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Ukraine evacuates hundreds of fighters from Mariupol steel mill, says mission is complete

Sweden’s prime minister announced his country would drop its long-held nonaligned status and join Finland in applying to the trans-Atlantic military alliance.
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The Ukrainian defenders of a steel mill in Mariupol have completed their mission and the most seriously wounded have been evacuated, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Monday.

More than 260 fighters were taken by agreement to get medical help in areas controlled by Russian forces, Zelenskyy said.

Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said an exchange for their return would be worked out.

Officials said efforts would be made to save the remaining defenders — estimated to be from a few hundred to 1,000 — in the underground passages below the Azovstal steelworks.

“The work to bring the guys home continues, and it requires delicacy and time,” Zelenskyy said.

Here's what else is going on:

Read full coverage of the war here.

388d ago / 4:00 AM UTC

Ukraine says mission at Mariupol steel mill is complete

KYIV, Ukraine — The regiment that doggedly defended a steel mill as Ukraine’s last stronghold in the port city of Mariupol completed its mission Monday after more than 260 fighters, including some badly wounded, were evacuated and taken to areas under Russia’s control, Ukrainian officials said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the evacuation to separatist-controlled territory was conducted to save the lives of the fighters who endured weeks of Russian assaults in the maze of underground passages below the hulking Azovstal steelworks. He said the “heavily wounded” were getting medical help.

“Ukraine needs Ukrainian heroes to be alive. It’s our principle,” he said. An unknown number of fighters stayed behind to await other rescue efforts.

Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said 53 seriously wounded fighters were taken from the Azovstal plant to a hospital in Novoazovsk, east of Mariupol. An additional 211 fighters were evacuated to Olenivka through a humanitarian corridor. She said an exchange would be worked out for their return home.

“Mariupol’s defenders have fully accomplished all missions assigned by the command,” she said.

Officials also planned to keep trying to save the fighters who remained inside. Military experts generally put the number of fighters at the plant at anywhere from a few hundred to 1,000.

388d ago / 2:30 AM UTC
388d ago / 9:56 PM UTC

53 'heavily wounded' Ukrainian soldiers evacuated

More than 50 Ukrainian soldiers who were heavily wounded and trapped inside the Azovstal steel plant were evacuated Monday and taken to a hospital, Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Anna Malyar said.

Another 211 service members were taken to Olenivka in the Donetsk region through a humanitarian corridor.

"For their further return home, an exchange procedure will be implemented. As for the defenders who are still there, rescue measures are being taken,” Malyar said in a video message.

388d ago / 8:31 PM UTC

Wounded Ukrainian soldiers evacuated from Mariupol steel plant

Ukrainian soldiers trapped and wounded at a steel plant in Mariupol have been rescued and taken to a medical facility in Russian-occupied Novoazovsk, according to the Russian Defense Ministry.

The ministry did not say how many soldiers were removed from the Azovstal plant using a humanitarian corridor. Their conditions were not immediately known.

388d ago / 8:08 PM UTC

20 civilians killed in recent shelling 

Russian forces fired on more than two dozen settlements in Donetsk and Luhansk, killing 20 Ukrainian civilians, including a child, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said.

At least 42 residential buildings were destroyed or damaged, and a school, a hotel and several industrial properties were also hit. Fighting continues at other locations in the immediate region where allied forces are defending against further attacks.

388d ago / 6:29 PM UTC

Fourth mass grave uncovered in Mariupol

Another mass grave has been discovered in Mariupol, Mayor Vadym Boychenko said in a statement on social media.

Three other mass burial sites had previously been found near the village of Mangush and in cemeteries in Vynohradne and Staryi Krym, Boychenko said.

The grave, which consists of two trenches, one nearly 100 feet long, is near the central cemetery. It first appeared in satellite images from Maxar, a U.S. government contractor, in March.

“The occupiers continue to try to hide the consequences of their crimes. Therefore, the so-called 'mass graves' are becoming more and more frequent," Boychenko said. "However, we continue to record all the crimes that show to the real genocide of Mariupol residents. All those responsible must be punished."

388d ago / 5:57 PM UTC

Hungary concerned about sanctions, energy security

BUDAPEST, Hungary — As European Union leaders continue to push for an embargo on Russian oil, Hungary’s prime minister insisted Monday that his country would not support any sanctions that negatively affect Hungary’s energy security.

In a speech in Hungary’s Parliament, nationalist leader Viktor Orbán said Hungary would not block E.U. sanctions as long as they “don’t go beyond the red line of Hungary’s economic protection — that is, as long as they don’t jeopardize Hungary’s energy security.”

Orbán said E.U. leaders are “convinced that European sanctions can force Russia to its knees … but no matter how hard I try, I can’t remember any continental blockade ever being successful.”

388d ago / 4:58 PM UTC

Russia fires long-range missiles on Lviv, U.S. official says

Russia fired about a half-dozen long-range missiles on Lviv, hitting a training area, a senior official with the U.S. Defense Department said Monday.

Department officials believe the missiles were fired from submarines in the Black Sea, and they were uncertain whether the training area was targeted, the official said, adding that there was minimal damage to several buildings.

The Ukrainian military has been able to gain ground around Kharkiv, and it has pushed the Russians to within 2 miles of the Russian border, the official said.

388d ago / 4:40 PM UTC

Missile strikes target tourist infrastructure near Odesa, Ukraine says

May 16, 202200:32
388d ago / 3:41 PM UTC

Hackers spoil debut of Russia’s new app store

Hackers have spoiled the debut of Russia’s new domestic app store.

The new site, called NashStore, is intended to replace the Google Play store, where Android users can download apps for their phones. Google, one of the many companies that have pulled out of Russia since it invaded Ukraine, has blocked Russian users from buying apps from the Play store since March 10.

NashStore started accepting applications from software developers last week, on Russia’s Victory Day, and it had intended to let users start downloading on Monday. But hackers have flooded the site with traffic, rendering the site slow and potentially unusable for users, NashStore said on its official Telegram channel Monday.

388d ago / 2:48 PM UTC

Patrolling recaptured territory

Ukrainian servicemen during a patrol Sunday in a recently retaken village north of Kharkiv.Mstyslav Chernov / AP
388d ago / 1:58 PM UTC

Azovstal defender sings Ukraine’s Eurovision winner,’ video claims

388d ago / 1:43 PM UTC

Sweden says it will apply for NATO membership

Sweden will apply for NATO membership as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, its government announced Monday.

“The Government’s assessment is that NATO membership is the best way to protect Sweden’s security in light of the fundamentally changed security environment following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” an announcement on the government’s website said after a debate on the topic in Parliament.

Finland, which shares a border with Russia and is a neighbor to Sweden, said Sunday that it intends to apply for membership in the security alliance. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Sunday that he was confident the accession process for Finland and Sweden could be expedited. The alliance was created in 1949 as a way for the West to respond to the growing power of the Soviet Union.

388d ago / 1:15 PM UTC

Putin says Finland, Sweden joining NATO 'doesn't pose an immediate threat'

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday that Sweden and Finland potentially joining NATO “does not pose an immediate threat to us” and that Moscow would consider its response.

“Russia has no problems with Finland and Sweden, and in this sense, expansion at the expense of these countries does not pose an immediate threat to us,” he said Monday at a meeting of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a military alliance of select post-Soviet states.

“But the expansion of the military infrastructure to this territory will certainly cause our response. And we will look at what it will be,” he added.

The comments are in line with previous statements on the two countries’ potentially joining NATO put out by the Kremlin in past days.

388d ago / 12:47 PM UTC

International Criminal Court to send dozens of investigators to Ukraine


The International Criminal Court will send 42 investigators to Ukraine to investigate possible war crimes, its prosecutor’s office confirmed to NBC News.

The deployment of investigators was first reported in the French newspaper Le Monde in an interview with ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan.

“This is the largest deployment ever undertaken by my office,” he told the paper. “Thirty of them have been seconded by the Dutch government, including forensic scientists and analysts.”

The prosecutor’s office said further information would be released Tuesday. The court, based in The Hague, Netherlands, opened a probe into possible war crimes in late February, as has the U.N. and Ukraine’s prosecutor general’s office.

388d ago / 12:30 PM UTC

Lives shattered in Kharkiv

A resident walks among debris of his destroyed house in the village of Mala Rogan, east of Kharkiv, on Sunday.Sergey Bobok / AFP - Getty Images
388d ago / 11:47 AM UTC

Scarred by Russian attacks, some Ukrainians stick to life underground

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KHARKIV, Ukraine — Liliya Gritchina lives in a tent underground by column seven of Kharkiv’s Imeni Maselskoho metro station, and says she’s only seen the sun four times since Russia invaded.

The metro station columns aren’t usually numbered, but they’ve become makeshift addresses for scores of people still sheltering from the prospect of shelling and rockets even as Ukrainian forces push Russian troops away from this crucial northeastern city.

“One time I left the shelter I saw rockets in the sky. There were sirens and I was very afraid,” said Gritchina, a 42-year-old seamstress who spoke by her tent on the cluttered metro platform.

A young boy lies on the floor of Imeni Maselskoho metro station in Kharkiv.
A young boy lies on the floor of Imeni Maselskoho metro station in Kharkiv.Mo Abbas / NBC News

“I will never forget this sound at the start of the war, the day I went up to see the sun. This scares me every time and I can’t leave this place until there are no sirens,” she added, wiping away tears.

Read the full story here.

388d ago / 11:03 AM UTC

Scars of war in Ukraine's east

A destroyed Russian tank Sunday in the village of Mala Rogan, east of Kharkiv.Sergey Bobok / AFP - Getty Images
388d ago / 11:03 AM UTC

Finland, Sweden joining NATO won't strengthen Europe's security: Peskov

Russia has no territorial disputes with either Finland or Sweden, and their accession to NATO will not strengthen or improve Europe's security, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Monday.

Speaking to reporters during his daily phone briefing, Peskov said Moscow was monitoring Finland and Sweden's NATO membership bids "very carefully," calling it "an issue that causes our concern."

Peskov's comments come after Sweden and Finland confirmed they will apply for NATO membership over the weekend. Debates in the Swedish and Finnish parliaments to discuss their respective applications were underway Monday.

Last week, the Kremlin reacted negatively to Finland's announcement of its intention to join NATO in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, vowing retaliatory steps.

388d ago / 10:48 AM UTC

E.U. ministers urge Hungary to sign up to planned Russian oil embargo

E.U. foreign ministers sought to publicly pressure Hungary on Monday to lift its veto on a proposed oil embargo on Russia, with Lithuania saying the bloc was being “held hostage by one member state.”

The embargo proposed by the European Commission in early May would be the harshest sanction yet after Moscow’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine and includes carve-outs for E.U. states most dependent on Russian oil.

Germany, the European Union’s biggest economy and a major buyer of Russian energy, said it wanted a deal to authorize the oil embargo which it suggested could last for years.

388d ago / 10:20 AM UTC

McDonald’s to sell its business in Russia

McDonald’s said Monday that it will sell its business in Russia after more than 30 years in the country.

The company cited the war in Ukraine and the unpredictable operating environment in Russia as its reasons for leaving, saying in a news release that its “continued ownership of the business in Russia is no longer tenable, nor is it consistent with McDonald’s values.”

McDonald’s announced on March 8 that it had temporarily closed restaurants in Russia and paused operations there.

388d ago / 9:58 AM UTC

McConnell meets Finnish President in Helsinki

President of Finland Sauli Niinist, second from right, meets Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell at the President's official residence in Helsinki, Finland, on May 16, 2022. Roni Rekomaa / AFP - Getty Images
388d ago / 9:58 AM UTC

Renault sells its Russia business, stake in Russian automaker

French carmaker Renault agreed to sell its shares in Renault Russia as well as its stake in Russian automaker Avtovaz on Monday.

“Today, we have taken a difficult but necessary decision; and we are making a responsible choice towards our 45,000 employees in Russia, while preserving the Group’s performance and our ability to return to the country in the future, in a different context,” said Luca de Meo, CEO Renault Group, in a statement posted on the company website.

The company’s shares in Renault Russia will go to Moscow, while its nearly 68 percent interest in Avtovaz will go to Russia's Central Research and Development Automobile and Engine Institute. The company suspended its activities at its Moscow plant in March. 

The agreement provides for an option for Renault Group to buy back its shares in Avtovaz during the next six years. In March, Avtovaz partially halted production at certain plants because of a shortage of certain parts.

388d ago / 9:16 AM UTC

Wheat prices rise sharply after Indian export ban

Wheat prices spiked over the weekend after India imposed a ban on the export of the crop, adding pressure to already-tight supply chains disrupted by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

India, the world’s second-largest producer and eighth-largest exporter of wheat, announced the ban on Friday in a bid to control its record-high domestic prices. The local wheat harvest has been adversely affected by record-breaking heatwaves that started in March. New Delhi said the ban is not permanent and could be revised.

Experts worry that the ban will exacerbate a growing food shortage resulting from the war in Ukraine, as wheat prices have soared 60 percent this year. Russia and Ukraine account for almost a third of global wheat exports.

388d ago / 8:20 AM UTC

Ukrainian pushback in Kharkiv

Ukrainian servicemen rest in a recently retaken village north of Kharkiv on Sunday. Mstyslav Chernov / AP
388d ago / 8:20 AM UTC

Russia scales back plans for eastern offensive, think tank says

Russian forces have likely abandoned plans to seize territory in parts of Ukraine’s east and will likely concentrate on taking over the Luhansk region of the Donbas, according to the Institute for the Study of War.

The think tank, which provides daily updates on the military situation, said that Russian forces have probably given up plans to complete “a large-scale encirclement of Ukrainian units from Donetsk City to Izyum. Moscow has also likely scaled down plans to push 30 miles north from the city of Slovyansk to Izyum.”

The apparent reduction to the military’s ambitions in its eastern offensive comes as Russian forces have likely run short of trained reservists, the institute said. Russia said last month that its goal was to achieve the “full liberation of the Donetsk and Luhansk republics,” which together make up the Donbas region.

388d ago / 8:20 AM UTC

Ukrainian forces appear to reach Russian border in Kharkiv region

Ukrainian forces reached the border with Russia north of Kharkiv, the country's second-largest city, the head of the regional administration said early Monday.

“We are proud of the soldiers of the 227th Battalion of the 127th Brigade of the Territorial Defense Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, who restored the border sign on the state border!” Oleh Synegubov wrote in a post on Telegram.

In a video included with the post, Ukrainian fighters proudly posed with a blue and yellow outpost. They launched a counterattack to push Russian troops back from the area in recent weeks.

388d ago / 8:20 AM UTC

Ukrainians react with joy to Eurovision win

May 15, 202201:21