Ukraine War Update: Azovstal siege officially over while Ukraine demands reparation

by mcardinal

Lauren Moye, FISM News


The Russian-Ukraine war has reached a new waymark yesterday as the most destructive battle in the war formally ended in Russia’s favor. Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy wants Russia to pay for damage caused during their invasion and a multinational group of representatives also protested Russia’s invasion on Saturday by walking out of a trade conference when Moscow’s trade minister took the stage.

On Friday, the Russian defense ministry shared a video of the last of the Azovstal steelwork factory defenders surrendering. These Ukrainian soldiers became national symbols of heroism when they refused to fully give up control of Mauripol and instead turned the factory into the final bastion of the port city.

However, the soldiers were ordered to stand down on Monday. This means the siege that has been ongoing since almost the beginning of the war and has resulted in more destruction than any other battle has now ended. Russia invaded on Feb. 24 in what they termed was a “military operation” to denazify Ukraine.

According to Russia, the Azov Regiment defending the steelworks are “nazis.” The unit formed in 2014 as a militia to fight Russian-backed separatists. The ministry said that 531 soldiers surrendered yesterday, making for a total of 2,439 prisoners of war since Monday. The ministry said the surrender means that Azovstal territory “has been completely liberated.”

Ukraine has not confirmed these numbers.

Russia also began a major offensive to take full control of eastern Ukraine’s Luhansk province yesterday. Two Ukrainian-held cities, Sievierodonetsk and Lyshchansk, have created a pocket of resistance since Russia began focusing military strength in the area in mid-April. The cities sit on different sides of the Siverskiy Donets river.

Zelenskyy wants Russia to compensate for war-damage

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy formally proposed that Russia should compensate for war-related damage. He told Ukraine’s allies that Russia is intentionally destroying civilian infrastructure. The deal would hold aggressive nations accountable for these actions.

“We invite partner countries to sign a multilateral agreement and create a mechanism ensuring that everybody who suffered from Russian actions can receive compensation for all losses incurred,” Zelenskyy in a video address.

The proposal includes seizing Russian funds and property in signatory nations to create a special compensation fund. This would allow Russia to “feel the weight of every missile, every bomb, every shell” fired in the war.

Gas Wars

The war has had an impact on global energy as Russia, a major supplier of crude oil, faces heavy sanctions in other economic areas. While the U.S. does not import gas from Russia, European countries do. However, Moscow declared in recent weeks that it would no longer accept foreign currency as payment.

This demand for rouble payments has created a bind for countries who have been warned by the European Union that obeying this demand might breach existing sanctions.

Three nations have now had their Russian-imported gas supply cut off by refusing complicity: Poland, Bulgaria, and Finland. However, Germany and Italy have told companies to open rouble accounts with Gazprombank, alleging that discussions with the European Union showed a legal path to do so.

Reuters reported that sources claimed it would be legal as long as the payments going to Gazprombank were not in roubles. An Italian source insisted this was “in line” with union guidance.

Another diplomat told Reuters that the Brussels-issued two-page guidance on purchasing Russian gas had an intentional “level of creative ambiguity.” The anonymous diplomat added, “The purpose of creative ambiguity is to create just enough room for all the different interpretations.”

Diplomacy updates

Early on Saturday, representatives from multiple nations walked out of an Asia-Pacific trade ministers meeting when Russian Economy Minister Maxim Reshetnikov began the meeting’s opening remarks. Representatives from the U.S., Canada, New Zealand, Japan, and Australia participated.

One diplomat present told Reuters that the walkout was “an expression of disapproval at Russia’s illegal war of aggression in Ukraine and its economic impact in the APEC region.

Also today, the White House said President Joe Biden signed a new Ukrainian aid bill amounting to nearly $40 billion.

Meanwhile, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan continues to address terrorism concerns with Swedish and Finnish NATO membership. Both countries applied for membership on Wednesday.

After “open and direct talks” between the Finnish and Turkish presidents on Saturday, Finland’s Sauli Niinistö said the relationship would improve as they “commit to each other’s security.” The Finnish president added, “Finland condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. Close dialogue continues.”

Erdogan also spoke to Sweden’s Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson on Saturday, expressing Turkey’s expectation that Sweden would take steps on their terrorist organization concerns, according to the Turkish-owned Anadolu news agency. Turkey also wants to see Sweden lift an arms exports embargo the latter placed on the former in 2019.