Latest developments

More than 260 Ukrainian soldiers have been evacuated from the Azovstal plant in the embattled city of Mariupo.

Putin says Russia would respond to expansion of NATO military infrastructure into Finland, Sweden.

Russia sees the prospect of Ukraine's membership of the European Union as the equivalent of its joining NATO.

The US House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a nearly $40 billion aid bill for Ukraine.

09:31 2022-05-19
Russia says 694 Ukrainian soldiers surrender at Azovstal steel plant
Ukrainian soldiers leave Azovstal steel works in Mariupol, Ukraine, in this still image taken from a video released May 18, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

MOSCOW - Russia said Wednesday that 694 Ukrainian soldiers blocked at the Azovstal plant in Mariupol have surrendered over the past 24 hours, including 29 wounded.

"A total of 959 militants have surrendered since May 16, including 80 wounded," the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement, adding that 51 of them are in need of medical assistance and have been admitted to a hospital in Donetsk's Novoazovsk for treatment.

The soldiers began to surrender on Monday following an agreement reached between Moscow and Kyiv on the evacuation of wounded Ukrainian soldiers.

Mariupol, a key Azov Sea port city, has seen one of the worst bouts of bloody violence in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

The Azovstal plant, which covers an area of about 11 square km, is the holdout of the Ukrainian forces in Mariupol.

09:25 2022-05-19
Global economic growth dragged down by spillover from Ukraine crisis
People shop at a grocery store on May 12, 2022 in New York City. [Photo/Agencies]

UNITED NATIONS - The global economy is predicted to expand by only 3.1 percent this year, down from the 4.0 percent projected in January, largely due to Russia's special military operation in Ukraine, according to UN's latest World Economic Situation and Prospects (WESP) report, launched on Wednesday.

As the mid-year forecast shows, the conflict has disrupted the fragile economic recovery from the pandemic, resulting in a humanitarian crisis in Europe, rising food and commodity prices, and exacerbating inflationary pressures.

With sharp increases in food and energy prices, global inflation is projected to reach 6.7 percent this year, more than double the average of 2.9 percent during the period from 2010 to 2020.

"The war in Ukraine - in all its dimensions - is setting in motion a crisis that is also devastating global energy markets, disrupting financial systems and exacerbating extreme vulnerabilities for the developing world," said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

"We need quick and decisive action to ensure a steady flow of food and energy in open markets, by lifting export restrictions, allocating surpluses and reserves to those who need them, and addressing food price increases to calm market volatility," he added.

In addition to the world's largest economies - the United States, China, and the European Union, the majority of other developed and developing economies have seen their growth prospects downgraded.

The outlook for energy and food prices is particularly bleak for developing economies that import commodities, and food insecurity is on the rise, especially in Africa.

The WESP report, published by UN's Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), examines how the spillover effects of the conflict in Ukraine are impacting different regions.

Besides the tragic deaths and the unfolding humanitarian crisis, Russia's special military operation has also had a severe economic impact on both countries. There are currently more than 6 million refugees alone.

Neighboring economies in Central Asia and Europe, including the European Union, are also affected.

The rise in energy prices has been a shock to the EU, which imported nearly 57.5 percent of its total energy consumption in 2020. The economy is forecasted to grow by only 2.7 percent instead of the 3.9 percent predicted in January.

Nearly a quarter of Europe's energy consumption in 2020 came from oil and natural gas imported from Russia, and a sudden halt in flows is likely to lead to increased energy prices and inflationary pressures.

EU member states from Eastern Europe and the Baltic region are severely impacted as they are already experiencing inflation rates well above the EU average, the report said.

The world's developing countries and least developed countries (LDCs) are experiencing high inflation, which is reducing household real income.

It is especially true in developing countries, where poverty is more prevalent, wage growth is constrained, and fiscal support to mitigate the impact of higher oil and food prices is limited.

The rising cost of food and energy is also having an adverse effect on the rest of the economy, which presents a challenge for an inclusive post-pandemic recovery, as low-income households are disproportionately affected.

Furthermore, "monetary tightening" by the US Federal Reserve, the country's central banking authority, will increase borrowing costs and worsen financing gaps in developing nations, including LDCs.

"The developing countries will need to brace for the impact of the aggressive monetary tightening by the Fed and put in place appropriate macroprudential measures to stem sudden outflows and stimulate productive investments," said Hamid Rashid, DESA's chief of the Global Economic Monitoring Branch, and the lead author of the report.

Moreover, the global carbon dioxide emissions are at a record high, and rising energy prices are also threatening global efforts to address climate change. As countries are looking to expand energy supplies amid high oil and gas prices, the report predicts that fossil fuel production is likely to increase in the short term.

Nickel and other metal prices may adversely affect the production of electric vehicles while rising food prices may limit the use of biofuels.

"However, countries can also address their energy and food security concerns - brought to the fore due to the crisis - by accelerating the adoption of renewables and increasing efficiencies, thus strengthening the fight against climate change," said Shantanu Mukherjee, DESA's director of economic policy and analysis.

07:16 2022-05-19
Finland, Sweden apply to join NATO
By REN QI in Moscow
Ukrainian servicemen who surrendered are taken away on May 17, 2022, after evacuating the besieged Azovstal steel plant in the port city of Mariupol, eastern Ukraine. [Photo/Agencies]

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday that Finland and Sweden have officially applied for membership in the alliance, overhauling their decadeslong foreign policy.

"I warmly welcome the requests by Finland and Sweden to join NATO," Stoltenberg told reporters after receiving application letters from the two countries' ambassadors. He described the nations as "our closest partners".

The application must now be considered by NATO's 30 member countries, a process that is expected to take about two weeks, although Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has expressed reservations about Finland and Sweden joining.

If his objections are overcome, and accession talks go as well as expected, the two countries could become NATO members within a few months. The process usually takes eight to 12 months, but NATO wants to move quickly, the Associated Press reported.

Moscow has threatened to react with unspecified "military-technical measures" should the Nordic states make what it called the "grave mistake" of joining NATO. The Kremlin warned that "the general level of military tensions will increase" in Europe if the alliance does expand to Russia's doorstep.

Russia will keep an eye on how NATO uses Finland's and Sweden's territory and "make its conclusions", said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

"Finland, Sweden and other neutral countries have for years participated in NATO's military exercises," Lavrov said. "NATO has taken their territories into account in planning its eastward movement. In this context, it apparently makes no difference anymore."

He said that Moscow saw no reason for Finland and Sweden to be worried about their security. "Incidentally, the Finnish president and the Finnish ambassadors everywhere have been saying that they see no threats from Russia," Lavrov said.

Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg said that his country would retain its neutral status, even though European Union allies Sweden and Finland had overhauled their decadeslong foreign policy to apply for NATO membership.

"The situation for us looks a little different," he told German radio broadcaster Deutschlandfunk on Wednesday, saying there was "overwhelming" public support for neutrality in Austria.

Schallenberg said that the country, which gets 80 percent of its natural gas from Russia, would continue to provide humanitarian support to Ukraine rather than lethal weapons.

Meanwhile, Russia's Ministry of Defense said on Wednesday that 959 Ukrainian soldiers had surrendered this week at the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Ukraine's port city of Mariupol.

"Over the past 24 hours, 694 militants surrendered, including 29 wounded," the ministry said in its daily briefing on the conflict. "In total, since May 16, 959 militants surrendered, including 80 wounded."

The Russian Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday that two employees of Finland's embassy in Russia will have to leave the country in response to a similar move by Helsinki.

While visiting the Russian-held city of Kherson in southern Ukraine on Tuesday, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin said that funds had already been allocated to a project to rebuild roads, bridges and buildings.

Russian troops gained control of Kherson in late April. The port city now uses Russian rubles rather than Ukrainian hryvnias, and Russian forces have installed a pro-Moscow "military-civilian administration".

Khusnullin said that rebuilding destroyed parts of the city would be Russia's first priority, but that Moscow was also specifically interested in supporting Kherson's agriculture sector.

Agencies contributed to this story.

10:13 2022-05-18
Ukraine not to exchange territories for peace with Russia: negotiator

KYIV - Ukraine will not exchange its territories for a peace deal with Russia, the government-run Ukrinform news agency reported on Tuesday, citing Mykhailo Podolyak, a member of the Ukrainian delegation to the peace talks with Russia.

"It is ideologically unacceptable for us to give something to the Russian Federation and pretend that it was some kind of easy war," Podolyak said.

He noted that many Ukrainian civilians were either killed or assaulted in the conflict, making it impossible for Ukraine to make concessions to Russia.

Ukraine will not agree on a ceasefire with Russia without troop withdrawal as Russia will control part of Ukrainian territory, Podolyak said.

He also ruled out the signing of a deal with Russia similar to the Minsk peace agreements, saying it would only lead to a frozen conflict, but not sustainable peace.

Earlier in the day, Podolyak said that the negotiation process within the delegations between Ukraine and Russia has been suspended. At the same time, he voiced the belief that peace talks will resume.

Ukraine and Russia held the latest round of their face-to-face peace talks in Istanbul of Turkey on March 29.

The Minsk agreements, reached in September 2014 and February 2015 respectively, outlined the steps needed to end the conflict in Ukraine's eastern region of Donbass that started in April 2014.

10:10 2022-05-18
Ukrainian president holds phone talks with German, French leaders
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. [Photo/Agencies]

KYIV - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday held separate phone talks with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron.

In his conversation with Scholz, Zelensky discussed the situation on the frontline, prospects for peace and further sanctions on Russia over the conflict with Ukraine, the Ukrainian president tweeted.

In the talks with Macron, Zelensky informed the French leader about the course of hostilities in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the operation to rescue the military from Azovstal and the vision of the prospects of the negotiation process with Russia.

Zelensky and Macron also discussed defense support for Ukraine, preparation of the sixth package of sanctions against Russia, and possible ways to export Ukrainian agricultural products.

They also touched upon the issue of fuel supplies to Ukraine, and Ukraine's application for the candidate status of a EU membership.

09:50 2022-05-18
Ukraine says evacuation from Azovstal only way to save troops
A view shows a plant of Azovstal Iron and Steel Works in Mariupol, Ukraine May 15, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

KYIV - The evacuation of Ukrainian troops from the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol was the only possible formula for their rescue, Ukraine's government-run Ukrinform news agency reported Tuesday, citing Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar.

"Unfortunately, military unblocking is impossible in this situation. There can be no other formula of salvation than the one currently in use. It was the only way out," Malyar said.

Ukrainian military forces have fully fulfilled their combat mission in Mariupol, Malyar said.

She added that the rescue operation from Azovstal will continue until Ukrainian soldiers return home from the uncontrolled territory.

Malyar said that 53 seriously wounded soldiers were taken to a healthcare facility in Novoazovsk town for medical treatment, while 211 other troops were taken to Olenivka town through the humanitarian corridor.

Kyiv expects that the Ukrainian soldiers will be exchanged for the captured Russians.

Mariupol, a key Azov Sea port city in eastern Ukraine, saw one of the worst bouts of violence in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

The Azovstal plant, which covers about 11 square km, is the holdout of the Ukrainian forces in Mariupol.

09:27 2022-05-18
Sweden, Finland to submit NATO applications Wednesday
Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson (R) and Finnish President Sauli Niinisto attend a press conference in Stockholm, Sweden, on May 17, 2022. [Photo/Xinhua]

STOCKHOLM - Sweden and Finland will jointly submit their applications for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) membership on Wednesday, Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said Tuesday.

NATO membership will strengthen security in Sweden as well as in the Baltic Sea region, she said at a press conference with visiting Finnish President Sauli Niinisto.

Submitting joint applications with Finland "means that we can contribute to security in northern Europe", Andersson added.

Security in the two countries is closely linked, she said, and close cooperation has been crucial. "Our joint NATO application is a signal that we are united for the future."

Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde signed the country's NATO membership application on Tuesday morning.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday that Moscow would respond if NATO were to deploy military infrastructure on the territories of Finland or Sweden.

Niinisto is visiting Sweden from Tuesday to Wednesday. Andersson and Niinisto are then scheduled to meet with US President Joe Biden in Washington on Thursday, according to the Swedish government.

09:11 2022-05-18
Russia, Ukraine say their peace talks on hold
Photo taken on May 3, 2022 shows a damaged building in the port city of Mariupol. [Photo/Xinhua]

MOSCOW/KYIV - Russian and Ukrainian officials said on Tuesday that negotiations on a solution to the current crisis have been suspended as the process is mired in stalemate.

"The talks are not going on. Ukraine has actually withdrawn from the negotiation process," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko told reporters.

Russia has received no response from Ukraine to its draft treaty, he added.

"Today the negotiation process was suspended. It was suspended because there are no significant changes or upheavals after the Istanbul communique," Mykhailo Podolyak, a member of the Ukrainian delegation, was quoted by the Interfax-Ukraine news agency as saying.

Nevertheless, he voiced the belief that the peace talks will be resumed, emphasizing that "every war ends at the negotiating table".

Ukrainian and Russian negotiators held the latest round of face-to-face peace talks in Istanbul, Turkey on March 29.

17:16 2022-05-17
Over 260 Ukrainian soldiers evacuated from Mariupol's Azovstal
A view shows a plant of Azovstal Iron and Steel Works during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine May 15, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

KYIV - More than 260 Ukrainian soldiers have been evacuated from the Azovstal plant in the embattled city of Mariupol, the government-run news agency Ukrinform reported Tuesday, citing Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar.

Malyar said that 53 seriously wounded soldiers were evacuated from Azovstal to a healthcare facility in Novoazovsk for medical treatment, while 211 other troops were taken to the Olenivka through the humanitarian corridor.

Later, the Ukrainian soldiers will be exchanged for the captured Russians, Malyar said.

The operation to evacuate the Ukrainian military from the Azovstal steel plant is continuing, the press service of the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said on Facebook.

Mariupol, a key Azov Sea port city in eastern Ukraine, saw one of the worst bouts of violence in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

The Azovstal plant, which covers an area of about 11 square km, is the holdout of the Ukrainian forces in Mariupol.

09:57 2022-05-17
EU fails to support new sanctions for Russian oil
Models of oil barrels are seen in front of the displayed sign "stop", EU and Russia flag colors in this illustration taken March 8, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

The European Union has been unable to agree on further sanctions against Russia as Hungary continues to oppose a proposed oil embargo in response to the conflict in Ukraine.

Lithuania's Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis told reporters in Brussels that sanctions were being obstructed by just one of the bloc's 27 members.

"The whole union is being held hostage by one member state ... we have to agree, we cannot be held hostage," Landsbergis said as he arrived for a meeting with his EU counterparts on Monday.

Reuters cited EU diplomats as saying the country he was referring to is Hungary, which continues to oppose the oil embargo, despite being offered an extension on phasing out Russian crude until the end of 2024.

Member states are discussing a proposal by the European Commission for a sixth package of sanctions, including a ban on Russia oil. The proposed sanctions require unanimous support from the EU member states.

Hungary and other member states, including Slovakia and the Czech Republic, have expressed concerns, reported Euronews, which noted that the main point of contention is the ambitious timeline for an EU-wide ban.

In a social media post last week, Hungary's Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban needed "hundreds of millions of dollars" for Hungarian refineries, a capacity increase for a Croatian pipeline and compensation for the Hungarian economy.

An oil embargo on Russia has already been implemented by the United States and the United Kingdom.

Austria's Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg told reporters that he expects the EU sanctions will be approved in the coming days.

He said: "It is clear that there still is a certain need for discussion but I believe we should aim to have these discussions where they belong, at the council, in order not give an image of disaccord in public. Russia is watching us."

Other EU diplomats quoted by Reuters said an agreement on a phased ban on Russian oil would more likely be reached at a May 30-31 summit. It said the phase-out would probably be extended over six months, with a longer transition period for Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

The European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, said last week that Russian crude oil should be prohibited within six months and refined products by the end of the year. She said it would be a complete import ban on all Russian oil, seaborne and pipeline, crude and refined.

"Let us be clear: it will not be easy," Von der Leyen told the European Parliament.

"Some member states are strongly dependent on Russian oil. But we simply have to work on it.

"We will make sure that we phase out Russian oil in an orderly fashion, in a way that allows us and our partners to secure alternative supply routes and minimizes the impact on global markets," she said.

09:38 2022-05-17
Conflict a wake-up call for energy security
By Han Phoumin
A model of 3D printed oil barrels is seen in front of displayed stock graph going down in this illustration taken, December 1, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

Even before the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the COVID-19 pandemic had brought the world economy into recession, with global oil demand declining about 8 million barrels per day in 2020 and 2021.

OPEC+-a group of nations allied with the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries-agreed to cut output by 10 million barrels per day from May 2020 to April 2022. This led crude prices to rise to around $75 per barrel in July last year, which prompted the oil producer group to raise output again at the end of last year.

Since Russia launched its "special military operation" in Ukraine on Feb 24, the fear of rising oil prices has escalated globally, following sanctions by the United States and its allies.

Russia accounts for 10 percent of global oil supplies. Western-led sanctions removed this supply from the market, putting pressure on the oil supply-demand balance. The price of crude oil soared from $95.42 per barrel to $127.98 on March 8 before dropping back down to $95.64 on March 16 and jumping back to $111.70 on April 14.

The price is likely to remain elevated at over $100 per barrel throughout this year. As a result, gas prices-which are indexed to the global oil price-have also experienced wild growth.

In addition to the immediate impact on energy costs, the shortage has implications for global energy security. High energy costs could distract efforts toward long-term decarbonization, with the short-term agenda dominated by domestic energy security concerns for countries dependent on fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas.

To stabilize the supply of oil and gas, the United States has led efforts to increase access to OPEC oil, explored a deal with Venezuela and announced the release of 180 million barrels from its Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

But energy costs are still high, which affects the phasing out of coal, as coal prices remain very competitive compared with natural gas. This is especially the case for hard-to-abate industrial sectors in East Asia and ASEAN countries, where coal is known to provide energy security, affordability and reliability.

The Russia-Ukraine conflict is a wake-up call-not only for Europe, but for all countries needing secure energy sources.

Sky-high energy costs have led countries to realize that they can no longer simply depend on imported fossil fuels, which may drive a shift away from fossil fuels altogether. For example, the International Energy Agency issued 10 measures to reduce the European Union's reliance on Russian natural gas imports, including jump-starting renewable wind and solar projects and maximizing energy generation from existing low-emissions sources such as bioenergy and nuclear power.

It is often said that necessity is the mother of invention, and in this sense the Russia-Ukraine conflict may lead to the fast-tracking of renewable energy, driving down costs in the next few years. According to Steve Cohen, a writer at State of the Planet, the news site of the Columbia Climate School, breaking dependence on fossil fuels is the only way to secure energy independence, since "no sovereign state owns the sun".

But fears of supply disruption and energy insecurity could also push some Asian countries to remain coal dependent, despite their commitments at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, or COP26, held late last year in Glasgow, Scotland.

High oil prices could be an incentive to increase exports of traditional fossil fuels, leading to oil rigs being reopened and investment being funneled into fossil fuels. These temporary reopenings would likely result in rigs remaining open for years until oilfields are fully depleted, potentially prolonging the phasing-out of fossil fuels.

There is good reason to be concerned that countries may put climate change mitigation on the back burner while they focus on energy security by securing supplies of fossil fuels. If this is the case, the time frame for phasing out the use of fossil fuels under the Paris Agreement on climate change and the goal of limiting global warming to 2 C will be affected.

Oil market concerns could last longer if the Russia-Ukraine conflict continues and there is a lack of immediate alternatives to oil and natural gas. Any new investment in energy projects could take at least a year in the case of solar and wind, and potentially much longer for bioenergy or nuclear.

While there have been no signs of countries backing off from climate change commitments, authorities still need to be cautious in designing policies related to energy investments.

Countries should redesign energy policy to shift away from fossil fuel dependency over the long-term, beginning as soon as possible with large-scale investment in solar, wind and other clean energy sources.

For many developing countries, the path may be slow, but it needs to be steady with actionable strategies to achieve decarbonization and, ultimately, carbon neutrality.

The author is a senior energy economist at the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia.

09:05 2022-05-17
Ukrainian, EU officials discuss Ukraine's European integration aspirations
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. [Photo/Agencies]

KYIV - Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and European Union (EU) Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi on Monday discussed Ukraine's European integration aspirations, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said.

At their talks in Brussels, Kuleba and Varhelyi discussed the prospect of granting Ukraine the EU candidate status, the ministry said in a statement.

"It is time to legally fix Ukraine on its path to the EU and make Europe stronger, safer and more prosperous," Kuleba said in the statement.

On Feb 28, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky signed an official appeal to the EU asking for the accession of Ukraine via a new special procedure.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen gave the EU membership questionnaire to Zelensky during her visit to Kiev in April. The first part of the document was submitted to the EU on April 18, while the second was on May 9.

The EU is set to consider Ukraine's candidate status next month, news reports said.

07:59 2022-05-17
Moscow, Kyiv welcomed at G20 summit

Neutrality, non-alignment principle guides Indonesia's policy, experts say

Efforts by Indonesia to include Russia and Ukraine in November's Group of 20 summit, despite pressure from Western nations to exclude Russia, reflect the country's stated commitment to neutrality and non-alignment, experts say.

Joko Widodo, the Indonesian president and current chair of the G20, a bloc comprising 20 of the world's major developed and developing economies, has invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to attend the summit, to be held on the island of Bali.

The United States, the United Kingdom and Canada have urged Widodo to bar Putin from attending the summit in light of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. However, G20 member countries including Argentina, Brazil and China have opposed this call.

Widodo said in a statement last month that "Indonesia wants to unite the G20, not let there be fractures". He said peace and stability were key to the recovery and development of the world economy.

The Indonesian leader has also invited Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, to the summit. Ukraine is not a G20 member, but as host, Indonesia can invite guests to attend.

By welcoming both Russia and Ukraine to the summit, Indonesia is "making a bold gamble", Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a professor and director of the Institute of Security and International Studies at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, said in an interview. "Inviting one without the other is unacceptable."

Thitinan said that by inviting Putin and Zelensky, Indonesia could "take the high ground and (showcase) … a platform for both sides to be at the same table", even though the G20 is a platform to discuss the economy and development.

While one cannot say what the situation will be like in November concerning the Russia-Ukraine conflict, "the Indonesian move seizes the initiative", he said.

Thitinan said that there was an "outside chance" that Indonesia could serve as a mediator, noting that "this would be the ideal outcome for Indonesia, holding the G20 successfully with a global broker role" in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Ian Wilson, senior lecturer in politics at Australia's Murdoch University, has a less sanguine view. He said that Indonesia's invitation to Ukraine could serve as a "symbolic overture", adding that Indonesia's impartiality and neutral stance reflect the Association of Southeast Asian Nations' principle of non-interference.

Indonesia's foreign policy is anchored by the principle of bebas dan aktif, an Indonesian phrase that translates to "independent and active", experts say. The nation is independent and will not side with any world power. At the same time, Indonesia is not a passive state, and it aims to actively contribute to the settlement of pressing global issues.

'Earning global trust'

For example, the country's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said that holding the G20's rotating presidency will help Indonesia "earn credibility or global trust in leading the global recovery efforts (following the pandemic). Credibility is invaluable capital in diplomacy and foreign policy".

Indonesia was among the ASEAN member countries that voted in favor of the UN General Assembly's resolution demanding Russia to "immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw "its military forces from Ukraine. However, it rejected the Western countries' move to impose unilateral sanctions against Russia.

Yohanes Sulaiman, a lecturer in international relations at Universitas Jenderal Achmad Yani in Bandung, said that it is unlikely that Indonesia will succumb to any pressure to disinvite Putin from the G20 summit.

Yohanes said Indonesia needs to protect its relationship with Russia, as Moscow is a key source of investment and military weapons.

He said there is also domestic pressure on Widodo to reject the Western countries' demand to exclude Putin from the G20. Any move otherwise would be viewed as weakness and bowing to Western demands, Yohanes said.

Indonesia's adherence to an independent and active foreign policy has been evident since 1955, when then Indonesian president Sukarno convened the Bandung Conference. The conference, attended by Asian and African leaders, ended with a pledge to remain neutral in the Cold War and led to the formation of the Non-Aligned Movement, in 1961. To this day, the principle of non-alignment continues to guide Indonesia's foreign policy.

23:08 2022-05-16
Russia concerned over Finland, Sweden's decision to join NATO
Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov. [Photo/Agencies]

MOSCOW - The Kremlin said Monday it is concerned about the decision of Finland and Sweden to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and will closely study all implications.

"We have already said that...this is an issue that we are monitoring very closely," local media reported, citing Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

Peskov said that Moscow would analyze all possible consequences of such a decision, and take into account all national security concerns.

He added that "the accession of Finland and Sweden into NATO" wouldn't strengthen or improve European security architecture in any way.

The spokesman further noted that while Russia wasn't involved in any territorial disputes with Finland or Sweden, the situation is different with regard to Ukraine, where a potential NATO membership would pose "huge risks for the entire continent".

Peskov said that Russia is closely following all statements made on this issue, including Sweden's latest claim that it was not going to station foreign military bases or weapons systems on its territory if it were to become a member of the alliance.

08:10 2022-05-14
Russia sees threat in Ukraine's EU bid
By REN QI in Moscow
US Black Hawk helicopters fly as NATO allied troops carry out Swift Response 22 exercises during a media open day at Krivolak army base, North Macedonia, May 12, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

Russia sees the prospect of Ukraine's membership of the European Union as the equivalent of its joining NATO, a senior Russian diplomat at the United Nations said on Thursday.

The Financial Times earlier reported that Moscow had indicated, during cease-fire talks in March, that it was not opposed to Ukraine joining the EU.

The Kremlin has long been outspoken in its criticism of NATO, stating that Ukraine's association with the Western military alliance was a direct threat to Russian security.

"Our position on the European Union now is more similar to NATO because we don't see a big difference," said Dmitry Polyansky, Russia's first deputy UN representative.

The European Commission is expected to decide whether to grant Ukraine candidate status next month.

Polyansky said Moscow's stance changed when top EU diplomat Josep Borrell asserted that the Russia-Ukraine conflict "will be won on the battlefield" during a visit to Ukraine last month.

On Thursday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba expressed the hope that the EU would soon approve Ukraine's application to start the process of joining the bloc.

Kuleba, who was invited to join the G7 foreign ministers' meeting in northern Germany on Thursday, said he considered it a "signal of strength" that Chancellor Olaf Scholz's party had dropped its opposition to providing Ukraine with heavy weapons.

Aside from the actions taken by Western countries, Japan has expanded the list of goods and technologies that it has banned for export to Russia, the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said on Friday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said at a meeting on economic issues that the culpability for the global consequences of sanctions against Russia, including possible hunger in a number of countries, rests with Western countries. In their pursuit of domination, they are ready to sacrifice the rest of the world, he said.

In military developments, Ukraine said it had damaged a Russian navy logistics ship near Snake Island, a small but strategic outpost in the Black Sea, Reuters reported.

"Thanks to the actions of our naval seamen, the support vessel Vsevolod Bobrov caught fire-it is one of the newest in the Russian fleet," said Serhiy Bratchuk, a spokesman for the Odessa regional military administration.

Russia's defense ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


13:30 2022-05-13
Russia vows retaliation against Finland's NATO bid

The Russian Foreign Ministry said Thursday that Finland's possible accession to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) would force Moscow to take "military-technical" retaliatory measures.

Russia has repeatedly noted that while it is up to Finland to decide which measures it will take to ensure its national security, it must also be aware of the consequences of its actions, the ministry said.

"Finland's accession to NATO will seriously damage Russian-Finnish relations as well as stability and security in Northern Europe," it added.

10:51 2022-05-13
Achieving peace is best protection for children in Ukraine: Chinese envoy
Children are seen at a temporary accommodation center in the village of Bezimenne in Donetsk, Ukraine, May 1, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

UNITED NATIONS - A Chinese envoy said Thursday that achieving peace is the best protection for children in Ukraine.

"Achieving peace is the best protection for children. Dialogue and negotiation is the most realistic and feasible way to reach a cease-fire," said Dai Bing, China's deputy permanent representative to the United Nations. "The international community should encourage Russia and Ukraine to return to the negotiation track and to keep accumulating political conditions for the restoration of peace."

China welcomes the presidential statement adopted by the Security Council on Ukraine on Friday, which calls for the peaceful settlement of international disputes and voices support for the UN secretary-general's efforts to promote peace, he told a Security Council meeting on the issue of children and education in Ukraine.

Sanctions will not bring peace, but will only accelerate the spillover of the crisis, triggering sweeping food, energy, and financial crises across the globe, and making children around the world suffer the bitter consequences. Children living in conflict situations in Afghanistan, Yemen, the Horn of Africa, as well as the Sahel region are bearing the brunt of the humanitarian impact, he warned.

"China once again calls on all parties to stay rational and exercise restraint, transcend prejudice and divisions, and make unremitting efforts for the early resolution of the crisis in Ukraine and for children to enjoy a peaceful future," said Dai.

The conflict in Ukraine is inflicting on children pains foreign to their age. Protecting children from harm is an obligation under international law that must be fulfilled by parties to the conflict. China reiterates its call for securing children and the civilian infrastructure on which they depend, and to give priority to children in evacuation and humanitarian relief operations, he said.

The conflict has uprooted more than half of the Ukrainian children. Millions of children have taken refuge in neighboring countries. China appreciates the safe shelter, humanitarian assistance, and psychological support provided by Ukraine and neighboring countries, as well as various UN agencies and other humanitarian organizations for those children. China calls on the international community to continue to step up relief efforts to ensure that every child in need can receive effective assistance, he said.

Dai also called for efforts to reduce the risk of human trafficking, sexual exploitation and abuse faced by Ukrainian children seeking refuge, especially those separated or unaccompanied.

China supports the World Health Organization in cooperating with Ukraine and the countries concerned to ensure that children can get routine immunization. China supports the UN Children's Fund in helping the Ukrainian government to provide educational supplies and learning opportunities for internally displaced children, and encourages host countries to integrate refugee children into their own education systems, in order to ensure that children's right to education is not disrupted, he said.

10:50 2022-05-13
Ukraine says in talks with Russia over evacuation of injured from Mariupol's Azovstal
Photo taken on April 7, 2022 shows damaged buildings in Mariupol. [Photo/Xinhua]

KYIV - Ukraine is holding negotiations with Russia over the evacuation of seriously injured soldiers from the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on Thursday.

Ukraine seeks to exchange 38 severely injured soldiers from Azovstal for the captured Russian military, Vereshchuk wrote on Telegram.

Currently, there are no talks on the exchange of 500 or 600 people, which has been reported by some media outlets, Vereshchuk said.

She emphasized that the ongoing negotiations between Ukraine and Russia on the Azovstal evacuation are very difficult.

On May 7, Vereshchuk said that Ukraine has evacuated all women, children and the elderly from the Azovstal plant.

Mariupol, a key Azov Sea port city in eastern Ukraine, saw one of the worst bouts of violence in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

The Azovstal plant, which covers an area of about 11 square kilometers, is the holdout of the Ukrainian forces in Mariupol.

09:30 2022-05-13
EU to open 'solidarity lanes' to help Ukraine's grain exports
A driver unloads a truck at a grain store during barley harvesting in the village of Zhovtneve, Ukraine, July 14, 2016. [Photo/Agencies]

BRUSSELS -- The European Commission on Thursday proposed to establish new so-called "solidarity lanes" to ensure that Ukraine can export grain to the European Union (EU) and also import the goods it needs, from humanitarian aid to animal feed and fertilizers, as Ukraine's ports have been blocked due to Russia-Ukraine.

Ukraine's inability to export its agricultural produce through Black Sea ports because of the blockade is threatening global food security and has prompted the development of an action plan to overcome this hurdle, the Commission said in a statement.

Under normal circumstances, Ukraine exports 75 percent of the grain it produces, generating around 20 percent of its annual export revenues. Before the conflict, Ukraine's Black Sea ports handled 90 percent of its grain and oilseed exports.

"Twenty million tonnes of grains have to leave Ukraine in less than three months using the EU infrastructure," Transport Commissioner Adina Valean said in a statement. "This is a gigantesque challenge, so it is essential to coordinate and optimize the logistic chains, put in place new routes and avoid, as much as possible, the bottlenecks."

The Commission said that in spite of immediate efforts by the EU and its member states to ease border crossings between Ukraine and the EU, thousands of wagons and lorries are waiting for clearance on the Ukrainian side. The average current waiting time for wagons is 16 days, while it is up to 30 days at some borders. More grain is still stored and held back in Ukrainian silos ready for export.

Among the challenges are differing rail gauge widths since the wagons used in Ukraine are not compatible with most of the EU rail network, so most goods need to be transhipped to lorries or wagons that fit the EU standard gauge.

09:29 2022-05-13
Russian forces attack major oil refinery in central Ukraine

KYIV -- Russian forces carried out a rocket attack on a major oil refinery in Kremenchuk town in Ukraine's central Poltava region on Thursday, said the head of Poltava regional military-civilian administration Dmytro Lunin.

"Today's shelling of the Poltava region is perhaps the largest during the full-scale war," Lunin wrote on Telegram.

Twelve rockets hit the infrastructure facilities in Kremenchuk, with most of them striking the oil refinery, Lunin said.

The attack caused fire at the oil refinery, Lunin said, adding there were no casualties in the shelling.

According to local media, the Kremenchuk refinery with a design capacity of 18.6 million tons is the largest oil refinery in Ukraine.

The facility suspended operation after it was struck by Russian missiles in early April.

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