G7 leaders pledge to ban Russian oil imports; Zelensky marks Day of Remembrance in video

G7 leaders pledge to ban Russian oil imports; Zelensky marks Day of Remembrance in video
To commemorate Danish World War 2 Liberation Day, Danes traditionally place candles by their windows. This year, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses Danes via video projected on large screens at Copenhagen City Hall Square. (Photo: Ole Jensen / Getty Images)

Leaders of the Group of Seven countries pledge to ban the import of Russian oil. The US announced new measures, including a ban on American accounting and consulting firms from working with Russia. Hungary continues to block the European Union’s latest package of sanctions against Russia.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy issued a video to mark Ukraine’s Day of Remembrance and Reconciliation, a day before Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to address a military parade in Moscow and may lay out the next steps of his war.    

All women, children and elderly have been evacuated from the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol after a week-long rescue operation facilitated by the UN and Red Cross. Zelenskiy said efforts to get Ukrainian fighters out of the site are continuing. 

Key Developments:

G7 Leaders Commit to Banning Imports of Russian Oil 

Leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) most industrialised countries pledged to ban the import of Russian oil in response to President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine.  

The heads of the leading economies made the commitment after holding a video call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Sunday, the eve of Russia’s May 9 Victory Day, which commemorates Russia’s victory over Nazi Germany in World War 2. The date has become a touchstone of the Kremlin’s campaign to whip up public support for the invasion. 

The leaders will “commit to phase out our dependency on Russian energy, including by phasing out or banning the import of Russian oil”, the G7 said in the statement. 

US Bans Accounting Services to Russia 

The US banned American accounting and consulting firms from working with Russia and imposed its first sanctions on Gazprombank as part of a package of new penalties.

The latest measures also include export controls on industrial goods, limits on three of Russia’s top state-controlled television stations, and additional visa restrictions, a US official told reporters.  

Germany’s Scholz Sets Limits on Ukraine Policy 

Chancellor Olaf Scholz used a rare televised address to the nation to outline limits on Germany’s efforts to help Ukraine, in a bid to reassure the country unsettled by the threat of war spilling over. 

While Europe’s largest economy will continue to send Kyiv heavy weapons to help it defend against Russia, Berlin wouldn’t sacrifice its own security in the process, Scholz said.

After warning in recent weeks that delivering tanks and other advanced weapons to Ukraine risks triggering nuclear war, Scholz was under pressure to justify the policy reversal to the German people.

US Diplomats in Kyiv for Ceremonies

Charge d’Affaires Kristina Kvien led a team of US diplomats that traveled to Kyiv for ceremonies to mark the anniversary of the Allied victory over Nazi Germany in World War 2, a senior State Department official said. 

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba that the return of the US diplomats is a testament to Ukraine’s success in its war with Russia, according to the official. 

The move stops short of reopening the embassy in Kyiv. The US initially moved its diplomats to the western Ukrainian city of Lviv in the days leading up to Russia’s invasion, and then operated from Poland. Diplomats last month started making day-trips into Lviv. 

Norway’s Gharahkhani Meets With Zelensky 

Ukraine’s president met with Masud Gharahkhani, president of Norway’s parliament, thanking the Norwegian people for their support and for weapons donations. The pair discussed cooperation in energy security and ways to strengthen sanctions against Russia. Zelensky invited Norway to join the effort to restore Ukraine after the war.

Ukraine Foreign Minister Says New US Sanctions Coming 

Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba foreshadowed additional US sanctions on Russia in a tweet. “New stiff US sanctions are coming,” Kuleba said, without elaborating. 

Kuleba said that he and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed “ways to unblock Ukraine’s food exports,” which have been hampered by Russian blockades of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports. 




Senior Russian Infrastructure Official Visits Mariupol 

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin, whose portfolio includes construction, visited occupied areas of Ukraine including the recently captured city of Mariupol, according to a statement posted to his Telegram channel. 

Khusnullin, who was sanctioned by the European Union in February for his role in undermining Ukrainian sovereignty, said Russia would help the seized territories rebuild and provide humanitarian support. 

He also met with Denis Pushilin, who heads the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic, and visited the Azovmash plant and Mariupol’s port, according to a video posted on Pushilin’s Telegram channel. 

Canada’s Trudeau in Surprise Visit to Kyiv

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a surprise visit to Kyiv and met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Trudeau’s office said. According to local media reports, Trudeau traveled to Irpin, near Kyiv, where Russian occupying troops have been accused of atrocities against civilians. 

Photos of the visit show Canada’s Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland and Global Affairs Minister Melanie Joly on hand as well. Canada’s CBC News reported that Ottawa has reopened its embassy in Kyiv.  

Jill Biden Crosses Into Ukraine From Slovakia, Meets Zelenska 

US first lady Jill Biden crossed into western Ukraine from Slovakia for an unannounced visit and met with Ukrainian counterpart Olena Zelenska. Biden’s motorcade drove through the town of Uzhorod to a public school now being used as temporary housing for displaced Ukrainians. 

Zelenska hasn’t appeared in public since Feb. 24, the day of Russia’s invasion, a US official said. She and Biden exchanged hugs, and the US first lady presented the Ukrainian with flowers. 

“I wanted to come on Mother’s Day. I thought it was important to show the Ukrainian people that this war has to stop and this war has been brutal and that the people of the United States stand with the people of Ukraine,” Biden said. Speaking in Ukrainian, Zelenska praised Biden for her courage.  

Vitol Says It’ll Get Harder to Trade Russian Oil From Mid-May 

Commodity firms will find it much harder to buy and sell Russian oil from the middle of this month, according to the world’s biggest independent crude trader, as Europe tightens sanctions on Moscow. 

Russia’s exports of crude and oil products have probably dropped by about 1 million barrels a day from 7.5 million before the attack in late February, Mike Muller, head of Asia at Vitol Group, said Sunday. They could fall further after May 15, he said, because many trading houses interpret EU regulations as prohibiting them from dealing with Russian state energy companies beyond then. “There will be a “different reality.”

U2’s Bono, The Edge Perform in Kyiv Metro 

Bono and the Edge, members of Irish rock band U2, performed in a Kyiv metro station on Sunday at the invitation of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a “show of solidarity with the Ukrainian people”, the band said on Twitter.  

In a video posted by Ukrainian politician Serhiy Leshchenko, the pair were seen with Taras Topolia, frontman of the local band Antytila, performing the Ben E King standard, “Stand by Me”.

Hungary Continues to Block EU Oil Sanctions Against Russia 

Hungary continued to block a European Union proposal that would ban Russian oil imports, holding up the bloc’s package of sanctions meant to target President Vladimir Putin over his war in Ukraine, according to people familiar with the talks. 

A meeting of the EU’s 27 ambassadors ended on Sunday without an agreement, with talks expected to resume in the coming days, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the discussions were private. 

The EU had been pushing to have the process concluded by Russia’s Victory Day military parade on Monday, at which Putin is expected to speak about the invasion of Ukraine. 




EU Tries to Finalise Russia Oil Sanctions Plan Before G7 Call 

Current proposals would see Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic granted extra time for compliance. Croatia has also indicated it wants more time. Other countries would phase out imports by the end of 2022, with imports of crude to halt in six months and refined petroleum products in eight.

The Russian oil ban wouldn’t affect purchases and shipments that originate in other countries and transit through Russia, as long as they don’t lead to sanctions being circumvented. 

The EU’s sanction package, which requires the backing of all 27 member states, would also see more banks cut off the Swift system and restrictions on purchasing property in the EU and providing consulting services to Russian companies. 

G-7 Leaders to Discuss More Russia Sanctions 

Zelensky Tells Fox Some Countries Trying to Buy Stolen Grain

President Volodymyr Zelensky says some countries are attempting to buy grain taken from Ukraine by Russia. His comments to Fox News came days after Ukraine’s Ministry of Agriculture said that farmers have reported Russians in occupied territory “stealing their grain en masse”. 

“I don’t want to name specific countries who behind our backs are making deals to buy our grain from Russia,” Zelensky told Fox News. “If they will do it, of course we’ll tell.” 

The United Nations World Food Programme has called for the urgent reopening of Ukraine’s grain export ports, which have been shut by Russian blockades.  

German Bundestag President Visits Kyiv

Germany’s Baerbal Bas is in Kyiv on Sunday to take part in World War 2 commemorations and to meet with Ukraine’s president, the DPA news agency reported. 

The second-highest representative in Germany after President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Bas becomes the highest-ranked German official to visit Ukraine since Russia’s invasion in February. 

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock will visit on Tuesday, according to Germany media reports: Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said Baerbock will make the trip “soon.”

Zelensky Marks Ukraine’s Day of Remembrance in Video 

Volodymyr Zelensky released a 15-minute video to mark Ukraine’s Day of Remembrance and Reconciliation. The black-and-white footage shows the president speaking in front of a bombed-out apartment building in Borodyanka, northwest of Kyiv.

Ukraine’s president mused on the post-World War 2 vow of “never again”, saying that decades later, “darkness returned” to Ukraine “in a different uniform, under different slogans, but for the same purpose”.  

“All nations who have been branded ‘third-class’, slaves without the right to their own state or to exist at all, hear statements that exalt one nation and erase others with ease,” he said. “They claim that you don’t really exist, you are artificially created, and therefore you have no rights.” 

“We will overcome everything. We know this for sure, because our military and all our people are descendants of those who overcame Nazism. So we will win again. And there will be peace again. Finally again!”

Official Says Many Feared Dead in School Shelter Bombing 

As many as 60 people may have died in a Russian strike on a school in Bilohorivka, a village in the Luhansk area, according to regional head Serhiy Haiday on Telegram. 

Russian forces on Saturday bombed a school building where most residents of the village had been sheltering, he said earlier. About 30 people were rescued from within the rubble and two were found dead. The final number of victims will be known once the debris is cleared, Haiday said.




Ukraine’s Counteroffensive Said to Make Progress Near Kharkiv

Pushback from Kyiv’s forces northeast of Kharkiv “is making significant progress and will likely advance to the Russian border in the coming days or weeks”, according to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW). 

The US-based think-tank said the offensive “likely intends to push Russian artillery away from Kharkiv city and drive to the border” of Belgorod oblast in Russia. 

Moscow’s forces may be conducting a limited withdrawal in the face of successful Ukrainian attacks, and reportedly destroyed three bridges to slow Ukraine’s advance, ISW said, adding, “Armies generally only destroy bridges if they have largely decided they will not attempt to cross the river in the other direction anytime soon.”

UK Pledges 1.3-Billion Pounds of Aid to Ukraine

The UK will provide an additional 1.3-billion pounds ($1.6 billion) in military support to Ukraine, adding to earlier commitments of 1.5-billion pounds to assist in its war against Russia, Press Association (PA) reported. 

The funding includes the 300 million pounds of military equipment announced earlier this week by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and will be drawn from the UK’s reserves, PA said. That marks the highest rate of U.K. military spending on a conflict since the height of the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the report.

Still Trying to Get Fighters Out of Mariupol, Zelensky Says 

Ukraine is still working to extricate its fighters from the besieged steel mill in Mariupol after humanitarian aid agencies helped evacuate 300 women and children, President Volodymyr Zelensky said Saturday.

“It is extremely difficult, but we’re not losing hope,” he said in his nightly video address. “Now we are preparing the second phase of evacuation mission – the wounded and healthcare workers.” He thanked the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations for helping with the first phase.

On Friday, Zelensky said “influential states” are involved in mediation to free armed defenders holding out at the Azovstal complex. DM


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