such as Queen's and Eastbourne, will retain their ranking points.

The 2022 Wimbledon Championships will run from Monday 27th June to Sunday 10th July.

The organisers of the Wimbledon tournament on Friday described the action as "disproportionate".



Russia 'takes full control' of Azovstal steel plant 

The Russian army said on Friday that it had "fully liberated" the Azovstal steel plant in the strategic southeastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol after the last Ukrainian soldiers there surrendered.

"Since 16 May, 2,439 Nazis from the Azov (regiment) and Ukrainian soldiers trapped in the plant have surrendered. Today, May 20, the last group of 531 fighters surrendered," Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a statement posted on Telegram.

"The underground facilities at the site, where the fighters were hiding, have come under the full control of the Russian armed forces," Konashenkov added.

According to this source, Russian President Vladimir Putin was informed by his Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu of "the end of the operation and the complete liberation of the (Azovstal) combine and the city of Mariupol".

Igor Konashenkov assured that the head of the Azov regiment fighters on the spot had surrendered and had been evacuated from the factory in a "special armoured vehicle" to prevent him from being attacked by hostile inhabitants. 



Italian police: Pro-Russian hackers behind new cyber attacks

Police in Italy say pro-Russian hackers attacked the websites of several Italian institutions and government ministries on Friday morning.

The attack was launched on Thursday evening, and by Friday morning the foreign ministry and national magistrates association websites were still offline.

Italian cyber-security group Yarix said in a statement they believed the Russian hacker group "Killnet" was behind the attack.

A similar attack took place on 11 May, and last weekend police said they had thwarted a cyber-assault on the latter stages of the Eurovision Song Contest in Turin which ended on Saturday with the victory of Ukraine's entry. 

The police attributed both attacks to the Killnet group and its affiliate Legion.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 Feb many Western governments have raised alert levels in anticipation of possible cyber attacks on IT systems and infrastructure.

Russia routinely denies it carries out offensive cyber operations.

(Reuters / Euronews)


Major Russian assault on Severodonetsk

Russian troops bombarded a riverside city on Friday in what appeared to herald a major assault to seize the last remaining Ukrainian-held territory in a province it claims on behalf of separatists.

Ukrainian officials said Russian forces had launched massive artillery bombardment against Severodonetsk, one of the last Ukrainian-held bastions in Luhansk, one of two southeastern provinces Moscow and its proxies proclaim as independent states.

The city, and its twin Lyshchansk on the opposite bank of the Siverskiy Donets river, form the eastern part of a Ukrainian-held pocket that Russia has been trying to overrun since mid-April after failing to capture the capital Kyiv.

Ukraine's general staff said Moscow had launched an offensive on Sievierodonetsk but had taken losses and was forced to retreat, part of what it described as major Russian offensive operations along a stretch of the frontline.

Despite losing ground elsewhere in recent weeks, Russian forces have advanced on the Luhansk front, in what some military analysts view as a major push to achieve scaled-down war aims of capturing all territory claimed by pro-Russian rebels.

"The Russian army has started very intensive destruction of the town of Sievierodonetsk, the intensity of shelling doubled, they are shelling residential quarters, destroying house by house," Luhansk governor Serhiy Gaidai said via his Telegram channel.

"We do not know how many people died, because it is simply impossible to go through and look at every apartment," he said.



Russian missile strike 'injures 7' in Lozova

At least seven people, including a child, were injured in a powerful Russian missile strike on a newly rebuilt cultural centre in the eastern city of Lozova, President Volodymyr Zelensky said Friday.

"A Russian missile hit the newly rebuilt cultural centre. Seven victims, including an 11-year-old child," Zelensky said on Telegram.

According to Viktor Zabachta, a rescue service official quoted by the Interfax-Ukraine agency, the seven victims were injured, but there were no deaths.

The Ukrainian president accompanied his message with a video showing a powerful explosion pulverising the building in a plume of smoke, while two cars drove by, one then trying to flee the area.

"The occupiers have identified culture, education and humanity as their enemies. And they spare no missiles for them," Zelensky said.

Ukrainian Defence Ministry spokesman Oleksander Motuzianyk said the situation on the frontline remained "tense" on Friday and "showed signs of worsening".

"Russian occupation forces are carrying out intense fire all along the contact line and are trying to strike with artillery deep into the defences of Ukrainian troops," he told a press briefing.



Poland and Portugal vow to help bring Ukraine into EU

Poland and Portugal are trying to figure out ways of bringing Ukraine into the European Union even if some countries in the bloc balk at granting it speedy access.

Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki announced the effort after talks Friday in Warsaw with visiting Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa.

Morawiecki said that “if some EU nations protest vehemently, together with Portugal we want to work out an appropriate package that would be attractive for Ukraine and will show that Ukraine’s place is in the EU.”

For example, Germany has spoken out against a swift EU membership path for Ukraine, which currently fighting a ferocious war against Russia’s invasion. All 27 EU members need to approve an enlargement to include Ukraine.

Costa said EU leaders should not stick to inflexible regulations but be “pragmatic and respond to the current events.” He urged a decision at an EU summit scheduled for June.



G7 pledges $19.8 billion in aid to boost Ukraine's finances

Germany’s finance minister says the Group of Seven leading economies and global financial institutions are providing $19.8 billion (€18.75 billion) in aid to bolster Ukraine’s public finances.

Finance Minister Christian Lindner told reporters Friday that $9.5 billion of the total was mobilized at meetings of the G-7 finance ministers in Koenigswinter, Germany, this week.

He said the goal is to ensure that Ukraine’s financial situation does not affect its ability to defend itself against Russia’s invasion.

“We agreed on concrete actions to deepen multilateral economic cooperation and underlined our commitment to our united response to Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine and to our unwavering support to Ukraine,” a G-7 statement said.



Additional sources • Reuters

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