Ukraine news – live: Putin ‘very ill’, claims oligarch as troops withdraw from Kharkiv

Ukraine military spy chief says war will be over by the end of 2022

Vladimir Putin is “very ill with blood cancer” an oligarch with close ties to the Russian leader was reportedly recorded saying.

A recording obtained by New Lines, a US magazine, featured the unnamed oligarch discussing Putin’s health with a Western venture capitalist in mid-March.

He said the Russian president had to have surgery for blood cancer shortly before ordering the invasion of Ukraine on 24 February.

Mr Putin’s health has been subject to much speculation recently as he appeared frail at Victory Day celebrations on Monday and a video circulated showing him shaking.

Meanwhile, Ukraine drove Russian troops away from Kharkiv, its second-largest city, in the fastest advance since Kremlin forces pulled away from Kyiv and the northeast over a month ago, although Moscow is still bombarding villages north of Kharkiv.

The city has been quiet for at least two weeks and Reuters journalists have confirmed Ukraine now controls territory stretching to the Siverskyi Donets River, around 25 miles to the east.

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Russian site sells art to fund war effort, suspected fakes

A Russian website claims to be selling paintings by famous artists to fund the war in Ukraine – only they appear to be fakes.

The site Art for Victory, by the Terrikon Project, offers a painting attributed to Kandinsky, a Russian abstract painter from the late 19th century, that does not appear in records of his works, according to reports in the German press.

The work, Murnau House on the Hill,allegedly dates to 1909 and is estimated at €8m to €10m (£6.7-£8.5m). It appears similar to Kandinsky’s famous landscapes from the time and the site claims the painting was certified by the Tretyakov Gallery.

However, the Tretyakov has a poor track record for spotting fakes. The gallery was forced to disband its certification unit in 2016 after 96 certified works in its collection were found to have been fakes, according to The Art Newspaper.

The Terrikon Project describes itself as a cryptocurrency fund for Russian-backed separatist fighters in the Donbas.

Below you can see the listed painting followed by Kandinsky’s Houses at Murnau – released in 1909 and certified by the Chicago Institute of Art – for comparison.

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‘Murnau House on the Hill’ listed on Art for Victory

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‘Murnau House on the Hill’ listed on Art for Victory

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<amp-img src="https://static.independent.co.uk/2022/05/14/10/Vasily_kandinsky%2C_case_a_murnau%2C_1909.jpg?quality=75&width=982&height=726&auto=webp" srcset="https://static.independent.co.uk/2022/05/14/10/Vasily_kandinsky%2C_case_a_murnau%2C_1909.jpg?quality=75&width=640&auto=webp&crop=982:726,smart 640w" alt="

‘Housess at Murnau’ by Kandinsky

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‘Housess at Murnau’ by Kandinsky

(Chicago Institute of Art)

Liam James14 May 2022 11:25

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UK sanctions Putin’s ‘shady’ friends and family including alleged mistress

Britain announced more Russian sanctions on Friday, with President Vladimir Putin’s ex-wife, family members and inner circle hit in the latest tranche of measures designed to punish Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said: “We are exposing and targeting the shady network propping up Putin’s luxury lifestyle and tightening the vice on his inner circle.

“We will keep going with sanctions on all those aiding and abetting Putin’s aggression until Ukraine prevails.”

Mr Putin’s official assets are modest, according to the Foreign Office, with his lifestyle “funded by a cabal of family, friends and elites”.

Those newly placed on the sanctions list, which has grown to more than 1,000 individuals and 100 entities, include former first lady of the Russian Federation and ex-wife of Mr Putin, Lyudmila Ocheretnaya.

Liam James14 May 2022 11:00

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‘Look for wires at your feet’: Searching for evidence of war crimes in Ukraine

Isabelle Khurshudyan reports on the forensic investigators sweeping in to search for evidence of Russian war crimes after the fighting stops:

Liam James14 May 2022 10:35

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Ukraine spy chief confident war will end this year

Major General Kyrylo Budanov, the head of Ukraine’s military intelligence, said he was confident the war with Russia would be over by the end of the year.

Speaking to Sky News, he predicted a turning point would be reached in the second half of August and military action would cease in the later months of the year.

Mr Budanov also said Ukraine would take back all territory claimed by Russia including Crimea and parts of the Donbas long held by Russian-backed rebels.

His forecast is optimistic compared with officials from western nations including Britain and the US who have warned the war is likely to last years.

Ukraine military spy chief says war will be over by the end of 2022

Liam James14 May 2022 10:10

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Russia will respond if Nato nuclear weapons deployed near border

Moscow will act if Nato deploys nuclear forces and infrastructure closer to Russia’s border, Russian news agencies quoted Alexander Grushko, the deputy foreign minister, as saying on Saturday.

“It will be necessary to respond … by taking adequate precautionary measures that would ensure the viability of deterrence,” Interfax agency quoted Mr Grushko as saying.

Mr Grushko said Moscow has no hostile intentions towards Finland and Sweden and does not see “real” reasons for those two countries to be joining the Nato alliance.

He also reiterated the Kremlin’s earlier statement that Moscow’s response to Nato’s possible expansion will depend on how close the alliance moves military assets towards Russia and what infrastructure it deploys.

Finland’s plan to apply for Nato membership, announced on Thursday, and the expectation that Sweden will follow, would bring about the expansion of the military alliance that Russian president Vladimir Putin wished to prevent.

Russia said the move would seriously damage relations with the Nordic countries. This morning, Russia’s state electricity company said it was cutting off power to Finland, blaming missed payments.

Liam James14 May 2022 09:45

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Russian forces driven from Kharkiv – Reuters

Ukrainian forces destroyed parts of a Russian armoured column as it tried to cross a river in the Donbas region, video from Ukraine’s military showed on Friday, as Moscow appeared to be refocusing its assault in the east after a new pushback by Kyiv.

Ukraine has driven Russian troops away from the second-largest city of Kharkiv in the fastest advance since Kremlin forces pulled away from Kyiv and the northeast over a month ago, although Moscow is still bombarding villages north of Kharkiv.

Reuters journalists confirmed Ukraine now controls territory stretching to the Siverskyi Donets River, around 25 miles to the east.

Some six miles north of the city, firefighters doused smouldering wreckage in Dergachi after what local officials said was an overnight Russian missile attack on the House of Culture, used to distribute aid. Volunteers inside were trying to salvage packages of baby diapers and formula.

“I can’t call it anything but a terrorist act,” the mayor, Vyacheslav Zadorenko, told Reuters. “They wanted to hit the base where we store provisions and create a humanitarian catastrophe.”

Liam James14 May 2022 09:09

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Putin ‘very ill with blood cancer’, Russian oligarch recorded saying

Vladimir Putin is “very ill with blood cancer” an oligarch with close ties to the Russian leader has reportedly been recorded as saying.

Vladimir Putin is “very ill with blood cancer” an oligarch with close ties to the Russian leader has reportedly been recorded as saying (Thomas Kingsley writes).

The unnamed oligarch was recorded discussing Putin’s health with a Western venture capitalist in mid-March in a recording obtained by New Lines, a US magazine.

The new claims come amid mounting health concerns about the Kremlin leader who has appeared frail at public events including the Victory Day celebrations last week while videos have circulated showing president Putin “shaking uncontrollably.” Publicly the Kremlin has stated that Mr Putin is fit and well but his strict precautions during the pandemic and use of a long table to meet other political leaders have strengthened rumours.

The Russian oligarch says in the recording that Mr Putin had surgery on his back linked to his blood cancer shortly before ordering the invasion of Ukraine – which he has called a “special military operation”. He adds that the president has gone “crazy”.

Liam James14 May 2022 08:28

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Russian dead gathered to be sent home

The bodies of Russian soldiers killed in Ukraine were brought to a rail yard outside Kyiv and stacked with hundreds of others in a refrigerated train, waiting for the time when they can sent back to their families.

“Most of them were brought from the Kyiv region, there are some from Chernihiv region and from some other regions too,” Volodymyr Lyamzin, the chief civil-military liaison officer, told Reuters on Friday as stretcher-bearers in white, head-to-toe protective suits lifted bodybags into the box cars.

He said refrigerated trains stationed in other regions across Ukraine were being used for the same grim purpose.

There have been no reliable estimates of the scale of Russia’s losses but Ukraine puts the death toll at around 25,000, while a Russian soldier was reportedly intercepted complaining that around that number of troops had been lost.

Liam James14 May 2022 08:05

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Russian and US defence ministers speak for first time since invasion

Russian Minister of Defence Sergei Shoigu spoke with US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin on Friday after months of refusing direct contact with his American counterpart. But officials said the call didn’t appear to signal any change in Moscow’s war in Ukraine.

A senior Defence Department official said while Mr Austin believes the hour-long conversation was important in the effort to keep lines of communication open, it didn’t resolve any “acute issues” or lead to any change in what the Russian are doing or saying as the war enters its 12th week.

The call – initiated by Mr Austin – marked the highest level American contact with a Russian official since the war began in late February. Over the past several months, Pentagon officials have repeatedly said that Russian leaders declined to take calls from Austin and Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

This is the first conversation between Mr Austin and Mr Shoigu since 18 February, a week before the war started. Another senior official said Friday that Mr Milley is expected to also reach out to his counterpart, General Valery Gerasimov, Russian chief of the general staff.

In a statement, the Pentagon said Mr Austin “urged an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine and emphasised the importance of maintaining lines of communication.”

Liam James14 May 2022 07:38

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US seeks to clarify Turkey’s stance on Nordic Nato accession

The US will seek to clarify Turkey’s position on Sweden and Finland joining Nato at a meeting this weekend after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested his country would use its veto on membership to block their admission.

US secretary of state Antony Blinken is scheduled to meet his Nato counterparts, including the Turkish foreign minister, this weekend in Germany and White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Washington was trying to establish the basis of Turkey’s attitude.

The Turkish president earlier explained his opposition by citing Sweden and other Scandinavian countries’ alleged support for Kurdish militants and others considered by Turkey to be terrorists.

He said he also did not want to repeat Turkey’s past “mistake” when it agreed to readmit Greece into Nato’s military wing in 1980. He claimed the action had allowed Greece “to take an attitude against Turkey” with Nato’s backing.

Mr Erdogan did not say outright that he would block any accession attempts by the two Nordic nations, but Nato makes all its decisions by consensus, meaning each of the 30 member countries has a potential veto over who can join.

Liam James14 May 2022 07:22

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