Ukraine latest: Clashes reported in Russia’s Belgorod region

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:

Monday, May 22 (Tokyo time)

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.

6:00 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.

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, Sergei 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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