Russia-Ukraine live news: UN chief warns of global food crisis

  • UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned of a “global food shortage” in the coming months but says talks can avert a crisis.
  • Washington reopens its embassy in Kyiv after abandoning the diplomatic post shortly before the Russian invasion.
  • President Joe Biden’s national security team “emphatically” support bids by Sweden and Finland to join NATO, says top US official.
  • Mariupol’s fall appears near as Ukraine declares an end to the Azovstal steelworks operation, where its soldiers held out for months.
INTERACTIVE Russia Ukraine War Who controls what in Mariupol Day 84
[Al Jazeera]

Here are all the latest updates:

World Bank to offer $30 bn as Ukraine war threatens food security

The World Bank has said it will make $30 billion available to help stem the food security crisis threatened by Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The total will include $12 billion in new projects and over $18 billion funds from existing food and nutrition-related projects that have been approved but have not yet been disbursed, the bank said.

The bank said the new projects are expected to support agriculture, social protection to cushion the effects of higher food prices on the poor, and water and irrigation projects.

The majority of resources are going to areas hardest hit by the crisis – Africa and the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and South Asia.

UN food chief appeals to Putin to open ports

The UN food chief has appealed to Putin to open Ukraine’s ports so that exports can reach the “poorest countries”.

“It is absolutely essential that we allow these ports to open because this is not just about Ukraine. This is about the poorest of the poor around the world who are on the brink of starvation as we speak,” David Beasley said at a UN meeting on global food security.

“So I ask President Putin, ‘If you have any heart at all, please open these ports. Please assure everyone concerned that the passageways will be clear so that we can feed the poorest of the poor and avert famine…” he added.

Zelenskyy says Russian-occupied cities ‘will return’ to Ukraine

Zelenskyy has said Ukraine is determined to reclaim control over the southern cities of Kherson, Melitopol, Berdiansk, Enerhodar and Mariupol, now occupied by Russian troops.

“All of our cities and communities under occupation – under temporary occupation – should know that Ukraine will return,” Zelenskyy said.

A view of a street in Mariupol, captured by Russian forces, with the Azovstal steel plant in the background.
A view of a street in Mariupol, captured by Russian forces, with the Azovstal steel plant in the background. Tuesday, May 17, 2022 [Alexei Alexandrov/AP]

Russia has fired more than 2,000 missiles in Ukraine: Zelenskyy

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said Russia has fired more than 2,000 missiles during its attack on Ukraine.

He said the majority of the missiles hit civilian infrastructure and brought no strategic military benefit. In the past day, Russian missiles hit the southern cities of Mykolaiv and Dnipro, Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address to the nation.

Zelenskyy also noted Russia’s claims to have deployed new laser weapons in Ukraine, saying it reflected a desire to find an alternative to its missiles.

Google’s Russian subsidiary to file for bankruptcy after bank account seized

Google’s Russian subsidiary plans to file for bankruptcy after authorities seized its bank account, making it impossible to pay staff and vendors, but free services including search and YouTube will keep operating, a company spokesperson has said.

The Alphabet Inc unit has been under pressure in Russia for months for failing to delete content Moscow deems illegal and for restricting access to some Russian media on YouTube, but the Kremlin has so far stopped short of blocking access to the company’s services.

“The Russian authorities seizure of Google Russia’s bank account has made it untenable for our Russia office to function, including employing and paying Russia-based employees, paying suppliers and vendors, and meeting other financial obligations,” a Google spokesperson said.

“Google Russia has published a notice of its intention to file for bankruptcy.”

US promises push to improve global food security

Blinken has promised to work with allies to improve global food security amid the war in Ukraine.

“President Putin is blocking export of Ukraine’s grain and foodstuffs. We will continue working with our allies and partners to build resilient, sustainable, and inclusive food systems to improve global food security,” the top US diplomat wrote on Twitter.

President Putin is blocking export of Ukraine’s grain and foodstuffs. We will continue working with our allies and partners to build resilient, sustainable, and inclusive food systems to improve global food security.

— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) May 18, 2022

Croatia president wants to block new NATO members

President Zoran Milanovic of Croatia wants his country to follow Turkey’s example by trying to block Sweden and Finland from joining NATO.

Milanovic is in a bitter verbal dispute with Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic over a number of issues, including whether to support the NATO applications Sweden and Finland submitted.

Before Croatia’s parliament ratifies NATO membership for the two Nordic nations, Milanovic wants a change in neighbouring Bosnia’s electoral law that would make it easier for their nationalist Bosnian Croat allies to get elected to leadership positions.

US national security officials ’emphatically’ support NATO expansion: Sullivan

White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan has said President Joe Biden asked his national security team and cabinet members about the risks and benefits of Finland and Sweden joining NATO.

He said the team “emphatically supported the entry of Finland and Sweden”.

Sullivan said Finland and Sweden will not be covered by NATO’s mutual defence agreement until all 30 members have ratified their accession, but US and European allies are prepared to send the message “that we will not tolerate any aggression against Finland or Sweden during this process”.

US in talks with Sweden, Finland: Defence official

A senior US defence official has said the Pentagon is having discussions with Sweden and Finland on their security needs, as both move towards NATO membership amid the Russian offensive in Ukraine.

The official said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met with Swedish Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist and spoke about the interim period between when the country’s NATO application is formally submitted and when it is approved, The Associated Press news agency reported.

There have been concerns about threats from Russia during that period, in which Sweden and Finland would not formally be covered by NATO’s Article 5, which states that an attack against one member is an attack against all and calls for collective defence.

UN chief ‘hopeful’ about averting global food shortage

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned of a “global food shortage” in the coming months due to issues linked to the war in Ukraine, but said he is “hopeful” the crisis can be averted.

Guterres said he is in “intense contact” with Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, the US and the European Union to try and resume Ukrainian grain shipments and revive Russian fertiliser exports.

“I am hopeful, but there is still a way to go,” he said during a food security meeting at the UN hosted by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. “The complex security, economic and financial implications require goodwill on all sides.”

US, Turkey affirm support for ‘solution to end the war’

The US and Turkey have affirmed their support for finding a solution to end the war in Ukraine, reasserting that they back the country’s “sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

After a meeting between Blinken and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, Ankara and Washington released a joint statement pledging to “intensify consultations on a range of regional issues”.

“They also reiterated their support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity against Russia’s unacceptable war. Within this framework, the United States and Turkey reaffirmed their support to find a solution to end the war,” the statement said.

Mevlut Cavusoglu and Antony Blinken
Antony Blinken meets with Mevlut Cavusoglu at UN headquarters in New York [Eduardo Munoz/Reuters]

US reopens embassy in Ukraine’s capital

The US has reopened its embassy in Kyiv after abandoning the diplomatic post shortly before the Russian invasion began three months ago.

“Today we are officially resuming operations at the US Embassy in Kyiv,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

“The Ukrainian people, with our security assistance, have defended their homeland in the face of Russia’s unconscionable invasion, and, as a result, the Stars and Stripes are flying over the Embassy once again,” he added, referring to the flag of the United States.

Ukrainian forces had fended off a Russian offensive to capture the capital in the first weeks of the war.

The Stars and Stripes fly again over Embassy Kyiv. I can announce that we have officially resumed Embassy operations in Ukraine’s capital. We stand proudly with the government and people of Ukraine as they bravely defend their country from Putin’s brutal invasion. Slava Ukraini!

— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) May 18, 2022

Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the war in Ukraine.

Read all the updates from Wednesday, May 18 here.

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