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“We Are Here” - Ukrainian Forces Reach Russian Border

After reseizing Kharkiv, Ukrainian soldiers reach the border with Russia. Meanwhile, Moscow continues its assault on Donbas, and has renewed missile strikes of the port city of Odesa.

“We Are Here” - Ukrainian Forces Reach Russian Border

Ukrainian soldiers at the border of Russia

Meike Eijsberg, Anna Akage and Emma Albright

Ukrainian forces continue to regain more territory in the northeast of the country, and by Monday morning had announced that a battalion had reached the Russian border.

This comes after having taken back control of Kharkiv, the second biggest Ukrainian city, as Russian troops appear to be making a hasty retreat. This latest development continues to indicate the inability of Russian troops to dominate Ukrainian forces.

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After this successful counter-offensive, Ukraine’s defense ministry posted a video showing soldiers gathered around a yellow and blue painted post upon arrival at the Russian border. “Today the 15th of May, Kharkiv's territorial defense forces of Ukraine - 227th battalion, 127th brigade - went to the border with the Russian Federation,” said one soldier. “We are here.”


The milestone for Ukraine follows a statement by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said during a meeting in Berlin: “The invasion is not going as Moscow had planned. They failed to take Kyiv. They are pulling back from Kharkiv. Their major offensive in Donbass has stalled. Russia is not achieving its strategic objectives.”

Kharkiv is located about 30 miles from Russia’s border and has faced weeks of heavy Russian artillery assaults.

The military situation is somewhat different in the south and east, though Moscow’s forces are not moving as quickly through Donbas as they’d hoped. The governor of the Luhansk region, Serhiy Gaidai, said the situation "remains difficult" as the Russian forces are trying to capture the town of Severodonetsk. Russian troops have also launched a new round of missile strikes in and around the strategic port city of Odessa.

Teacher Gave Classes From Bomb Shelter For 42 Days

Teacher giving classes from bomb shelter

Pravda


Valeria Gukova, a 24-year-old teacher from Kharkiv, taught her young students from a bomb shelter for 42 days, reports Pravda Ukraine.

Gukova was living in a room that was part of World War II bomb shelter, and had been equipped with Internet and hot water, though there was no shower. The teacher and her boyfriend slept on tables in their sleeping bags.

The teacher welcomed students of different ages: “The younger children were more open, and the older ones are more serious and more sensitive to the situation.”

She recalled a phone ringing one day with a strange ringtone. “The pupil’s face immediately changed expression and asked: "Are these some kind of bombings? No, dear, we're under the ground, you can't hear it here, just the walls might shake.”

Gukova’s boyfriend is a chef, and he and two colleagues have been cooking food in the shelter, and finding safe moments to distribute in Kharkiv during the fighting.

For First Time, More Ukrainians Returning Than Leaving Across Border

A long queue of vehicles with Ukrainian civilians seen at the Polish border to enter Ukraine

Hesther Ng/SOPA/Zuma


The number of people entering Ukraine through its western border now exceeds those leaving the country. According to the State Border Guard Service, more than 37,000 people left Ukraine on May 14, but nearly 46,000 arrived. It is the fifth straight day that there is a net influx.

Still, the shift is by no means a sign that people think the war is ending or that they don’t see risks in returning. People are coming back to their cities not only "out of optimism, but also because they are experiencing financial difficulties," said Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Anna Malyar on a telethon, RBC-Ukraine reports. “We need to understand that people are running out of money, having to live somewhere (new), just like that, to pay for housing, to eat, without working.”

Russia Says Finland And Sweden Joining NATO Would Be “Grave Mistake”

Andrea Ronchini/Pacific Press/ZUMA


After Finland confirmed its intentions to join NATO, Sweden followed suit on Sunday. Sweden’s governing Social Democrats voted in favor and, in doing so, paved the way for a membership application that would see the Scandinavian country say goodbye to decades of neutrality.

In response, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told reporters Monday that "this is another grave mistake with far-reaching consequences." German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said that the accession of the two "consolidated democracies" with their strong armies will "make NATO stronger," the German newspaper Die Welt reported.

Monday's front page of Oslo-based Dagbladet


As their Nordic neighbors, Sweden and Finland, edge closer to NATO membership, Norway (already a NATO member) is watching developments closely as Vladimir Putin threatens consequences.

Here is Monday's front page of Oslo-based Dagbladet

Germany To Stop Russian Oil Imports Regardless Of EU Plans

Petroleum refinery in Russia

Patrick Pleul/dpa/Zuma


Germany plans to stop importing Russian oil by the end of year, even if the European Union fails to implement EU-wide sanctions. The EU discussions are currently blocked as Hungary, which is extremely dependent on Russian energy supplies, objects to the phased-in oil ban.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government, however, has now indicated to it will push ahead regardless.

Russia’s share of German crude consumption has already declined considerably, from 35% to 12% since the start of the war in Ukraine. It hasn't been confirmed which countries will make up Germany’s oil shortfall, but Scholz will travel to the Netherlands next week to speak with Prime Minister Mark Rutte about the issue. On Friday, Scholz will host Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in Berlin.

Moscow Takes Over Renault’s Russian Assets, McDonald’s To Exit Market Completely

A picture of the Moscow plant of Renault

Artyom Geodakyan/TASS/ZUMA


Russian assets of the French automaker Renault will be transferred to Moscow state ownership, reports Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta. Russia was the second largest market for Renault, behind Europe.

French daily, Les Echos, reports that Renault will sell its 68% stake in AvtoVAZ, the parent company of the Lada brand (a Russian company owned by Renault), to NAMI, the state body responsible for approving new vehicles. The factory owned by Renault will be transferred to the city of Moscow. The sale of its stake in AVTOVAZ provides the option for Renault to buy back its interest within six years, said the statement.

The management of the French group had been seeking another solution, but with the sanctions imposed on Russia by Europe and the United States, there was no possibility for a takeover by a Western brand. An agreement with Rostec, the other shareholder of AvtoVAZ, was excluded, as the group is one of the companies targeted by Western sanctions.

Meanwhile, McDonald’s announced Monday it will sell all of its restaurants in Russia after more than 30 years. The fast-food chain had already closed 847 restaurants in the country, but this decision will make it one of the biggest global brands to exit Russia completely since the invasion of Ukraine.

"It is impossible to ignore the humanitarian crisis caused by the war in Ukraine," Chief Executive Officer Chris Kempczinski said in a letter to employees. “And it is impossible to imagine the Golden Arches representing the same hope and promise that led us to enter the Russian market 32 years ago.”

Ukraine Children’s Summer Camp Became Execution Ground

A BBC investigation conducted by Sarah Rainsford has revealed haunting details about what was once a children’s summer camp in the Bucha region of Ukraine, a popular get-away spot before the war. When Russian troops arrived, ‘Camp Radiant’ was turned into an execution ground. The bodies of more than 1,000 civilians have been discovered in this area, some “hastily buried” in shallow graves. According to a senior police official, more than 650 were shot dead by Russian soldiers.

After five bodies were found under the camp, it became a crime scene. Reporters and police are now collecting evidence, such as the remains of Russian military ration packs. According to Rainsford, the walls were covered in children’s graffiti and art, as well as a dozen bullet holes.

Ukraine Vows To Host Next Year’s Eurovision In Mariupol


Ukraine won the 2022 Eurovision Song Contest this weekend after receiving overwhelming support in the public vote. Under the rules of the competition, the winning country is supposed to host the contest the following year. Ukrainian President Volodmyr Zelensky vowed that Mariupol will host Eurovision in 2023, “for the third time in history, and I trust not for the last time.”

Still, with Russia in virtual control of Mariupol and surrounding territory, many doubt whether this is possible. There have been six exceptions where the winning country has not hosted the following year, the primary reason being the country could not afford to financially. During four out of these six exceptions, the UK ended up stepping in. Not because they came in second, as was the case in 1959 and this year, but because they had the means to.

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Lila Paulou, Lisa Berdet, Laure Gautherin and Anne-Sophie Goninet

👋 Alii!*

Welcome to Thursday, where China launches missiles in largest ever drills near Taiwan following Nancy Pelosi’s visit, Germany braces for a potential energy gas crisis next winter, and there’s good news from Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Meanwhile, Die Welt visits Germany’s Baden-Baden, which went from the destination of choice for wealthy Russian tourists to a tourist ghost town.

[*Palauan, Republic of Palau]

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