Latest Developments in Ukraine: May 2
For full coverage of the crisis in Ukraine, visit Flashpoint Ukraine.
The latest developments in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. All times EDT:
5:30 a.m.: Israel has summoned the Russian ambassador over comments made by the Russian foreign minister about Nazism and antisemitism, The Associated Press reported. Sergey Lavrov claimed in an interview with an Italian news channel that Ukraine could still have Nazi elements even if some figures, including the country’s president were Jewish, saying “Hitler also had Jewish origins.”
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid called the remarks “unforgivable and scandalous and a horrible historical error.” Lapid’s stern reaction came in a statement on Monday. It stands in contrast to Israel’s position on the war in Ukraine, where it has tried to maintain a semblance of neutrality, the AP reported.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said “Lavrov could not help hiding the deeply-rooted antisemitism of the Russian elites” and that his comments “demonstrate that today’s Russia is full of hatred towards other nations.”
4:30 a.m.: Finland will decide to apply for NATO membership on May 12, Finnish newspaper Iltalehti reported late on Sunday, citing anonymous government sources.
The decision to join will come in two steps on that day, with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto first announcing his approval for the Nordic neighbor of Russia to join the Western defense alliance, followed by parliamentary groups giving their approval for the application, the paper reported.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has pushed Finland and Sweden to the verge of applying for NATO membership and abandoning a belief held for decades that peace was best kept by not publicly choosing sides. Reuters was not immediately able to verify the details provided by Iltalehti.
Under the Finnish constitution, the president leads Finland’s foreign and security policy in cooperation with the government. The decision will be confirmed in a meeting between the President and the government’s key ministers after the President’s and the Parliament’s initial announcements, the paper reported. Russia, with which Finland shares a 1,300-km (810-mile) border and a pre-1945 history of conflict, has warned it will deploy nuclear weapons and hypersonic missiles in its Baltic coast enclave of Kaliningrad if Finland and Sweden decide to join the U.S.-led NATO alliance.
Additionally, Finnish consortium Fennovoima said Monday it had terminated its contract with Russia’s state-owned nuclear power supplier Rosatom for the delivery of a planned nuclear power plant in Finland, Reuters reported.
The planned Hanhikivi plant was commissioned by Fennovoima, a Finnish-Russian consortium, in which Finnish stakeholders including Outokumpu OUT1V.HE, Fortum FORTUM.HE and SSAB SSABa.ST own two thirds and Rosatom’s subsidiary RAOS Voima holds the rest.
4:00 a.m.: About 5.5 million refugees have left Ukraine since Russia invaded the country in late February, according to the United Nations, with more than 3 million of them going to Poland. Romania has taken in the second most with more than 800,000.
3:30 a.m.: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Monday that Russia is blocking ships from going in and out of its Black Sea ports, triggering a food crisis that will affect Europe, Asia and Africa, Reuters reported. Zelenskyy said Ukraine can lose tens of millions of tons of grain as a result. “Russia wants to completely block our country’s economy,” he told the Australian news program 60 Minutes.
2:10 a.m.: Reuters reported that two explosions took place in the early hours on Monday in Belgorod, the southern Russian region bordering Ukraine, Vyacheslav Gladkov, the region’s governor wrote in a social media post.
“There were no casualties or damage,” Gladkov wrote.
1:45 a.m.: Ukrainian officials said they expect more civilians will be able to evacuate from the besieged city of Mariupol on Monday.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a video message late Sunday that more than 100 civilians were able to leave Sunday, and that they were due to arrive Monday in Zaporizhzhia, about 200 kilometers away.
With Russian troops taking control of the rest of Mariupol, hundreds of civilians and an estimated 2,000 Ukrainian troops have been holed up at the Azovstal steel works. Multiple earlier attempts to evacuate civilians from the site fell apart with Ukraine accusing Russia of shelling evacuation routes. “For the first time, there were two days of real cease-fire on this territory,” Zelenskyy said.
1:15 a.m.: Britain’s defense ministry said more than one-fourth of the 120 battalion tactical groups Russia committed at the start of the conflict in Ukraine have likely “been rendered combat ineffective.” The ministry added that some of the most elite Russian units “have suffered the highest levels of attrition.”
12:15 a.m.: The White House announced first lady Jill Biden will begin a trip Thursday to Romania and Slovakia that will include meeting with Ukrainians displaced by Russia’s invasion. Biden will also meet with aid workers, local families supporting Ukrainian refugees and also educators who are helping Ukrainian children continue schooling.
12:01 a.m.: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi became the highest-ranking elected official to visit Ukraine’s president in Kyiv. She led a U.S. congressional delegation that promised more support for Ukraine and unwavering solidarity in its fight against Russian aggression. VOA’s Arash Arabasadi has more.
Some information came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.