Von der Leyen ties Ukraine’s EU accession to reforms Selenskyj: Fighting has turned Donbass into “hell” The situation in the Ukraine war in the stern ticker.

Day 86 of the Russian invasion of Ukraine: While Kyiv orders the remaining fighters of the Azov regiment in Mariupol’s Azov-Steel industrial complex, according to its leader, to abandon the city’s defenses and “save the lives of the soldiers”, move on in eastern Ukraine heavy fighting around the Donbass region. “The enemy is conducting an offensive in the Lysychansk and Sievjerodonetsk areas,” the Ukrainian general staff reported in its situation report.

Meanwhile, according to the Finnish energy company Gasum, Russia has announced that it will stop gas deliveries to Finland early on Saturday morning. Gazprom Export informed about this on Friday afternoon, according to Gasum. The Finnish group had previously announced that it would not accept Gazprom Export’s demands for payments to be made in rubles. The two companies also disagree on other demands.

News of the war in Ukraine for Friday, May 20th:

3.30 p.m .: Ukraine will receive the first Gepard tanks from Germany in July

In July, Ukraine will receive the first 15 Gepard anti-aircraft gun tanks from German industry stocks. This is the result of a conversation between Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht (SPD) and her Ukrainian counterpart Oleksiy Resnikov, as the German Press Agency in Berlin learned.

1:55 p.m .: Trial in Kyiv: Lawyer demands acquittal for Russian soldiers

In the first Ukrainian war crimes trial, the defense has demanded an acquittal for the accused Russian soldier. “He carried out an order, even though it was a criminal order,” lawyer Viktor Ovsyannikov said in court, according to a report by the online newspaper Hromadske. The accused was shouted at and threatened. The 21-year-old did not want to kill the 62-year-old civilian in the village of Chupakhivka in the Sumy region.

1:40 p.m.: G7 countries give Ukraine an additional $9.5 billion

The seven leading industrial nations want to support Ukraine with additional, short-term budget support of 9.5 billion dollars (almost 9 billion euros). The finance ministers of the G7 countries agreed on this at the Petersberg near Bonn. According to the final declaration of the ministerial meeting, they have mobilized a total of 19.8 billion dollars in financial aid for Ukraine since the beginning of the year. The money is intended to help maintain basic government services in the war-torn country and close funding gaps. It is still unclear whether these are exclusively grants or also loans.

1:29 p.m .: Finnish energy company: Russia stops gas deliveries

According to the Finnish energy company Gasum, Russia stopped supplying gas to Finland early on Saturday morning. Gazprom Export informed about this in the afternoon, according to the Finnish supplier Gasum in Espoo. The Finnish group had previously announced that it would not accept Gazprom Export’s demands for payments to be made in rubles. The two companies also disagree on other demands.

1:25 p.m .: Rosneft: Schröder leaves the post as head of the supervisory board

Former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder wants to leave the board of directors of the Russian oil company Rosneft. Schröder, who is the head of the Rosneft supervisory board, said it was impossible for him to extend his mandate on the board, the group said on Friday. No details or reasons were given. The German businessman Matthias Warnig is leaving the supervisory board with Schröder. The 78-year-old Schröder, a longtime friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has recently been under massive pressure in the face of demands in Germany that he no longer works as an oil and gas lobbyist for Russia because of the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine. The SPD politician also holds management positions in the Nord Stream and Nord Stream 2 pipeline projects – both natural gas pipelines through the Baltic Sea connecting Russia and Germany.

1:19 p.m.: Azov commander: Kyiv orders end of defense of Mariupol

The Ukrainian military has ordered the remaining fighters of the Azov regiment in Mariupol’s Azov-Steel industrial complex to abandon the city’s defenses, according to its commander. “The higher military command gave the order to save the lives of the soldiers of our garrison,” Azov commander Denys Prokopenko said in a video released on Friday. Work is underway to remove the bodies of killed fighters from the facility.

11:35 a.m .: Russia announces new military bases in the west of the country

In response to the expansion of NATO, Russia wants to build twelve new military bases in the west of the country. This was announced by Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. According to Russian news agencies, he said: “Twelve military bases and units will be set up in the western military district by the end of the year.” The bases are thus moving closer to the borders of NATO territory. In the past few days, Russian President Vladimir Putin had announced a reaction to Sweden and Finland’s applications to join the defense alliance.

11:17 a.m .: Lawyer demands acquittal for Russian soldiers in war crimes trial

The lawyer for the Russian soldier accused of war crimes in Kyiv has called for his client to be acquitted. “Taking into account all the evidence and testimonies, I am of the opinion that Mr. Shishimarin is not guilty of the crime he is accused of,” Vadim Shishimarin’s defense attorney said in court. The 21-year-old had apologized to the victim’s family. According to Ukrainian investigators, Shishimarin wanted to flee with four comrades in a stolen car after an attack on his convoy in northern Ukraine. The victim witnessed the theft of the car. Schischimarin confirmed this representation in court. Prosecutors are asking for a life sentence for war crimes.

9.15 a.m .: Defense Minister Lambrecht criticizes indiscretions from her own house

Federal Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht (SPD) criticizes indiscretions from her own ministry. There is a “non-culture” there, “feeding the media with rumours, gossip and hall radio,” Lambrecht told the T-Online portal. This is “an unfortunate development, especially for a ministry that is responsible for security policy.” Lambrecht, who has been criticized from various quarters for weeks, expressed her conviction that this problem has nothing to do with her. “When I look at what has been written about my predecessors, I don’t get the impression that it has anything to do with me personally,” she says. Also, some of the allegations are “so outlandish” that they don’t even bother with them. It happens, for example, that she leaves the ministry at 3 p.m., but “unfortunately there is no information that I will then open for the next appointment,” criticized the minister.

7.33 a.m .: The Ukrainian military reports further heavy fighting in the Donbass

Heavy fighting in the Donbass region continues in eastern Ukraine. “The enemy is conducting an offensive in the Lysychansk and Sievarodonetsk areas,” reported the Ukrainian General Staff in its situation report. According to information from Kyiv, the Ukrainian troops were able to repel the attack on Sievjerodonetsk, and fighting is continuing in the suburb of Toschkivka.

A few kilometers further south, on the regional border between Luhansk and Donetsk, there is fighting around the towns of Wyskryva and Olexandropillya, about ten kilometers east of the small town of Bakhmut. This is considered another strategic intermediate target of the Russian attacks. The Russian offensive efforts had just as little success here as the ongoing storm attempts in Avdiivka and Kurakhove, according to the situation report. A total of 14 attacks in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions were fended off.

In the Kharkiv region, where the Ukrainians have launched a counter-offensive in recent weeks, Kyiv has not been able to report any further territorial gains. The Russians concentrated here on defending their front line. It is said that there are fights around the towns of Ternowa and Wesele. The reports could not be verified independently.

6.42 a.m .: Ukraine accuses Russia of obstructing the escape of civilians

In the Zaporizhia region in southern Ukraine, the Russian occupying forces are said to be preventing civilians from fleeing to Ukrainian-controlled territory. “Currently, there are more than 1,000 vehicles in front of the Russian checkpoint in the city of Vasylivka, which are not allowed into the territory controlled by Ukraine,” Deputy Chief of the Zaporizhia Regional Administration Slata Nekrasova told the Ukrinform news agency. Corresponding videos have also appeared on social networks. There are also many women and children in the cars. Nekrasova explained that officials in her administration had therefore arranged for water and provisions to be delivered to the refugees. In the past, Ukraine has repeatedly accused the Russian troops of preventing civilians from fleeing the occupied territories and of forcibly abducting them to Russia.

6.28 a.m .: Union criticizes delays in arms deliveries

The Union faction criticizes the federal government for delays in the delivery of Gepard anti-aircraft tanks to Ukraine. He wonders “whether that was just a bluff,” said the defense policy spokesman for the Union faction, Florian Hahn (CSU), the “Bild” newspaper. “Bad for Ukraine, because it urgently needs supplies.” CDU opposition leader Friedrich Merz had already made similar allegations directly to Scholz in the Bundestag on Thursday. The Ukrainian ambassador to Germany, Andriy Melnyk, told the newspapers of the editorial network Germany (RND): “We have the impression that the chancellor does not want to deliver.” The Bundestag decision on the delivery of heavy weapons was now three weeks ago. “One can get the impression that one is waiting for a ceasefire,” speculated Melnyk. “Then the pressure from Germany will be gone and there will no longer be any need for courageous decisions.”

4.30 a.m .: The Czech Republic is to receive the first Leopard tanks later this year

For the handover of tanks to Ukraine, the NATO partner Czech Republic is to be “quickly” equipped with Leopard 2 tanks from Germany. “Delivery is scheduled to begin this year and will also include a 30-day supply of 120 mm ammunition,” the German Ministry of Defense told the responsible officials in the Bundestag. “Equipment and ammunition come from industry stocks and are financed by the Federal Republic of Germany. The Czech Republic is responsible for subsequent supply.” The letter is available from the German Press Agency in Berlin.

The Czech Republic intends to provide significant support to Ukraine by selling 20 T-72 main battle tanks from its own stocks. “In a first step, the Czech Republic is to receive 14 Leopard 2 A4 main battle tanks and one Leopard 2-based recovery vehicle as a replacement for its own delivery,” it says.

3.44 a.m .: Zelenskyj speaks of the “hell in Donbass”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has described the situation in the Donbass as “hell” given the Russian war of aggression. The army continues to work on the liberation of the Kharkiv region, said Zelenskyj in his evening video address on Thursday. “But in the Donbass, the occupiers are trying to increase the pressure. Hell is there, and that’s not an exaggeration,” the president continued. The Donbass was “completely destroyed”.

Fighting between Russian and Ukrainian troops continued, especially in eastern Ukraine in the Donbass. The command of Ukrainian forces in the region reported Thursday that 14 enemy attacks had been repelled. The information could not be verified. As a sign of the intensity of the fighting, numerous civilian deaths were once again recorded. According to the authorities, five people were killed in the Donetsk region alone. Journalists also report

12:00 a.m .: Von der Leyen ties Ukraine’s EU accession to reforms

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen wants to stick to the usual accession process in the case of Ukraine. How quickly Ukraine can become a member depends “a lot on Ukraine itself,” said von der Leyen on Thursday on the ZDF program “Maybrit Illner” and added: “What I’ve seen so far is a very firm will to make this way.” The accession and reconstruction of the country must be linked to the necessary reforms, said von der Leyen, citing, among other things, the fight against corruption, the establishment of the rule of law and changes in the economy. “Ukraine wants that too,” said von der Leyen. One point in the Ukrainian reform process will be how the country gets rid of the oligarchs. The Commission may want to use their frozen assets to help rebuild the devastated Ukraine. However, the procedure must be legally substantiated (ZDF).