Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he won’t allow Sweden and Finland to join NATO because of their stances on Kurdish militants, and President Vladimir Putin warned that Russia would respond if the Nordic nations move forward with membership of the military alliance. Ukraine said 53 severely wounded fighters and more than 200 other soldiers were allowed to leave the Azovstal steel plant in the port city of Mariupol. They will be held in Russian-occupied territory and may be part of a future exchange of prisoners, according to a senior Ukrainian defense official.
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Council of Europe Highlights LGBTI Plight (9:45 a.m.)
European states should pay attention to the specific challenges faced by LGBTI asylum seekers fleeing war, according to Marija Pejcinovic, the secretary general of the Council of Europe human rights organization.
— Council of Europe (@coe) May 17, 2022
“Armed conflicts aggravate the vulnerability of LGBTI persons and expose them to additional risks and abuses,” Pejcinovic said in a joint statement with the Italian and Irish foreign ministers published to coincide with the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.
Germany Warns on Pro-Russia Cyberattacks (9:15 a.m.)
Germany’s domestic intelligence agency issued another warning to companies in Europe’s biggest economy about the threat of cyberattacks launched by pro-Russian groups.
The Killnet cybercrime group is currently conducting a campaign of so-called distributed denial of service attacks — when multiple machines operate together to attack one target — on various German corporate and research websites, the agency said in a statement.
Germany Delivers More Anti-Tank Weapons (8:40 a.m)
Germany has delivered additional weapons to support Ukraine, Der Spiegel magazine reported, without identifying the source of its information. The deliveries over the past two weeks include 2,450 RGW 90 hand-held weapons, 1,600 DM22 directional mines and 3,000 DM31 mines, which are all designed to combat tanks.
#Ukraine: A Ukrainian soldier uses the RGW-90 HH MATADOR during a military action against Russian forces.#UkraineWar #UkraineRussiaWar #UkraineRussianWar #UkraineUnderAttack #Russia #Kyiv #Kiev #Ukrainian #RussianArmy #Ukraina pic.twitter.com/8lzp0K8YMl
Ukraine ordered and paid for the RGW 90 systems, known as Matador, from a German manufacturer, while the mines are apparently from German armed forces stock, Spiegel said.
Russians Turn to Black Market to Buy Dollars (8:30 a.m.)
Russians are buying foreign currency on the black market for the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union as the ruble’s official exchange rate diverges from its value on the street.
The Russian currency is up about 25% against the U.S. dollar since the invasion began, giving it the incongruous title of best performer globally, but capital controls imposed after the war started have warped the official rate. The ruble is about 20% weaker at exchange points, creating the opportunity for under-the-table trades.
Germany Mulls Seizing Russian Central Bank Assets (8 a.m.)
Germany remains open to seizing the Russian central bank’s reserves abroad to finance Ukraine’s reconstruction, according to Finance Minister Christian Lindner.
“We are already discussing it in the G-7 and the EU and there are proposals on the table,” Lindner was quoted as saying in an interview with four European newspapers.
“Regarding private assets, we have to see what it’s legally possible to do,” he added. “Even if we’re dealing with Russian oligarchs, we have to respect the rule of law.”
IMF Calls for Urgent Support, FT Says (6:01 a.m.)
A top International Monetary Fund official told the Financial Times that Ukraine’s partners need to provide funding urgently to plug a financing gap, and prevent “serious macro destabilization.”
“The important point is to get the money quickly to Ukraine and as much as possible in grant financing form,” the paper quoted Gita Gopinath, the first deputy managing director of the IMF, as saying in an interview from Brussels.
Senate Advances $40 Billion Ukraine Aid Bill (1:23 a.m.)
Monday’s 81-11 procedural vote sets up Senate passage of the legislation as soon as Wednesday if all lawmakers consent to waive rules on debate. That would send it to President Joe Biden for his signature if no changes are made. The package of military has been held up by Senator Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican.
The bill includes $19.7 billion for the Defense Department, more than $3 billion above the level asked for by the Biden administration. It also includes $6 billion in direct security assistance to Ukraine that Biden sought last month and $9.05 billion to replenish weapons stocks sent from the Pentagon to Ukraine.
Ukraine Reports First Military Evacuation from Mariupol (11:30 p.m.)
Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said the wounded soldiers were evacuated to a hospital on Russian-occupied territory. Another 211 Ukrainian fighters also left the plant via a humanitarian corridor to a Russia-occupied area, and they may be part of a future exchange of prisoners, Malyar said.
Ukraine’s government and security services are seeking ways to aid the remaining fighters at the plant, but “we cannot unblock Azovstal using the military,” the deputy minister said.
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