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Latest news on Russia and the war in Ukraine

In Poland, U.S. Treasury Secretary Yellen pushes global minimum tax, applauds refugee efforts

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen talks to Ukrainian refugee cooks during her visit at the Wilcza Hostel and the World Central Kitchen facility for Ukrainian refugees in Warsaw on May 16, 2022.

Janek Skarzynski | AFP | Getty Images

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen thanked Polish leaders for sheltering millions of Ukrainian refugees and pushed officials to support the European Union’s plans to introduce a 15% global corporate minimum tax.

Yellen, whose comments came during her trip to the Polish capital of Warsaw, spoke with Ukrainian refugee cooks during her visit to the Wilcza Hostel and the World Central Kitchen facility for Ukrainian refugees.

The U.S. Treasury Department said that Yellen would use the trip to Warsaw to discuss the war’s effect on Poland’s economy, particularly on inflation, fiscal policy, and supply chains.

“Secretary Yellen will also express her gratitude for the generosity Poland has shown in welcoming refugees, address the rising threat of food insecurity, and discuss the agreement on new international tax rules,” the department said.

Poland is the sole holdout in the EU’s plan to introduce a global corporate minimum tax. It vetoed a compromise in April to launch the 137-country deal that sought to end a downward competitive spiral in business tax rates.

Thomas Franck

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen (L) visits the Wilcza Hostel and the World Central Kitchen facility for Ukrainian refugees in Warsaw on May 16, 2022.

Janek Skarzynski | AFP | Getty Images

UN says 3,668 killed in Ukraine since start of war

Relatives cry by the coffin of the Ukrainian fallen soldier Yurii Huk, age 41 at the Church of the Most Holy Apostles Peter and Paul in Lviv, Ukraine on May 16, 2022.

Omar Marques | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The United Nations has confirmed 3,668 civilian deaths and 3,896 injuries in Ukraine since Russia invaded its ex-Soviet neighbor on Feb. 24.

The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said the death toll in Ukraine is likely higher, because the armed conflict can delay reports.

The international body said most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multiple launch rocket systems, as well as missiles and airstrikes.

— Amanda Macias

President Putin says NATO expansion ‘is a problem’

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech as he meets Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto on August 21, 2019 in Helsinki, Finland. Russian President Putin is on a one-day visit to Finland.

Mikhail Svetlov | Getty Images

Moscow has wasted no time in making its feelings known about the likely expansion of the Western military alliance NATO, with President Putin saying Monday that it “is a problem.”

Putin claimed that the move was in the interests of the U.S., in comments reported by Reuters, and said Russia would react to the expansion of military infrastructure to Sweden and Finland, although he insisted Moscow had “no problems” with the countries.

Putin’s comments come after other top Kremlin officials deplored the future expansion of NATO, with one describing it is a “grave mistake” with global consequences.

Holly Ellyatt

McDonald’s says it will sell its Russia business

A logo of the McDonald’s restaurant is seen in the window with a reflection of Kremlin’s tower in central Moscow, Russia March 9, 2022.

Maxim Shemetov | Reuters

McDonald’s said Monday that it will sell its business in Russia, a little more than two months after it paused operations in the country due to its invasion of Ukraine.

“The humanitarian crisis caused by the war in Ukraine, and the precipitating unpredictable operating environment, have led McDonald’s to conclude that continued ownership of the business in Russia is no longer tenable, nor is it consistent with McDonald’s values,” the company said in a news release.

Russian forces, directed by President Vladimir Putin, have been accused of an array of war crimes during their assault on Ukraine.

McDonald’s exit from Russia is a bitter end to an era that once promised hope. The company, among the most recognizable symbols of American capitalism, opened its first restaurant in Russia more than 32 years ago as the communist Soviet regime was falling apart.

Mike Calia

How could Russia react to Finland and Sweden’s NATO move?

Russian Sukhoi Su-34, Sukhoi Su-35S and Sukhoi Su-30S fighter jets perform ahead of Victory Day in Red Square in Moscow.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

With Finland and Sweden both announcing their bids to join the Western military alliance NATO on Sunday, ending a long modern history of military non-alignment, all eyes are on Russia’s reaction.

Moscow has already expressed outrage at the idea of its old foe NATO’s potential imminent expansion, warning it would take “retaliatory steps” against the country.

Geopolitical experts are assessing the possible actions Russia could take, saying these could range from an increase in provocative acts against NATO members, such as incursions into the alliance’s airspace, or cyberattacks and more soldiers placed along the borders Russia shares with NATO members: Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Poland and Norway.

Read more here: NATO is about to get bigger and Putin is unhappy: Here are 3 ways Moscow could react

Holly Ellyatt

Belarus deployment along Ukraine border could ‘fix’ Kyiv’s forces, UK says

Belarus’ announcement last week that it will deploy special operations forces along the Ukraine border — as well as air defence, artillery and missile units to training ranges in the west of Belarus — is likely designed to pin down Ukraine’s forces away from eastern Ukraine where fierce fighting is taking place with Russia, the U.K. military has said.

“The presence of Belarusian forces near the border will likely fix Ukrainian troops, so they cannot deploy in support of operations in the Donbas,” the U.K.’s Ministry of Defence said in an intelligence update on Twitter Monday.

Despite early speculation, to date Belarusian forces have not been directly involved in the conflict but Belarusian territory has been used as a staging post for Russia’s initial advance on Kyiv and Chernihiv, the ministry noted, added that Russia has also launched air sorties and missile strikes from Belarus.

“Belarusian President Lukashenko is likely balancing support for Russia’s invasion with a desire to avoid direct military participation with the risk of Western sanctions, Ukrainian retaliation and possible dissatisfaction in the Belarusian military,” the ministry said.

Holly Ellyatt

Finland and Sweden will bring ‘real military capability’ to NATO, says ex-Army commander

Finland and Sweden will both bring “real military capability” if they become members of NATO, according to Ben Hodges, a former commander in the U.S. Army in Europe.

The two nations have strong, liberal, democratic governments and resilient societies, he told CNBC’s “Capital Connection.”

“They will be security providers, not consumers,” he added, saying the move changes the security environment for the North Atlantic Alliance.

“This is so good for the alliance, but it’s also good for both countries and for all of Europe,” he said.

Hodges said Russia’s attack on Ukraine made Finland and Sweden feel the need to join the 30-nation strong military alliance. “This is going to go down on a list of huge blunders by President Putin and the Kremlin,” he said.

Ultimately, besides threats and complaints, there’s nothing the Russian president can do because his military is tied up at the moment, Hodges added.

— Abigail Ng

Ukraine says it’s counterattacking in the east, pushing Russian forces back

Ukrainian forces say they have pushed back the Russian military in the region around Kharkiv in northeastern Ukraine, and near the border with Russia.

“The 227th Battalion of the 127th Brigade of the Territorial Defense Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine of Kharkiv city pushed back the Russians and reached a section of the state border,” the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine posted on Facebook on Monday morning.

Ukrainian forces have been carrying out a successful counter-offensive north of Kharkiv toward the border with Russia over the last week, while heavy fighting also continues in the eastern Donbas region.

Ukrainian air defense forces and anti-aircraft missile forces said on Facebook Sunday they had downed 11 enemy targets over the past 24 hours, including two helicopters, seven drones and two cruise missiles.

On Sunday, Ukraine’s military said it is preparing for more Russian attacks around Izyum, a city to the south of Kharkiv that’s become a focus of fighting in recent days.

Moscow’s forces have been trying to fight their way south from Izium as part of a pincer movement aimed at outflanking Ukrainian forces dug in to defend the eastern frontline, Reuters reported.

Holly Ellyatt

Ukraine can win this war, NATO chief says

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg addresses a press conference at NATO Headquarters in Brussels on March 23, 2022.

Thomas Coex | AFP | Getty Images

Ukraine can win the war against Russia, NATO’s secretary general said on Sunday, adding that Russia’s invasion is “not going as Moscow had planned.”

Speaking virtually after an informal NATO meeting in Berlin, Jens Stoltenberg said “Ukraine can win this war.”

“Russia’s war in Ukraine is not going as Moscow had planned,” he said at a press conference. “They failed to take Kyiv. They are pulling back from around Kharkiv. Their major offensive in Donbas has stalled” and “Russia is not achieving its strategic objectives,” he added.

Holly Ellyatt

McConnell expects Wednesday Senate vote for $40 billion Ukraine aid

U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell

Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters

U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said he expected the Senate to vote on $40 billion in proposed aid to Ukraine on Wednesday after holding a related procedural vote on Monday.

“We expect to invoke cloture – hopefully by a significant margin – on the motion to proceed on Monday, which would set us up to approve the supplemental on Wednesday,” McConnell told reporters on a conference call from Stockholm after visiting the Ukrainian capital on Saturday. He was referring to a procedural “cloture” vote that caps further debate on a matter to 30 hours.

— Reuters

Sweden’s ruling party backs joining NATO

STOCKHOLM — Sweden’s ruling Social Democrats said on Sunday they backed the country joining NATO, abandoning decades of opposition in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and creating a large parliament majority in favor of membership.

With neighboring Finland already set to hand in its application, Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson is now all but certain to launch a formal application within days.

— Reuters

Ukraine not ‘overoptimistic’ despite Russian troops pulling back near Kharkiv, official says

Ukrainian soldiers stand on a multipurpose light armoured towing vehicle near Bakhmut, eastern Ukraine, on May 15, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Yasuyoshi Chiba | AFP | Getty Images

Ukraine’s deputy prime minister for European and Euro-Atlantic integration, Olga Stefanishyna, said she sees a “cautious amount of great news” in the country’s defense against Russia. In particular, she pointed to Russian troops pulling back from around Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, in recent days.

“But we are not overoptimistic in that regard,” she said in an interview on ABC’s “This Week.” “We see that Putin has readjusted his strategy, and the only possible winning scenario for him is a long-lasting war, which is not the case for us and the democratic world. … The unconditional victory still remains the way forward.”

Russia’s navy remains in “full preparedness to continue shelling,” Stefanishyna said, adding that “the bombarding of the eastern part of Ukraine, which are the major supply chains for the humanitarian and defense assistance, have been attacked over these nights.”

Kevin Stankiewicz

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