Russian attack hits warehouse with highly flammable ammonium nitrate Moscow reports ceasefire agreement for Azov steelworks Developments in the war in Ukraine in the stern ticker.

While Ukraine is reporting military successes near the city of Kharkiv, plans for Finland and Sweden to join NATO are becoming more concrete. Meanwhile, Russia’s army is continuing to attack Odessa and fighting is also continuing in other parts of Ukraine.

News of the war in Ukraine from Monday, May 16:

10 p.m .: Great Britain calls for Sweden and Finland to join NATO “as soon as possible”

Great Britain has spoken out in favor of Finland and Sweden joining NATO as soon as possible. The two countries should become members of the western defense alliance “as soon as possible,” said Secretary of State Liz Truss. France also assured Helsinki and Stockholm outside NATO support in the event of an attack.

Sweden and Finland officially announced their applications for NATO membership on Monday. Against the background of the Russian attack on Ukraine, the two countries had broken with their decades-old tradition of military alliance neutrality.

9:24 p.m.: Ukraine: 19 civilians killed in Donetsk and Luhansk regions

According to the authorities, at least 19 civilians have been killed in the contested eastern Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. “As a result of the shelling of Sieverodonetsk, at least ten people died,” said the military governor of the Luhansk region, Serhiy Hayday, via Telegram. Due to the attacks, however, it was extremely difficult to check the location. Nine more civilians were killed in neighboring Donetsk Oblast, according to local military governor Pavlo Kyrylenko. Six other people were injured.

8:42 p.m .: Scholz does not see the end of the war anytime soon – fear of escalation

Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) sees no signs of an end to the Ukraine war anytime soon and even warns of an escalation. “Unfortunately, so far it has not been possible to see that the insight has grown that this should be ended here as soon as possible,” said Scholz on the “RTL Direkt” program. You also have to “worry that there will be an escalation of the war”.

The Chancellor stressed, however, that one should not let this paralyze oneself. “We have to be able to make sensible, very conscious and also very courageous decisions. We made them.” Scholz stressed that Germany would continue to supply arms to Ukraine. He expects the promised Gepard anti-aircraft tanks to be made available “relatively quickly”. However, he pointed out that ammunition was still being sought abroad.

8 p.m .: Erdogan: Turkey will “not say yes” to Sweden and Finland joining NATO

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan continues to object to Sweden and Finland joining NATO. Turkey would “not say yes” to the two countries joining NATO, affirmed Erdogan. Neither country has a “clear stance on terrorist organizations,” said the Turkish president, who even described Sweden as a “hotbed for terrorist organizations.”

Turkey has long accused the Nordic countries of harboring Kurdish extremist groups like the outlawed Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) as well as supporters of US-based preacher Fethullah Gülen – particularly Sweden, where many Turkish immigrants live. Erdogan blames the Gülen movement for the attempted coup in Turkey in 2016.

7.41 p.m .: U foreign ministers approve money for arms deliveries to Ukraine

The foreign ministers of the EU countries have approved a further 500 million euros for the supply of weapons and equipment to the Ukrainian armed forces. This was announced by EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell after a meeting with ministers in Brussels. This increases the EU funds available for military aid to Ukraine to two billion euros.

A first package of 500 million euros was approved at the end of February, followed by two more in March and April. According to EU information, the money will be used to finance personal protective equipment, fuel, but also weapons for defense. According to Borrell, the additional 500 million euros will be used to provide artillery pieces and armored vehicles, among other things.

7:12 p.m .: Ukraine reports at least ten dead from Russian shelling of Severodonetsk

Several people were killed by Russian shelling in the eastern Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk, according to Ukrainian sources. The Russian troops would bombard the city “incessantly,” writes the governor of the Luhansk region, Serhiy Gajdaj, on Telegram. “At least ten people were killed.” Due to the ongoing shelling, access to the area and communication are currently considerably more difficult. Gajdaj asked the residents not to leave the shelters.

The mayor of Severodonetsk, Oleksander Striuk, said about ten days ago that the city was “virtually surrounded” by the armed forces of Moscow and the pro-Russian separatists. According to him, 15,000 of the former 100,000 inhabitants were still in Severodonetsk.

6.43 p.m .: Turkey accuses Finland and Sweden of not extraditing “terrorists”.

After Finland and Sweden decided to apply for NATO membership, Turkey accused both of not extraditing “terrorists” living there. In the past five years, neither Sweden nor Finland have responded positively to Turkey’s 33 extradition requests, reports the state news agency Anadolu, citing the Ministry of Justice in Ankara. According to Anadolu, “terror suspects” whose extradition Ankara is demanding are Kurdish extremists or members of the movement led by the preacher Fethullah Gülen.

4:51 p.m. Putin announces reaction to NATO’s northern expansion

Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned of an increase in international tensions given Finland and Sweden’s aspirations to join NATO. “This exacerbates the already difficult international security situation,” said Putin at a meeting with heads of state and government from former Soviet republics in Moscow. If the alliance moves its military infrastructure to the borders of Russia, then it will react accordingly. Russia has no problems with Finland and Sweden, according to the Kremlin chief. “And that’s why the expansion to include these countries does not pose an immediate threat to Russia in that sense.” Nevertheless, Moscow will react, depending on the danger of the military infrastructure that NATO is building there.

Because of Putin’s war of aggression against Ukraine and fearing for their own security, Finland and Sweden intend to apply for NATO membership in the coming days.

4:31 p.m.: Russian attack hits warehouse with highly flammable ammonium nitrate near Kharkiv

A Russian attack has hit a warehouse of highly flammable ammonium nitrate in the region around the city of Kharkiv in north-eastern Ukraine. The governor of the neighboring Donetsk region shared a photo of a cloud of orange smoke over fields via Telegram, but added that the explosion “poses no danger to the local population”. The governor further announced that a “Russian projectile” hit the camp. The column of smoke above the depot is frightening, but there is no reason to panic.

Ammonium nitrate is a highly flammable substance used in the manufacture of nitrogen fertilizer – but also as a basis for explosives. The substance repeatedly leads to devastating accidents. In August 2020, ammonium nitrate stored in the Lebanese capital Beirut triggered the devastating explosions that destroyed the port and a significant part of the city.

4.10 p.m .: Lukashenko calls for strengthening of the eastern military alliance

Against the background of the war, the Belarusian ruler Alexander Lukashenko is calling for a military alliance led by Russia to be strengthened as a counterweight to NATO. “The (Collective Security Treaty Organization) CSTO must massively consolidate its status in the international system of control and separation of powers,” said Lukashenko at a meeting of the alliance in Moscow, according to the Belarusian news agency Belta. Russia cannot fight against NATO expansion alone.

Lukashenko, who is often criticized as “Europe’s last dictator”, justifies the Russian invasion of Ukraine with NATO’s rearmament in Eastern Europe and its activities in Ukraine. In addition to Russia and Belarus, the CSTO also includes the ex-Soviet republics of Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. The armies of other countries, including Belarus, have not yet joined the Russian war against Ukraine.

3:20 p.m .: Moscow reports ceasefire agreement for Azov steel mill

According to the Defense Ministry in Moscow, Russia and Ukraine have reached a ceasefire for the Azov steelworks in Mariupol, which has been under dispute for weeks. The agreement on the evacuation of injured Ukrainian soldiers was reached with “representatives of the Ukrainian military who were blocked” in the Azov steel plant, the ministry said. The injured are to be taken to “medical facilities” in the Novoazovsk region controlled by Russian and pro-Russian fighters.

The Azov Steelworks is the last bastion of the Ukrainian army in the strategically important port city of Mariupol. In the past few weeks, hundreds of civilians have been brought to safety from the huge industrial complex. Hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers are still holding out there, and many of them are said to be injured.

3:07 p.m .: Sweden wants to submit an application for NATO membership

Sweden wants to become a NATO member. Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson announced in Stockholm that the country would apply to be included in the defense alliance. Previously, almost all parties in Parliament had expressed their support for an application for membership.

2:42 p.m .: “Putin doesn’t want a peaceful solution”: according to SPD expert Roth, the West must rely on strength

The chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Bundestag, Michael Roth, warns against pinning too much hope on diplomatic contacts with Russia. “Putin doesn’t want a peaceful solution — at least not at the moment,” says Roth on the RBB broadcaster. Therefore, a policy of restraint towards Russia does not make sense. Rather, it is important that the Western democracies keep making it clear to Russia’s president what they expect from him and what will happen if he does not contribute to peace. “It is not despondency, not despondency, not fear that impresses Putin, but just defensiveness, self-confidence, strength – this can also create an opportunity for diplomacy,” said the SPD politician. On the other hand, a policy of restraint alone that is not also based on defensiveness will not lead to Putin finally giving in and still being willing to find a peaceful solution to the Ukraine conflict.

1:54 p.m .: Majority of parliamentary parties in Sweden for NATO membership application

In a parliamentary debate in Sweden, a majority of parties are in favor of the country’s application for NATO membership. There shouldn’t be a vote. Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson plans to announce her decision on the NATO issue in the afternoon. The ruling Social Democrats had already advocated an application to join the military alliance yesterday.

With their plans for membership applications, Sweden and Finland are breaking with a long tradition of military non-alignment under the impact of the war in Ukraine. Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov described the possible admission of the two countries to NATO as a “serious mistake with far-reaching consequences”.

1:22 p.m .: Kyiv reports recapture of border control near Kharkiv

The Ukrainian army has apparently gained further territory in the region around the city of Kharkiv in the north-east of the country. Soldiers from the 127th brigade had “driven out the Russians and recaptured the state border,” the Defense Ministry in Kyiv said. In a video released by the ministry, a group of Ukrainian soldiers can be seen at a yellow and blue border post. “We made it, we’re here,” said one of the soldiers in the video addressed to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The unit had reached the border “to the occupied country”.

According to Kiev, the Ukrainian troops succeeded in recapturing the areas north of Kharkiv after a counter-offensive. According to Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych, Russia is withdrawing its units from the region and relocating them to the Donbass for a new offensive in the direction of Luhansk.

12:47 p.m .: McDonald’s gives up business in Russia

The US fast food chain McDonald’s is going out of business in Russia as a result of the Russian war against Ukraine. After more than 30 years in the country, McDonald’s wants to sell the branches to a Russian buyer, as the group announced in Chicago.

The company had come to the conclusion that ownership of the Russian activities was no longer tenable and no longer in line with the company’s values. The company had already announced on March 8 that it would temporarily close the restaurants in the country. The new owner of the restaurants should no longer be able to use the brand symbols.

12:25 p.m .: Scholz wants to continue talks with Putin

Chancellor Olaf Scholz wants to continue his attempts to mediate in the Ukraine war with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The war is threatening to change towards a trench warfare, said government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit in Berlin. In this phase it is important “that you try to start talking again about how you can stop killing and shooting”.

Scholz took the initiative and last week he phoned Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and then, after weeks of radio silence, also with Putin. He’s trying to “walk the diplomatic path again, no matter how difficult it is.” Scholz agreed with Putin to continue the conversation. The situation is very difficult and muddled, but nothing should be left untried.

11:27 a.m .: Germany’s gas storage tanks are more than 40 percent full

After the end of the winter heating phase, Germany’s gas storage facilities are gradually filling up again. As can be seen from the website of Europe’s gas infrastructure operator (GIE), the storage facilities are now 40.8 percent full. A month earlier it was only 29.8 percent. At 39.5 percent, the current EU average is similar to the German figure.

It is normal for the reservoirs to fill up again in spring and summer. As heaters are turned off, the demand for energy falls. In view of an imminent supply stop of Russian natural gas, it is particularly important this year that the storage facilities are well filled.

11.04 a.m .: The EU Commission lowers the forecast for economic growth to 2.7 percent

The EU Commission has drastically revised its growth forecast for the European economy downwards because of the war in Ukraine. The economy of the EU and the euro countries will only grow by 2.7 percent this year instead of the previously expected 4 percent, according to the authority’s spring forecast presented in Brussels.

10:59 a.m.: Russian gas transit through Ukraine continues to decline

The transit of Russian gas through Ukraine has continued to decline in the wake of the war and sanctions. Today, according to the Russian energy company Gazprom, only 46.8 million cubic meters of gas are to be pumped through the Ukrainian pipeline network towards Europe. The contractually possible maximum utilization is 109 million cubic meters per day. The gas can only be fed in via the Sudscha point on Russian territory, said Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov, according to the Interfax agency.

10.46 a.m .: Again injured after Russian rocket attack near Odessa

According to Ukrainian military information, a tourist accommodation was destroyed by a Russian rocket attack near the port city of Odessa in southern Ukraine. The Southern Command of the Ukrainian Armed Forces reported at least three civilians injured. In addition, fire broke out. The target was therefore a previously attacked and damaged bridge over the mouth of the Dniester River. There was initially no confirmation from the Russian side.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defense in Moscow reported more than 100 airstrikes on military infrastructure in Ukraine on Monday night. In addition, rockets were fired at more than 300 targets, said ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov. The information could not initially be verified independently.

10:21 a.m .: Renault completely stops activities in Russia

The French carmaker Renault is completely ceasing its activities in Russia due to the war in Ukraine and is giving up all its shares in the company. As the group announced in Boulogne-Billancourt, Renault is selling all its shares in Renault Russia to the city of Moscow and its stake in the manufacturer Avtovaz to the Central Institute for the Development of Automobiles and Engines (Nami). There is a buyback option for Avtovaz shares over the next six years.

10.15 a.m .: Moscow calls Finland’s and Sweden’s NATO plans a big mistake

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has described the admission of Finland and Sweden to NATO as a “serious mistake with far-reaching consequences”. This would increase military tensions, Ryabkov warned, according to the Interfax agency. Speaking to the two Scandinavian countries, he added: “You should have no illusions that we’ll just put up with it.”

9.58am: British intelligence – Belarus ties up Ukrainian forces

According to estimates by British secret services, Belarus will probably tie up military forces from the neighboring country by stationing troops on the border with Ukraine. According to a report by the Ministry of Defense in London, Minsk wants to send special forces, air defense units, artillery units and rocket launchers to training areas in the west of the country. This will “probably tie up Ukrainian troops so they cannot be deployed to support Donbass.”

Contrary to initial speculation, Belarusian troops have not yet been involved in combat operations, according to the report. However, the territory there was used as a starting point for Russian advances on Kyiv and Chernihiv as well as for air strikes. President Alexander Lukashenko weighs the balance between supporting Russia and avoiding direct military involvement. Such involvement could bring further Western sanctions, retaliatory strikes from Ukraine, and dissatisfaction within the country’s own military.

9.50 a.m .: Moscow warns of the “far-reaching consequences” of Finland and Sweden joining NATO

Russia has again sharply criticized Sweden and Finland’s efforts to join NATO. “This is another serious mistake with far-reaching consequences,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said, according to Russian news agencies. Against the background of the Russian military operation in Ukraine, Sweden and Finland are about to give up their decades of military neutrality in order to join the western military alliance.

7.32 a.m .: Ukraine is preparing for increased Russian attacks in the Donbass

Ukraine is preparing for a new Russian offensive in the east of the country. After the retreat of Russian units around Kharkiv, more soldiers are now being transferred to the Donbass, said Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovich. Ukraine is preparing for “new attack attempts” by the Russian army in the Donbass, aimed at “increasing their movements in southern Ukraine,” said President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in a video message on Monday night.

7 a.m.: Ukrainian troops advance from Kharkiv to the Russian border

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense released a video showing a dozen soldiers next to a border post in the national colors of blue and yellow on Monday night. According to the information, they belong to a volunteer brigade from the city of Kharkiv. Another video clip posted online shows the soldiers bringing the stake and placing it in front of a ditch with Russian border signs.

The Ukrainian military had already reported in the past few days that they were gradually pushing back Russian troops near Kharkiv. Russia had already withdrawn its troops in northern Ukraine after being stopped in front of the capital Kyiv. Russia is currently concentrating on the eastern Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, where pro-Russian separatists, with help from Moscow, have had some areas under their control since 2014.

6.33 a.m .: According to the governor, Ukraine still controls ten percent of Luhansk

Despite heavy Russian attacks, the Ukrainian army still controls around ten percent of the eastern Ukrainian region of Luhansk, according to the regional governor. In particular, the Russians have not been able to capture the outskirts of the cities of Rubishne, Sievjerodonetsk and Lysychansk, stressed Serhiy Hajday. In the Donetsk region, also in eastern Ukraine, three civilians were killed and 13 others injured in Russian attacks on Sunday, according to the regional administration.

5 a.m.: Ukraine accuses Russia of phosphorus attack – attacks in Lviv region

Fighting continued in several parts of Ukraine as part of the Russian war of aggression that has been going on for more than two and a half months. For the first time in a few days, military infrastructure was also fired upon in the west of the country. The site of the Azovstal steelworks, where the last Ukrainian fighters are holed up, is said to have been attacked with phosphorus bombs, according to Ukraine’s allegations. Mariupol city council deputy Petro Andryushchenko on Sunday accused Russia of using the weapons, the use of which against people is banned. At first there was no evidence. Such incendiary bombs are ignited by contact with oxygen and cause devastating damage.

12:00 a.m.: Parliaments of Finland and Sweden discuss joining NATO

Finland and Sweden’s plans to join NATO will be discussed in the parliaments of the two Nordic countries on Monday. The Social Democrats led by Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson spoke out in favor of an application for membership on Sunday. Before an official announcement of the application for admission, the Prime Minister wants to consult Parliament. Finland’s application for membership was officially decided on Sunday. However, it still has to be approved by Parliament, which is expected to result in a majority.