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🔴Live: Zelensky lands in Jeddah for surprise visit to Arab League summit


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Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky stands on the podium during an official reception in Berlin, Germany on Sunday, May 14, 2023. © Markus Schreiber, AP

President Volodymyr Zelensky landed on Friday in Jeddah to attend an Arab League summit, Saudi-owned al-Hadath TV reported. Earlier on Friday, air raid alerts sounded throughout Ukraine with some areas later reporting explosions. Ukrainian air defence later said it had destroyed 19 drones and missiles out of 28 launched. Read our live blog for all the latest developments in the war in Ukraine. All times are Paris time (GMT+2). 

The Kremlin said on Friday that the “last remnants” of arms control agreements between Russia and the United States were disappearing, after a group of U.S. Republican lawmakers on Thursday introduced a bill to scrap the New START agreement on nuclear arms.

Russian President Vladimir Putin suspended Russia’s participation in New START earlier this year.

11:49am: Former Russian mayor fined $3,245 for ‘discrediting’ army

Russian opposition politician Yevgeny Roizman was fined 260,000 roubles ($3,245) on Friday after a court found him guilty of “discrediting” the Russian army, Russian news agencies reported.

Roizman, a former mayor of Russia’s fourth-largest city of Yekaterinburg, was detained last August and banned from the internet after he referred to Moscow’s actions in Ukraine as a “war” in a YouTube video.

Russia calls the conflict a “special military operation” and people risk prosecution if they use the words “war” or “invasion”.

Popular and charismatic, Roizman is an outspoken supporter of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny and has often criticised the Kremlin in sometimes crude language on social media.

11:40am: Zelensky lands in Saudi Arabia to attend Arab League summit

President Volodymyr Zelensky landed on Friday in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to attend an Arab League summit, Saudi-owned al-Hadath TV reported.

Zelensky arrived on a French government plane. He is also due to attend the G7 leaders’ summit in the Japanese city of Hiroshima this weekend.

Beginning my first-ever visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to enhance bilateral relations and Ukraine’s ties with the Arab world. Political prisoners in Crimea and temporarily occupied territories, the return of our people, Peace Formula, energy cooperation. KSA plays a…

— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) May 19, 2023

11:12am: Russia says defence minister inspected troops in occupied Ukraine

Russia said on Friday that Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu visited a command post in Ukraine’s southern region of Zaporizhzhia and inspected troops there.

“Sergei Shoigu inspected the forward command post of one of the formations of the Vostok group of troops in the Zaporizhzhia direction,” the Russian defence ministry said in a statement.

10:41am: G7 agrees new sanctions to ‘starve Russia’s war machine’

Leaders from the Group of Seven nations agreed to new sanctions on Friday that they said would “starve Russia of G7 technology, industrial equipment and services that support its war machine”.

The measures, announced at the summit in Hiroshima, include restrictions on exports of items “critical to Russia on the battlefield”, as well as ones targeting entities accused of moving material to the front for Moscow.

10:35am: G7 leaders says Ukraine has budget support for 2023 and early 2024

G7 leaders on Friday said they had ensured that Ukraine had the budget support it needs for this year and early 2024 as they renewed their commitment to provide financial and military support in its fight against Russia.

“Today we are taking new steps to ensure that Russia’s illegal aggression against the sovereign state of Ukraine fails and to support the Ukrainian people in their quest for a just peace rooted in respect for international law,” they said in a statement at the G7 summit, which kicked off in the Japanese city of Hiroshima on Friday.

10:00am: Ukraine says Russia trying to recapture land around Bakhmut

Russian forces are trying to recapture land they have lost around the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut but Kyiv’s forces are repelling the attacks, Deputy Ukrainian Defence Minister Hanna Maliar said on Friday.

Russian forces have gained some ground inside the city itself, but they do not control it and fighting rages on, Maliar said in televised comments.

9:49am: Russian forces dig in at Ukrainian nuclear plant, witnesses say

Russian military forces have been enhancing defensive positions in and around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine in recent weeks, four witnesses said, ahead of an expected counteroffensive in the region.

The new measures, described by two Ukrainians who work at the power plant and two other residents in the city of Enerhodar, include laying more mines and digging new trenches around the city.

The Russians have had firing positions set up atop some of the plant’s buildings for several months. Nets have been erected in a possible deterrent to drones.

There is concern in the international community that the six-reactor nuclear plant, Europe’s largest, could be caught up in fighting, particularly as military analysts expect Ukraine to try to push Russian forces back in the Zaporizhzhia region.

9:41am: Zelensky on way to Arab League meeting

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is on his way to the Arab League meeting in Saudi Arabia, a source familiar with the meeting told Reuters.

Zelensky will then travel on to the G7 meeting in Hiroshima in Japan from the Saudi city of Jeddah on a French government plane, the source told Reuters.

>> Read more: Syria’s Assad arrives in Saudi Arabia for Arab League summit in normalisation of ties

9:09am: Russia’s Prigozhin says Bakhmut will not fall in next two days

Wagner group founder Yevgeny Prigozhin said on Friday that the city of Bakhmut was unlikely to fall to his mercenary forces in the next two days as fighting raged around Ukrainian soldiers holed up in a makeshift “fortress” in the south of the city.

“Bakhmut has still not been taken,” Prigozhin said in a voice message posted on Telegram. “Bakhmut is unlikely to be taken either tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. … There is a quarter known as the ‘Airplane’ – it is like an impregnable fortress from a bed of multi-storey buildings in the southwest of Bakhmut, where incredibly heavy battles are going on.”

Russia has been trying to capture Bakhmut since last summer in the longest and bloodiest battle of the war, but Ukrainian defenders have held out. If Russia took the city, it would provide a stepping stone to advance on two bigger cities it has long coveted in the Donetsk region: Kramatorsk and Sloviansk.

8:06am: UK issues new Russian sanctions, targeting grain theft

Britain announced a new wave of sanctions against Russia on Friday, including against companies connected to the theft of Ukrainian grain and those involved in the shipment of Russian energy.

7:37am: Ukraine says repels latest drone and missile attack

Ukrainian air defence repelled another Russian air attack early on Friday morning, destroying 19 drones and missiles out of 28 launched, Ukrainian military said.

“Three calibre missiles launched from the Black Sea and 16 drones were shot down. Shelling continues on an almost daily basis,” Ukrainian air force spokesperson Yuriy Ihnat told Ukrainian television. “Not all targets were hit.” 

Russia has increased the number of missile and drone attacks this month, which Kyiv attributes to Moscow’s fear of an expected Ukrainian counteroffensive.

5:53am: Zelensky to join G7 leaders in Japan

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will travel to Hiroshima, Japan, on Sunday to join the G7 leaders summit in person, a European Union source told Reuters.

2:30am: No reported casualties after air raid alerts

Air raid alerts remained in force into the early morning throughout western Ukraine, but only in two regions in the east and Russian-annexed Crimea in the south.

The head of Kyiv’s military administration said Russian forces had sent successive waves of drones towards the capital, the 10th attack this month and the second in less than 24 hours.

“This Kremlin tactic is an attempt to overwhelm our anti-aircraft forces and put psychological pressure on civilians. It won’t happen!” Serhiy Popko wrote on Telegram. “All air targets sent toward Kyiv were destroyed by our anti-aircraft defences.”

Several regions reported anti-aircraft units in operation.

1:30am: UK to ban Russian diamonds at G7 in fresh round of sanctions

Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak plans to announce a ban on Russian diamonds and imports of metals from Russia including copper, aluminium and nickel in support for Ukraine, his government said in a statement.

Britain is also targeting an additional 86 people and companies from Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military industrial complex, in addition those involved in energy, metals and shipping industries.

They include those supporting the Kremlin to actively undermine the impact of existing sanctions, as Britain continues to work with G7 partners to tackle all forms of sanctions circumvention, the government said.

Read yesterday’s live blog to see how the day’s events unfolded.

© France Médias Monde graphic studio

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP & Reuters)