The Ukrainian roundup

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May 20 (Reuters) – Ukraine’s industrial Donbas region, the focus of recent Russian offensives, has been destroyed, President Zelenskiy said as some of the world’s richest countries pledged to bolster Kyiv with billions of dollars. 

FIGHTING

* Russia’s siege of the Ukrainian city of Mariupol neared its end on Thursday, with Russia’s defence minister saying nearly 2,000 Ukrainian fighters surrendered at the Azovstal steel works. 

* Ukraine’s Azov Regiment said the military command had ordered an end to the defence of Mariupol, to save lives.

* The White House is working to put advanced anti-ship missiles in the hands of Ukrainian fighters. 

* A Russian soldier on trial in Ukraine in the first war crimes trial arising from Russia’s invasion said he did not want to kill an unarmed civilian 

* In a sign of Russia’s urgent need to bolster its war effort, parliament will consider a bill to allow Russians over 40 and foreigners over 30 to sign up for the military. 

A picture taken during a visit to Mariupol organised by the Russian military shows Russian serviceman reflect on the wall with Ukraine national flag in the destroyed bunker of Ukrainian military on the territory of the Ilyich Iron and Steel Works in Mariupol, Ukraine,. Ilyich Iron and Steel Works of Mariupol is the largest European producer of cold-rolled and galvanized plates. EPA-EFE/SERGEI ILNITSKY

DIPLOMACY

* The U.S. Senate approved nearly $40 billion in new aid for Ukraine. 

* The Group of Seven’s financial leaders agreed on $18.4 billion to help Ukraine pay its bills in coming months. 

* U.S. President Biden met the leaders of Sweden and Finland to advance their applications to join NATO. 

* Italian Prime Minister Draghi called for an urgent ceasefire in Ukraine to enable a negotiated end to the war. 

* The Biden administration has not ruled out placing sanctions on countries that purchase Russian oil, Energy Secretary Granholm said. 

ECONOMY

* Ukraine has exported 643,000 tonnes of grain since the start of May, considerably less than during the same period last year. 

* U.S. Secretary of State Blinken accused Russia of using food as a weapon. 

* U.N. Secretary-General Guterres said he is in “intense contact” with Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, the United States and the European Union to restore Ukrainian grain exports. 

* The EU is looking into ways of using the frozen assets of Russian oligarchs to fund the reconstruction of Ukraine after the war. 

(Compiled by Stephen Coates and Frank Jack Daniel)

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