Kiev, Moscow exchange fire and prisoners as Zelensky signs new pacts


Russia and Ukraine exchanged prisoners for the first time in months on Friday, but any hopes of de-escalation in the war were dashed by attacks from both sides and Moscow boasting of its gains throughout May.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky was meanwhile in Stockholm to sign security agreements with Sweden, Iceland and Norway as the West kept up its support for the country invaded by back in February 2022.

The meeting came as the Germany said it had authorized Ukraine to use German-supplied weapons against military targets in Russia.

Seventy-five Russian soldiers “who were in mortal danger” have been sent back by Ukraine, the Defence Ministry in Moscow said.

In return, 75 prisoners of war were handed over to the Ukrainian armed forces, Zelensky confirmed.

Both sides also exchanged the bodies of dead soldiers. Ukraine received 212 remains back and the Russian side received 45 bodies.

The last major prisoner exchange between the two sides took place in February. Just two days ago, Russian Human Rights Commissioner Tatyana Moskalkova accused the Ukrainian side of sabotaging the exchange, saying that Kiev was “constantly making new demands.”

Ukraine attack on Russian oil terminal

Kiev has also been trying to counter-attack against Moscow for months, and a night-time Ukrainian drone attack led to a fire breaking out in an oil terminal at the Russian Black Sea port of Port Kavkaz, the local governor said.

“Three cisterns with oil products were damaged and are on fire,” the governor of the Krasnodar region, Veniamin Kondratyev, announced on his Telegram channel. Two employees were slightly injured, he added.

The flames could be seen on the nearby Crimean peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014 in violation of international law.

Ukraine has been increasingly attacking oil refineries and transport infrastructure in Russia, in addition to purely military targets.

At least five killed in Kharkiv

But Russia continued its bombardment of Ukraine’s second-largest city of Kharkiv. At least five people have been killed and more than two dozen injured in Russian missile attacks in the north-eastern city, Governor Oleh Syniehubov said on Telegram on Friday.

Most of the victims lived in a five-storey apartment block. The attacks also damaged a fire engine and an ambulance, he said.

At least 20 residential buildings were damaged as a result of the attack involving five missiles.

The capital Kiev was also hit with at least one cruise missile, the authorities said, adding that a car repair shop, a car wash and half a dozen vehicles were damaged by falling rocket debris.

A transformer station was damaged, the energy company DTEK said, but the power supply has already been restored. There were no casualties.

Overall in May, Russian forces captured 28 Ukrainian towns and villages as part of a renewed assault, Defence Minister Andrei Belousov said.

“The enemy has retreated by 8 to 9 kilometres in various important sections of the Kharkiv region,” Belousov said at a meeting of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a Moscow-dominated military alliance, in the Kazakh city of Almaty.

He added that Russia has conquered 880 square kilometres of Ukrainian territory since the beginning of the year. This figure cannot be independently verified.

Belousov said the losses of the Ukrainian army in May totalled 35,000 soldiers and 2,700 units of military equipment – numbers that could not be verified either. The defence minister did not comment on Russian losses, but repeated the Kremlin’s mantra that Moscow would achieve its war aims.

Zelensky signs security deals in Stockholm

With no end it sight to the war, Zelensky flew to Stockholm for the third Ukraine-Northern Europe Summit where the pacts with Iceland, Norway and Sweden were signed.

“Only together can we stop the madness from Moscow,” he said.

The agreements are initially valid for 10 years. Ukraine has already signed similar security deals with Denmark and Finland.

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said: “The agreement is a powerful signal to Russia that it is basically pointless to continue the war with the assumption that Western countries will tire.”

Kristersson described supporting Ukraine in its fight against Russia as a “fundamental, existential task” for the countries of Northern Europe, whose security is also threatened by Russia’s actions.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during a press conference of the Nordic Prime Ministers on the occasion of the Nordic Summit. -/Ukrainian Presidency/dpa

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during a press conference of the Nordic Prime Ministers on the occasion of the Nordic Summit. -/Ukrainian Presidency/dpa

(L-R) Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, Finnish President Alexander Stubb and Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store speak during a press conference of the Nordic Prime Ministers on the occasion of the Nordic Summit. -/Ukrainian Presidency/dpa(L-R) Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, Finnish President Alexander Stubb and Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store speak during a press conference of the Nordic Prime Ministers on the occasion of the Nordic Summit. -/Ukrainian Presidency/dpa

(L-R) Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, Finnish President Alexander Stubb and Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store speak during a press conference of the Nordic Prime Ministers on the occasion of the Nordic Summit. -/Ukrainian Presidency/dpa



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