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Ukraine war: Free to read

Ukraine latest: Blinken to visit Saudi Arabia next week as Riyadh warms to Russia, China

Zelenskyy pushes to join NATO; Russia blocks Black Sea grain ships, Kyiv says

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken gives a speech at the Helsinki City Hall on June 2. (Photo by Lehtikuva via Reuters)

The war that began with Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 has passed a grim one-year milestone, with mounting military and civilian deaths.

As fighting rages in and around Bakhmut, Western nations have raised their military support for Ukraine to the highest level yet.

Read our in-depth coverage. For all our coverage, visit our Ukraine war page.

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Note: Nikkei Asia decided in March 2022 to suspend its reporting from Russia until further information becomes available regarding the scope of the revised criminal code. Entries include material from wire services and other sources.

Here are the latest developments:

Saturday, June 3 (Tokyo time)

4:15 a.m. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit Saudi Arabia next week, a trip that comes after Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud met with Russia's Sergey Lavrov on the sidelines of the BRICS foreign ministers meeting in South Africa.

Blinken will travel to the kingdom from Tuesday to Thursday "to meet with Saudi officials to discuss U.S.-Saudi strategic cooperation on regional and global issues and a range of bilateral issues including economic and security cooperation," the State Department says.

Blinken's trip is meant to show that "the United States is a strong player that is in the region to stay... that we won't leave a vacuum for other competitors to fill," says Daniel Benaim, the deputy assistant secretary of state for Arabian Peninsula affairs.

"We very much have a robust, ongoing conversation with Saudi Arabia about the issue of Russia and Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine," Benaim says, noting the Saudi foreign minister's recent visit to Kyiv.

"The conversation regarding Russia is ongoing," he adds

China, another U.S. competitor, is also reaching out to Riyadh. The New Development Bank, the Shanghai-based lender better known as "BRICS bank," is in talks with Saudi Arabia on admitting the country as its ninth member, the Financial Times reports. 

12:40 a.m. The drones that attacked luxury apartments in Moscow on Tuesday were launched by armed anti-Kremlin forces in Russia, a top aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says.

Mykhailo Podolyak, the adviser to the head of the presidential office, denied that Ukraine was involved in the attacks. When asked if an armed insurgent group was behind the attacks, Podolyak tells Nikkei the assumption was "absolutely right."

"We are observing a growing number of examples of Russian aggressive resistance," says Podolyak. "Citizens of Russia who have alternative visions of the political process in Russia [are] becoming more and more aggressive in the good sense of the word. They show their activity." Read more.

South Africa's Naledi Pandor, center, speaks at the BRICS Foreign Ministers Meeting in Cape Town: Vladimir Putin is to arrive in South Africa in August for the BRICS summit. (Photo by BRICS / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Friday, June 2

8:20 a.m. Court action to compel the South African government to arrest Russian President Vladimir Putin when he arrives in August for the BRICS summit is unlikely to lead to his arrest, Independent Online, a South African news website, reports citing experts. This comes as the country's Department of International Relations and Co-operation has yet to make a decision on what to do about the International Criminal Court warrant of arrest issued for Putin. Said one of the experts quoted in the report: "A court may make a pronouncement on the legal aspect but this is not a legal case. It is actually a political case and the law has limitations."

3:35 a.m. President Joe Biden predicts Sweden will join NATO "soon," speaking at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado days after he hinted at a possible deal to overcome Turkey's opposition to admitting the Nordic country to the alliance.

Biden, who spoke Monday with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to congratulate him on his re-election, had told reporters that Erdogan repeated his wish to buy F-16 fighter jets from the U.S. The White House has denied that Biden is pursuing a deal with Turkey to lift its opposition in exchange for F-16s.

3:30 a.m. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy presses for Ukraine to be part of NATO and urges the military alliance to provide security guarantees if membership was not possible for now. Joining a meeting of European leaders in Moldova, the Ukrainian leader seeks to bolster Western support ahead of his country's expected counteroffensive against Russia's invasion.

French President Emmanuel Macron says Ukraine needs to be given clear, strong security guarantees at the NATO summit in Lithuania next month. Macron says he is working closely on the issue with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

12:55 a.m. The U.S. Defense Department will buy SpaceX's Starlink for Ukraine, Reuters reports. "We continue to work with a range of global partners to ensure Ukraine has the resilient satellite and communication capabilities they need. Satellite communications constitute a vital layer in Ukraine's overall communications network and the department contracts with Starlink for services of this type," the Pentagon says in a statement.

Starlink, the satellite communications service started by billionaire Elon Musk, has been used by Ukrainian troops for different efforts, including battlefield communications.

Thursday, June 1

9:41 p.m. The U.N.-brokered Black Sea grain export deal has been halted again, the Ukrainian infrastructure ministry says, blaming Russia for blocking registration of ships heading to Ukrainian ports. The ministry says 50 vessels are waiting for inspection in Turkish territorial waters, ready to pick up and deliver 2.4 million tonnes of Ukrainian food abroad.

Russia has registered only one incoming ship for inspection in the last two days of May, in a "gross violation" of the initiative, the ministry says. Russia did not immediately comment on the ministry's statement.

9:04 p.m. Taiwan has donated $5 million toward Lithuanian-led projects to rebuild a school and a kindergarten in Ukraine, a Lithuanian government investment agency says. Taiwan's contribution will be used to buy educational equipment.

"Taiwan sees Ukraine as our own image in a different continent. We both face authoritarian regimes which do not shy from using force to impose its world view," Roy Chun Lee, Taiwanese deputy minister of foreign affairs, says while introducing the donation in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius. "If one day Taiwan is facing an increased level of military intimidation from China, we will be looking for your assistance as well, just as we are helping Ukraine."

Beijing downgraded diplomatic ties with Lithuania last year and told multinationals to sever ties with the European country or face being shut out of the Chinese market, after the opening of a representative office by Taiwan in Vilnius.

This building was damaged by a drone during a Russian overnight strike in Kyiv, Ukraine, on June 1.   © AP

2:20 p.m. Russian forces began June with a fresh aerial bombardment of Kyiv, killing at least three people and wounding others, authorities say. Following a reported 17 drone and missile attacks on the Ukrainian capital in May, Russian forces hit the capital in the early morning with ground-launched missiles. The Kyiv City Administration reported one child was among the dead and 10 people were wounded. The casualty toll was the most from one attack on Kyiv in the past month. The attack also damaged apartment buildings, a medical clinic, a water pipeline and cars. Earlier, the city government had said two children were killed before revising the number to one.

7:40 a.m. Russia said Ukrainian artillery hit a Russian town for a third time this week and drones struck two oil refineries in an uptick in attacks on Russian territory as Ukraine prepares a Western-backed push to end Moscow's invasion. Inside Ukraine, Russian-installed officials said five people had been killed in Ukrainian army shelling of a Russian-occupied village in the east, where Russia has fought months of bloody and inconclusive battles to try to seize more territory. There was no immediate comment from Ukraine on the Russian reports, in a week when the two countries accused each other of spreading terror in their capitals with air strikes.

Wednesday, May 31

8:00 a.m. A U.S. military aid package for Ukraine that is expected to be announced this week will total up to $300 million and will include additional munitions for drones, U.S. officials say. The drone ammunition comes after new attacks by unmanned aircraft targeted Moscow. There has been no suggestion that U.S.-made drones or munitions were used in the recent attacks on Moscow, and U.S. officials have repeatedly said that Ukraine has agreed not to use any American-provided weapons for attacks on Russian soil. The Kremlin blamed Kyiv for Tuesday's attack; Ukrainian officials had no direct comment.

A view shows a damaged multi-storey apartment block following a reported drone attack in Moscow, Russia, May 30.   © Reuters

12:30 a.m. Russian President Vladimir Putin accuses Ukraine of trying to intimidate his people with what Moscow says was an attempted drone strike on homes in the capital.

"This is a clear sign of terrorist activity," Putin says of the incident. The Defence Ministry says it shot down or jammed the drones with electronic warfare. There were no serious injuries, Russian authorities say.

Russia reserves the right to take the "most severe measures" in response to the attack, the Foreign Ministry says. Ukraine has denied responsibility.

Meanwhile, deadly Russian strikes with Iranian-made drones continued in Kyiv, Ukrainian authorities say.

Tuesday, May 30

3:40 p.m. Russia's Defence Ministry says Ukraine targeted Moscow with eight drones, but all the drones involved in the incident were downed.

"This morning, the Kyiv regime launched a terrorist drone attack on targets in the city of Moscow," the defence ministry said, adding, "Three of them were suppressed by electronic warfare, lost control and deviated from their intended targets. Another five drones were shot down by the Pantsir-S surface-to-air missile system in the Moscow region."

11:30 a.m. Volodymyr Zelenskyy hopes South Korea will provide anti-aircraft systems and other defensive gear to Ukraine to help it fend off Russian attacks, according to a Reuters report citing an interview with a South Korean newspaper. Zelenskyy expressed gratitude for South Korea's pledge to send demining vehicles and humanitarian aid totaling some $230 million but said Ukraine wants anti-aircraft and early-warning systems. "I know there are many limitations regarding weapons support," the newspaper quoted Zelenskyyas saying, "but those principles should not be applied to defense systems and equipment for protecting our assets. An anti-aircraft system is not a weapon but purely defensive equipment. We have to have a sky shield to rebuild Ukraine, and I desperately hope that South Korea will support us in this area."

8:20 a.m. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says using U.S.-provided Patriot anti-missile systems have a 100% interception rate and will play a role as Ukraine's military pushes forward against Russia's invasion. "When Patriots in the hands of Ukrainians ensure a 100% interception rate of any Russian missile, terror will be defeated," Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address, adding that with military successes "and with our Patriots, we have to continue responding to Russia and all its manifestations of evil."

A Patriot air defense system stands ready during Polish military training in Warsaw on Feb. 7. "When Patriots in the hands of Ukrainians ensure a 100% interception rate ... terror will be defeated," Zelenskiy says.   © Reuters

1:00 a.m. The Maldives is ahead of other Asian destinations in terms of attracting tourists in the wake of COVID-19, thanks in part to flocks of travelers from Russia who have been shunned by many countries following the Kremlin's invasion of Ukraine.

Russian nationals made up the largest chunk of visitors to the island nation in the first quarter of this year with 65,060 arrivals, more than double the figure for the same time in 2019. The Maldives was not a hot spot for Russians until 2021, when the smallest nation in South Asia bucked the global trend to keep its airports open at the height of the delta wave of the coronavirus. Read more.

Monday, May 29

11:20 p.m. Kenya will sign a trade pact with Russia aimed at boosting cooperation among businesses, President William Ruto's office says, after hosting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Nairobi.

"Kenya-Russia trade volumes are low, but the potential between our economies to scale it up is significant," Ruto says in a tweet.

The presidential office did not say when the pact might be sealed or give details on what it might encompass. Russia sells mostly grain and fertilizers to Kenya.

Ruto also tweets that Kenya and Russia agree "on the need to push for reforms in the United Nations Security Council to make it more representative and more responsive to the needs of the current century."

10:00 p.m. India must not turn a blind eye to Russia's invasion of Ukraine if it wants to expand its influence in the international community and tackle similar issues closer to home, such as cracking down on Myanmar's military regime, Human Rights Watch Executive Director Tirana Hassan says.

"India [is] projecting itself as the world's largest democracy, at the same time, turning a blind eye to some of the most serious violations of human rights and international law that we have seen," Hassan tells Nikkei Asia in an interview. "It's very disappointing." Read more.

3:00 p.m. Ukraine's air force says that it shot down 29 out of 35 Russian drones and 37 out of 40 cruise missiles overnight. The Ukrainian military also says that a Russian drone attack overnight damaged some infrastructure in Ukraine's Black Sea port of Odesa, which is key for its grain exports, Reuters reports.

2:50 p.m. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko says in an interview published on Russian state television on Sunday that if any other country wanted to join a Russia-Belarus union there could be "nuclear weapons for everyone." Russia moved ahead last week with a plan to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, in the Kremlin's first deployment of such warheads outside Russia since the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union, spurring concerns in the West. Lukashenko said that it must be "strategically understood" that Minsk and Moscow have a unique chance to unite.

12:55 p.m. Foreign investors withdrew about $36 billion from Russia after selling their businesses in the country between March 2022 and March 2023, Reuters reports, citing Russia's state RIA news agency. According to the report, Russia's central bank last week played down the impact of foreign company exits, saying that around 200 sale deals had been completed in the March 2022-23 period, with just 20% involving large asset sales, those in excess of $100 million. Scores of the world's biggest companies have left or scaled back their operations in Russia in response to Moscow's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

11:15 a.m. Ukraine's air defence force shot down more than 40 Russian targets moving toward Kyiv early on Monday, including drones and missiles, Kyiv's city military administration said in a statement on the Telegram messaging app, according to Reuters. The waves of air strikes by Russia came on Sunday as the capital celebrates Kyiv Day, the anniversary of its official founding 1,541 years ago. "This is how Russia celebrates the day of our ancient Kyiv," Zelenskyy said in his nightly address.

A firefighter douses flames at a tobacco plant after a Russian drone strike in Kyiv, Ukraine, on May 28. (Pavlo Petrov/Press service of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine/Handout via Reuters)

Sunday, May 28

11:56 p.m. Russia unleashed waves of airstrikes Saturday night local time Kyiv as the Ukrainian capital prepared to celebrate the anniversary of its founding 1,541 years ago.

Ukraine's air force says 52 of a record 54 Iranian-made Shahed exploding drones were destroyed. More than 40 were shot down over Kyiv, the city announces, with Mayor Vitali Klitschko saying about 40 were destroyed near the capital and in its airspace.

This was the 14th air assault on Kyiv so far in May, according to the city -- and apparently the first this month to claim a human life there. Falling drone wreckage led to the death of a 41-year-old man, Klitschko says.

Saturday, May 27

10:45 p.m. Ukraine strikes oil pipeline installations deep inside Russia with a series of drone attacks including on a station serving the vast Druzhba oil pipeline that sends Western Siberian crude to Europe, according to Russian media.

Ukrainian drone attacks inside Russia have been growing in intensity in recent weeks, and The New York Times reported that U.S. intelligence believes Ukraine was behind a drone attack on the Kremlin this month.

A flame burning natural gas at an oil refinery on a branch of the Druzhba oil pipeline. The pipeline was attacked by drones on May 27, Russian media report.    © Reuters

9:30 p.m. Russian forces intercept two long-range Storm Shadow cruise missiles supplied to Ukraine by Britain, Russia's Defence Ministry says. The ministry adds it had intercepted shorter-range U.S.-built HIMARS-launched and HARM missiles, and shot down 12 drones in the last 24 hours. Russia did not specify where the interceptions had taken place.

7:30 p.m. Russia accuses Japan of "cynical, unscrupulous speculation" over Tokyo's comments regarding the nuclear threat Moscow poses and vowed to respond to Japan's latest round of sanctions. The Foreign Ministry says it is assessing the implementation of Japan's sanctions, announced Friday, and would not leave Tokyo's "illegitimate actions" unanswered.

The ministry also took issue with Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno's casting of Russia as engaging in "nuclear blackmail."

5:42 a.m. Moscow plans to fake an accident at the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant to thwart Ukraine's counteroffensive, the Ukrainian defense ministry's intelligence directorate says on Telegram and Twitter.

Located in southern Ukraine, the facility is the largest nuclear power plant in Europe. Russians will attack the site and announce that radioactive substances have leaked out, blaming Ukraine and triggering an international investigation to force a cease-fire that would give Russia time to regroup, the directorate says, without providing evidence.

1:40 a.m. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov discussed the prospects for an end to the conflict in Ukraine with Li Hui, China's special envoy for Eurasian affairs, who recently met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv, the foreign ministry says.

Lavrov "expressed gratitude to the Chinese side for a balanced position with regard to the Ukrainian crisis and highly appreciated Beijing's readiness to play a positive role in its settlement," the ministry says.

Friday, May 26

8:35 p.m. Malaysia's former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad says that countries of the so-called Global South will not throw their weight behind Russia or Ukraine in the ongoing war, despite the Group of Seven's recent show of support for Kyiv.

The Global South including "Brazil, India and Indonesia, these people do not want war," he says. "They will not be supportive of the war between Russia and Ukraine," he added at Nikkei's Future of Asia forum. Read more.

6:30 p.m. Russian Security Council Deputy Chairman Dmitry Medvedev, a senior ally of President Vladimir Putin, says the conflict in Ukraine could last for decades and that negotiations with Ukraine are impossible as long as Ukraine's Western-backed President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is in power. "This conflict will last for a very long time. For decades, probably. This is a new reality," Medvedev was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies. He said Russia could not trust any truce with the current rulers of Kyiv as the conflict would simply erupt again and so the very nature of the current government of Ukraine would have to be destroyed.

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno: "As the only country to have suffered atomic bombings during wartime, Japan never accepts Russia's nuclear menace, let alone its use." (Photo by Uichiro Kasai)

10:30 a.m. Japan says it will place additional sanctions on Russia after the Group of Seven summit that the country hosted last week. Tokyo agreed to step up measures to punish Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said. In a coordinated action with other G-7 countries, Japan will freeze the assets of 78 groups and 17 individuals, including Russian army officers, and ban exports to 80 Russian entities such as military-affiliated research labs, according to a Friday foreign ministry statement. Matsuno, Tokyo's top government spokesperson, also condemned Russia's move on Thursday to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, saying it would further intensify situations around the invasion of Ukraine.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu shakes hands with Belarusian Defence Minister Victor Khrenin during a meeting in Minsk on May 25. (Russian Defence Ministry/Handout via Reuters)

4:00 a.m. An agreement on storing tactical nuclear weapons from Russia in Belarus is signed by defense ministers from both countries, setting the rules for their management.

Russia's Sergei Shoigu and Belarusian counterpart Viktor Khrenin sign the documents in Minsk. The weapons, intended for battlefield use, will remain under Russian control, and Moscow reserves the right to decide on using them, Russian media report Shoigu as saying.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said that transport of the weapons has begun, Interfax reports.

U.S. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller says deploying tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus is the latest example of Russia's "irresponsible behavior," but adds the U.S. has seen no reason to adjust its strategic nuclear posture.

Thursday, May 25

7:50 p.m. Under looming risks of military conflicts, Asia must unite and work collectively to promote peace, Thailand's deputy prime minister said on Thursday.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine "represented the most consequential modification of long-held positions in politics and society since World War II," says Don Pramudwinai, speaking at Nikkei's annual Future of Asia conference. Initiatives after that war to maintain peace have not done so.

Don says countries have responded by increasing defense spending, as well as weaponizing currencies and trade. "The eye for an eye, tit for tat approach is turning everyone blind," he says. "The ongoing re-shoring and friend-shoring of the [supply] chains reflect the insecurity of major powers that put more emphasis on national security." Read more.

Wagner Group members wave the Russian and group flags atop a damaged building in Bakhmut, Ukraine, in this image taken from a video released on May 20. (Prigozhin Press Service via AP)   © AP

5:00 a.m. The head of the Russian private army Wagner Group has again broken with the Kremlin line on Ukraine, saying its goal of demilitarizing the country has backfired, acknowledging Russian troops have killed civilians and agreeing with Western estimates that he has lost more than 20,000 men in the battle for Bakhmut. Yevgeny Prigozhin said about half of those who died in the eastern Ukrainian city were Russian convicts recruited for the war. His figures stood in stark contrast to Moscow's widely disputed claim that just over 6,000 of its troops had been killed as of January. By comparison, official Soviet troop losses in the 1979-89 Afghanistan war were 15,000. Ukraine hasn't said how many of its soldiers have died since Russia's full-scale invasion began in February 2022.

1:50 a.m. Ukraine will not be able to join NATO as long as the war against Russia rages on, the alliance's Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says. "To become a member in the midst of a war is not on the agenda," he said at an event organized by the German Marshall Fund of The United States in Brussels. "The issue is what happens when the war ends."

12:50 a.m. Russia's Defense Ministry says the Russian warship Ivan Hurs was attacked unsuccessfully in the early morning by three Ukrainian uncrewed speedboats in the Black Sea. In a statement posted on Telegram, the ministry says the warship had been protecting the TurkStream and Blue Stream gas pipelines -- which carry gas from Russia to Turkey -- and "continues to fulfill its tasks." The statement appeared likely to raise tensions in the Black Sea, where Russia agreed only last week to extend a deal allowing Ukraine to export grain safely from its seaports.

Wednesday, May 24

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, left, and Chinese Premier Li Qiang attend a signing ceremony in Beijing on May 24.   © Reuters

3:00 p.m. Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said on Wednesday that ties with China are at an "unprecedented" high, characterized by mutual respect of each other's interests and the desire to jointly respond to challenges. "As our Chinese friends say, unity makes it possible to move mountains," Mishustin told Chinese Premier Li Qiang during a meeting in Beijing. Mishustin was the highest-ranking Russian official to visit the Chinese capital since Moscow sent thousands of its troops into Ukraine in February 2022.

8:00 a.m. The Ukrainian port of Pivdennyi has halted operations because Russia is not letting ships enter, in effect cutting it out of a deal allowing grain exports, a Ukrainian official says. The Black Sea Grain Initiative, signed by Russia and Ukraine last July and extended last week for two months, is intended to guarantee the safe export of grains and foodstuffs from the Ukrainian ports of Odesa, Chornomorsk and Pivdennyi. The United Nations, which together with Turkey brokered the deal, expressed concern on Monday that Pivdennyi had not received any ships since May 2. Russia has "found an effective way to significantly reduce grain exports by excluding the port of Pivdennyi," Ukrainian Deputy Renovation Minister Yuriy Vaskov said.

A Barbados-flagged bulk carrier arrives at the Ukrainian port of Odesa on May 21 after grain exports resumed.   © Reuters

4:20 a.m. The White House has called for the immediate release of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich after his detention in Russia was extended for three months.

Gershkovich was arrested in March on espionage charges. U.S. officials say the Russians have denied his requests for consular access.

Tuesday, May 23

10:40 p.m. Russia says it defeated fighters who crossed over from Ukraine after two days of combat in the Belgorod region. Russian forces struck the fighters with "airstrikes, artillery fire and active action by border units," the Defense Ministry says.

There was no immediate independent confirmation that the fighting had ended. Russia has blamed Ukraine for the attack, which Kyiv denied. The two groups that claimed responsibility call themselves Russian armed dissidents.

"One day we will return to stay," one of the two groups said in a social media post.

A view of an old military depot near the Russian-Ukrainian border.    © Reuters

9:40 p.m. Belarus has taken part in the illegal deportation of children from Russian-occupied territories of Ukraine, political opponents of President Alexander Lukashenko allege.

A preliminary report from their group claims 2,150 Ukrainian children, including orphans aged 6-15, were taken to so-called recreation camps and sanitariums on Belarusian territory.

Ukraine has alleged that 20,000 children have been illegally transferred to Russia since the invasion began. Yulia Ioffe, an assistant professor at University College London and a specialist in children's rights law, says that Belarus, if the claim is substantiated, would "highly likely" be violating the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child.

7:00 p.m. Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin has led a delegation subject to U.S. sanctions on a two-day trip to China, highlighting the growing trade and investment ties between the two countries as the West seeks to curb their economic influence.

Mishustin spoke at a Russia-China business forum in Shanghai that was attended by officials from both countries, as well as top executives from more than 15 Russian companies, according to Russian state news agency Tass.

The prime minister has been on the U.S. Treasury Department's sanctions list of Russian people and entities since April 2022, which largely cuts them off from the international financial system and freezes any assets they hold in the U.S. Read more.

3:20 a.m. A benchmark for natural gas prices in Asia has dropped to levels last seen before Russia's February 2022 invasion of Ukraine as China, one of the world's biggest consumers of the fuel, changes its buying patterns. Read more.

Monday, May 22

10:35 p.m. Russia says it is battling an incursion in its Belgorod region by saboteurs who burst through the frontier from Ukraine. Vyacheslav Gladkov, governor of the region adjacent to northeastern Ukraine, says Russian forces are working to repel the raid.

But Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, denies involvement by Kyiv.

A group calling itself the Liberty of Russia Legion, which claims to consist of Russians cooperating with Ukraine's forces, says on Twitter it had "completely liberated" the border town of Kozinka and reached district center Graivoron.

It has released a video showing five heavily armed fighters: "We are Russians, like you. We are people like you," one said, facing the camera. "It is time to put an end to the dictatorship of the Kremlin."

7:00 p.m. Ukrainian national grid operator Ukrenergo says that external power has been restored to the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant after a brief outage following a reported fire at an electricity facility in the city of Zaporizhzhia. "Ukrenergo restored the power transmission line that supplies the Zaporizhzhia NPP. The station is switching to power supply from the Ukrainian power system," the company said in a statement.

6:55 p.m. As Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy swooped into the Group of Seven weekend in Hiroshima, one question was how he would engage with two invited leaders who remain on the fence between Russia and the West -- Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Zelenskyy and Modi sat down for what appeared to be a cordial discussion on the impact of Russia's invasion and potential paths forward. On the other hand, no meeting with Lula happened, and when asked if he was disappointed, Zelenskyy shot back that maybe the Brazilians are.

Afterward, Lula told his side of the story: Zelenskyy, he said, did not show up. Read more.

6:00 p.m. Ukrainian troops are still advancing on the flanks of the devastated city of Bakhmut, although the "intensity" of their movement has decreased and Russia is bringing in more forces, Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar says. In televised comments, she said Ukraine had a small foothold inside the city itself, again denying Russia's assertion that it has established full control over Bakhmut. "We are still advancing, but the intensity is somewhat reduced. If we talk about the north, there is much less active action there. If we talk about the south, we are advancing and the defense of Bakhmut as a city has completely fulfilled its military objective," Maliar said.

Ukrainian troops are still advancing on the flanks of Bakhmut, though more slowly, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said on May 22. (Ukrainian Armed Forces/Handout via Reuters) 

3:00 p.m. Ukraine's state-owned power generating company Energoatom says there is a power outage at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant after a Russia-installed official said the plant was switched to standby and emergency power supply. "Yes, we have the seventh blackout since the start of the [Russian] occupation," Energoatom told Reuters. Yuriy Malashko, governor of the Zaporizhzhia region in Ukraine, says that there is a fire at one of the facilities in Zaporizhzhia city due to an overload in the power system.

F-16 fighter jets during a NATO media event at an airbase in Malbork, Poland on March 21.   © Reuters

9:20 a.m. Russia's Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov says in the embassy's Telegram channel that the transfer of F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine would raise the question of NATO's involvement in the conflict. According to Reuters, Antonov also said in the remarks that any Ukrainian strike on Crimea would be considered a strike on Russia. "It is important that the United States be fully aware of the Russian response [to such strikes]," Antonov said.

Sunday, May 21

6:20 p.m. Ukrainian forces have partly encircled the besieged eastern city of Bakhmut along the flanks and still maintain control of a private sector in the city, Ukraine's Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar says in a post on the Telegram messaging app. "Our forces have taken the city in a semi-encirclement, which gives us the opportunity to destroy the enemy," she claims.

Ukrainian servicemen fire a BM-21 Grad multiple launch rocket system towards Russian troops, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, near the frontline town of Bakhmut, Ukraine, on May 19. (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty/Serhii Nuzhnenko via Reuters)

3:08 p.m. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appeared to confirm the loss of the city of Bakhmut to Russia on Sunday, saying "I think no" when asked if it remained in Kyiv's control. "For today, it is only in our hearts," he added.

7:42 a.m. Russia claimed on Saturday to have fully captured the smashed eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, which would mark an end to the longest and bloodiest battle of the 15-month war. The assault on the largely leveled city was led by troops from the Wagner Group of mercenaries, whose leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said earlier in the day that his troops had finally pushed the Ukrainians out of the last built-up area inside the city.

Saturday, May 20

3:07 a.m. Russia bans the Greenpeace environmental group as an "undesirable" security threat.

Greenpeace activists have spread "anti-Russian propaganda, and have called for the further economic isolation of our country and the toughening of sanctions," the Prosecutor General's Office says, according to Tass. Greenpeace Russia's executive director, Sergey Tsyplenkov, tells Reuters that he will take legal advice before deciding whether to appeal.

Netherlands-based coordinating organization Greenpeace International condemns the decision as effectively indicating "that it is 'undesirable' to protect nature in Russia" against commercial interests. Its statement mentions various past campaigns and does not call for economic isolation or tougher sanctions.

2:00 a.m. Russia's foreign ministry announces sanctions against 500 Americans, including former President Barack Obama, in what appears to be a tit-for-tat response to the latest round of U.S. sanctions.

Other Americans banned from entering Russia include such elected officials as Sen. J.D. Vance and New York state Attorney General Letitia James; professors; nongovernmental organization chiefs, such as Freedom House President Michael Abramowitz; and television personalities, such as comedian Jimmy Kimmel and MSNBC's Joe Scarborough.

"It is high time for Washington to learn that not a single hostile attack against Russia will be left without a strong reaction," the ministry says in a statement.

1:55 a.m. U.S. President Joe Biden informs G-7 leaders that Washington supports a joint effort with allies to train Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets, reports Reuters, citing a senior administration official.

Training on the U.S.-made jets will take place in Europe and will require months to complete, the official said. U.S. officials have estimated the most expeditious time needed for training and delivery of F-16s at 18 months.

For earlier updates, click here.

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