War in Ukraine. Daily update. Day 85 [10.00 am, 19.05.2022 🇬🇧🇦🇪🇷🇸🇫🇷🇬🇪]

Prepared by Sofia Oliynyk and Maryana Zaviyska 

Photo: Telegram channel/ Emergency service of Ukraine

Azovstal. Russia claims approximately 959 Ukrainian fighters from the Azovstal steel plant ‘surrendered’ and were transferred to Russia-controlled territories. Russian media reports that 89 Ukrainian defenders, who were taken out of the Azovstal plant in Mariupol, were taken to Taganrog in Russia. Crucial to mention that Ukraine is not calling it ‘surrender’, it has been ordered for the garrison to leave the plant in order to save lives after completion of the previous orders of protection of Ukraine’s territories. 

However, concerns grow whether Russia will follow the agreed procedure of the prisoners of war exchange. Amnesty International indicates, that defending Mariupol, the Ukrainian military was dehumanized by the Russian media and portrayed by Putin as ‘neo-Nazis’ throughout Russia’s war against Ukraine. Such circumstances raise serious concerns about the fate of Ukrainian combatants as prisoners of war in the temporarily occupied territories.

Cities under attack. The Russian military destroyed the Avdiivka School with banned phosphorous bombs on May 18. The Luhansk region is cut off from electricity. Power line has been damaged due to the active military battles near Lysyschansk. Thus, if previously, the region has been cut off from gas supply, now there is no more electricity. Russian troops do not stop shelling the border areas of the Sumy and Chernihiv regions. The longest shelling lasted about an hour. Russians fired mortars at one of the border settlements of the Shostka district, Sumy region. Russian forces continue shelling the Zelenodilska community at the border of Dnipropetrovsk and Kherson region. Yesterday it was once again shelled several times from BM 21 and BM 27. More than 10 houses were destroyed. Shelling of the Donetsk region continues and does not decrease. During May 18, 10 people were killed and 7 wounded. The  New York town in Donetsk region was left without gas supply. The railway infrastructure in Avdiivka is damaged. In Kostiantynivka a school, a construction vocational education school, and a children’s and youth sports school were destroyed in Kostiantynivka.

Resistance. Guerilla movement keeps the resistance against Russian occupation. In Melitopol, Zaporizhzhia region, guerillas eliminated high-ranked Russian officials, says Zaporizhzhia Military Administration. Also guerillas in Melitopol blew up an armored train with Russian forces. According to the headquarters of the territorial defense of the Zaporizhzhia region, in Melitopol, 10 cars of an armored train with Russian invaders were remotely blown up. Also, two railway tracks were damaged. The armored train and the locomotive with fuel tanks were stopped. Also, a grenade exploded near the Russian commandant’s office in the occupied Melitopol. Previously in April, guerrillas operating at night killed 70 Russian occupiers within 3 weeks in Melitopol.

Kherson region. Russian troops fired BM 21 Grad at a civilian convoy in the area of the village of Davydiv Brid in the Kherson region. Three people were killed and 6 wounded. The situation in the border villages of Kherson region is critical as Russian forces use them as platforms for shelling neighborhood regions. Houses are destroyed, roads, bridges, fields are mined. Stable critical situation in the occupied villages of Velykooleksandrivska, Vysokopilska, Stanislavska, Novovorontsovska, and Kalynivska communities as many villages of these communities are without electricity and water supply for two months.

Negotiations. Both Ukraine and Russia say the negotiation process hit the pause. On Tuesday, both sides further played down the prospects of a deal. Mykhailo Podolyak, issued a statement saying that the talks were ‘on pause’ and that given Russia’s faltering offensive, the Kremlin ‘will not achieve any goals’. This morning, he informed that Ukraine is not interested in the new ‘Minsk’, as it will include war renewal in a few years. Negotiator from Russia, Vasyl Medinski, said the negotiation process from Ukrainian side is most likely backed by the different elite groups – ‘And there is probably another part of the elite that doesn’t want peace, and that draws direct financial and political benefit from a continuation of the war’, The New York Times indicates. It should be noticed that Vasyl Medinski is translating typical Russian propaganda messages.

List of demands. Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba in his interview to the Dutch media outlet NRC, named four components of Ukraine’s victory in the war against Russia: (1) liberation of the occupied territories, in particular, Crimea and Donbas; (2) conviction of war criminals; (3) payment of reparations; (4) strengthening Ukraine’s position in European integration.

Foreign policy. The President of the European Council, Charles Michel, suggested intensifying the process of EU enlargement, as the current state of the process is disappointing for both the EU and potential future members. ‘We need to make the enlargement process more efficient and vibrant. This process is now a zero-sum game. All or nothing. And this is very disappointing on both sides.’

On Wednesday, Russia announced expelling a total of 85 embassy staff from France, Spain, and Italy in response to similar moves by those countries. The Foreign Ministry said it was ordering out 34 diplomatic staff from France, 27 from Spain, and 24 from Italy. The Lithuanian government has decided to officially withdraw its’ ambassador from the Russian Federation, Eitvidas Bayarunas.

‘Marshall Plan’ for Ukraine. The European Commission presented the plan for the immediate response to address Ukraine’s financing gap and the longer-term reconstruction of the country. An international coordination platform, the ‘Ukraine reconstruction platform‘, co-led by the European Commission representing the European Union and by the Ukrainian government, would work as an overarching strategic governance body, responsible for endorsing a reconstruction plan, drawn up and implemented by Ukraine, with administrative capacity support and technical assistance by the EU. It would bring together the supporting partners and organizations, including EU Member States, other bilateral and multilateral partners and international financial institutions. The Ukrainian Parliament and the European Parliament would participate as observers. The Commission  has announced additional macro-financial assistance in the form of loans of up to €9 billion, to be complemented by support from other bilateral and multilateral international partners, including the G7.

The reconstruction plan is composed of four pillars:  

  • Rebuilding the country, in particular infrastructure, health services, housing and schools, as well as digital and energy resilience in line with the most recent European policies and standards;  
  • Continue modernizing the state and its institutions to ensure good governance and respect for the rule of law, by providing administrative capacity support and technical assistance, including at regional and local level; 
  • Implementing a structural and regulatory agenda with the aim of deepening the economic and societal integration of Ukraine and its people with the EU in line with its European path;  
  • Support the recovery of Ukraine’s economy and society by promoting sustainable and inclusive economic competitiveness, sustainable trade, and private sector development, while contributing to the green and digital transition of the country.

Human rights. Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a new report indicating on the cases of Russian forces holding mass executions, torture, and other abuses of Ukrianian civilians during February-March occupation of Kyiv and Chernihiv regios. HRW visited 17 villages and small towns in the Kyiv and Chernihiv regions, where it investigated 22 apparent executions, 9 other unlawful killings, 6 possible enforced disappearances, and 7 cases of torture. Twenty-one civilians described unlawful confinement in inhuman and degrading conditions, says the report. For days or weeks, Russians detains civilians in dirty and suffocating conditions at sites such as a schoolhouse basement, a room in a window manufacturing plant, and a pit in a boiler room, with little or no food, inadequate water, and without access to toilets. Documented seven cases of torture indicate on the Russian soldiers beating detainees, using electric shocks, or carring out mock executions to coerce them to provide information. Witnesses informed about Russian forces killing civilians at the streets of their settlements. All of the witnesses interviewed said they were civilians who had not participated in hostilities, except for two torture victims who said they were members of a local territorial defense unit. 

War crimes prosecution. Since last week all eyes have been on the first court trial of a Russian soldier accused of killing a civilian. Sgt. Vadim Shyshimarin, pleaded guilty to shooting a 62-year-old man on a bicycle in the village of Chupakhivka in Sumy region. It is the first trial Ukraine has conducted for an act that could be considered a war crime since Russia launched its full-scale invasion.

Environmental security. There is a threat of the complete extinction of flora and fauna of the Sea of Azov. As a result of the shelling of Azovstal, a technical structure containing tens of thousands of tons of concentrated hydrogen sulfide solution could be damaged, the Mariupol City Council reports. Hazardous substances can get into the Black and Mediterranean Seas.

Energy security. Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Kremlin-appointed ‘curator’ of Crimea Marat Khusnullin said to Russian Interfax that the Zaporizhzhia NPP, which has been seized by the Russian troops, will work for Russia. Ukraine is offered to buy electricity from its own station

Food security. The World Bank announced $30 billion to help to overcome a food security crisis threatened by Russia’s war in Ukraine. The new projects are expected to support agriculture, social protection to cushion the effects of higher food prices on the poor, and water and irrigation projects. The majority of resources go to Africa and the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and South Asia. Russian forces have already stolen 400 thousand tons of grain in Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk, and Luhansk regions. Such actions at the temporarily occupied territories may lead to famine among the remaining population. In addition, Russian troops destroy elevators, warehouses, agricultural machinery and infrastructure with their missile and bomb strikes, thereby disrupting the sowing campaign. Due to the blockade of Ukrainian ports and the mining of sea routes, Ukraine also cannot export the harvest of previous years.

Digital security. The first international Diia Summit Brave Ukraine will take place during the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, on May 24. Ukraine will share the new vision of a digital state – European Digital Ministers contribute with their expertise. The Minister of Digital Transformation of Ukraine has announced that Ukraine is interested in joining the EU roaming, while meeting with the Executive Vice President of the European Commission Margrethe Vestager.

Culture. 19 May marks Ukraine’s Vyshyvanka Day which aims to preserve the original traditions of creating and wearing ethnic embroidered Ukrainian clothes called ‘vyshyvanka’ or ‘vyshyvana sorochka’. Check out this interactive map of Ukrainian embroidery throughout different regions of Ukraine.

Reading corner. 

Statistics.

  • Since the February 24, State Emergency Services of Ukraine have neutralized 110 593 explosive devices, including 1975 aviation bombs.
  • General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine announced the total estimated losses of the Russian military as of 10 a.m., May 19, 2022: personnel – around 28 500, tanks ‒ 1254, APV ‒ 3063, artillery systems – 595, MLRS – 199, anti-aircraft warfare systems – 93, fixed-wing aircraft – 203, helicopters – 167, soft-skinned vehicles and fuel tankers – 2157, boats and light speed boats – 13, operational-tactical level UAV – 455, special equipment – 43, cruise missiles – 103. 

War for freedom. Olha Subbotina is an SMM specialist and standup comic who fled Kyiv in the first week of the war and became a refugee in Berlin, Germany. Now she’s constantly looking for a place to live and a job while checking whether her home in Kyiv still exists. See why in the story. ‘War for freedom’ series are stories of Ukrainians in an attempt to cope with the Russian-Ukrainian war accompanied with their art portraits. I have interviewed and taken pictures of Ukrainians, including refugees and the ones that stay in Ukraine currently, in order to illustrate their war experience.

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Thank you for supporting Ukraine! Slava Ukraini! Glory to Ukraine!