Home Water flow Russia cuts off gas flow to Finland, declares Mariupol steel plant siege over

Russia cuts off gas flow to Finland, declares Mariupol steel plant siege over

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  • Week-long siege ends in Azovstal, Russia says
  • Russia steps up offensive in Donbass
  • Russia halts Finnish gas flows over payment dispute
  • Russian military claims to have destroyed Western weapons in Zhytomyr region

KYIV/OSLO, May 21 (Reuters) – Russia has halted gas deliveries to Finland in an escalating dispute over energy payments with Western nations, and claimed victory in a week-long battle to the devastated Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol as it pressed for control of Donbass.

Russia also launched what appeared to be a major assault to seize the last territory under Ukrainian control in Luhansk, one of the two provinces that make up the southeastern region of Donbass: where Russian-backed separatists controlled already swathes of territory before the February 24 invasion. .

The last Ukrainian forces entrenched in the Azovstal steelworks surrendered on Friday, the Russian Defense Ministry said, ending the bloodiest siege of the war.

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The ministry said in a statement that 2,439 defenders had surrendered in recent days, including 531 in the final group. Read more

Earlier, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the Ukrainian military had told the steel mill’s last defenders they could get out and save their lives. The Ukrainians did not immediately confirm the figures on Azovstal.

The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine did not comment on Russia’s assertion in its Saturday morning update.

The end of the fighting in Mariupol, the largest city Russia has captured so far, offers Russian President Vladimir Putin a rare victory in the invasion after a series of setbacks in nearly three months of fighting.

Zelenskiy told local television that although the fighting would be bloody and victory difficult, the end would only come through diplomacy.

“For them, all these victories – the occupation of Crimea or Donbass – are very temporary. And all this will come back – since this is our territory,” he said on Saturday.

Full control of Mariupol will give Russia command of a land route linking the Crimean peninsula, which Moscow seized in 2014, with mainland Russia and separatist-held areas of eastern Ukraine. pro-Russian.

The Red Cross says it has registered hundreds of Ukrainians who surrendered at the Mariupol steel plant as prisoners of war and kyiv says it wants a prisoner swap. Moscow says the prisoners will be treated humanely, but Russian politicians have said some should be tried or even executed.

GAS DISPUTE

Meanwhile, Russia’s Gazprom (GAZP.MM) halted gas exports to neighboring Finland on Saturday after it refused to accept Russian demands to pay for Russian gas supplies in rubles due to Western sanctions imposed following the invasion of Ukraine. Read more

The move comes days after Finland and Sweden decided to apply to join the NATO military alliance, a move spurred by the war in Ukraine.

Finnish state-owned gas wholesaler Gasum, the Finnish government and individual gas-consuming companies in Finland have said they are ready for a Russian flow halt and the country will be without it.

Most European supply contracts are denominated in euros or dollars and Moscow cut off gas to Bulgaria and Poland last month after refusing to comply with new payment terms.

In addition to trying to isolate Russia through sanctions, Western countries have stepped up arms shipments to Ukraine since the invasion. Kyiv received another huge boost on Saturday when US President Joe Biden signed a bill to provide nearly $40 billion in military, economic and humanitarian aid to the country. Read more

Moscow says Western arms deliveries to kyiv and the imposition of drastic sanctions constitute a “proxy war” by the United States and its allies.

The Russian military said on Saturday it had destroyed a large shipment of Western weapons in Ukraine’s Zhytomyr region, west of kyiv, using sea-launched Kalibr cruise missiles.

Reuters could not independently verify the report, which also said Russian missiles hit fuel storage facilities near Odessa on the Black Sea coast and shot down two Ukrainian Su-25 and 14 planes. drones. Read more

Putin says Russian troops are engaged in a “special military operation” to demilitarize Ukraine and rid it of radical anti-Russian nationalists. Western countries call this an unprovoked war of aggression.

Thousands of people in Ukraine have been killed and urban areas have been destroyed by war. Almost a third of Ukrainians have fled their homes, including more than 6 million who have left the country.

OFFENSIVE IN LUHANSK

Russia, which announced in late March that it was focusing its military efforts on taking over Donbass, launched what appeared to be a major assault to seize remaining Ukrainian territory in Luhansk.

Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Gaidai said in a social media post on Saturday that Russia was trying to destroy the city of Sievierodonetsk, with fighting taking place on the outskirts of the city.

“The shelling continues from morning to evening and also throughout the night,” Gaidai said in a video post on the Telegram messaging app.

Although they have lost ground elsewhere in recent weeks, Russian forces have advanced on the Luhansk front.

The city of Sievierodonetsk and its twin Lysychansk across the Siverskiy Donets River form the eastern part of a Ukrainian pocket that Russia has been trying to invade since mid-April after failing to capture kyiv.

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Reporting by Natalia Zinets, Max Hunder, Tom Balmforth in Kyiv and Reuters bureaus Writing by Madeline Chambers, Patricia Zengerle and Richard Pullin Editing by Rosalba O’Brien, Bradley Perrett and Frances Kerry

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