For days, Vereshchuk, with the help of the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross, has been trying to talk to the Russian side about a possible way out for the Ukrainian troops holed up in the steelworks in the port city of Mariupol. “But negotiations with the enemy are extremely difficult,” she said. “The result may not please everyone, but our task is to evacuate our soldiers. All of them. Alive,” she writes in an online post.

In the meantime, Turkey has also become involved in the negotiations for the defenders of Azovstal. The Russian military has so far refused any concessions and is demanding the surrender of the Ukrainians entrenched in Azovstal. According to inaccurate estimates, around 1,000 Ukrainian soldiers are still in the sprawling plant, many of them wounded. The majority of them belong to the “Azov” regiment, which Russians classify as nationalist and right-wing extremist. (AP, Reuters)

Amid Western sanctions over the military offensive in Ukraine, Russia’s inflation has soared to its highest level in two decades. The annual inflation rate reached 17.8 percent in April, the Russian statistics agency Rosstat announced on Friday. In the case of food prices, the rate of inflation was even 20.5 percent. The development is a cause for concern, especially for low-income households. (AFP)

Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz visited the German-Ukrainian association “Blau-Gelbes Kreuz” in Cologne and paid tribute to its help for people in Ukraine and for refugees in Germany. “This is a very moving activity here,” he told journalists after his visit. It is a “great voluntary commitment” that is carried out with “incredible professionalism”.

The organization – only founded in 2017 – supplies, among other things, refugees in Cologne and takes care of the transport of relief supplies. One project of the association is to send so-called baby boxes for expectant mothers to the Ukraine. But he also initiated a solidarity rally, for example, where teddy bears with the names of children who died in the Ukraine war were laid down. (dpa)

The breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia has announced a referendum on joining the Russian Federation for July 17.

The region’s president, Anatoly Bibilov, signed a corresponding decree on Friday, his office said. Russia officially recognized the independence of the pro-Russian separatist region and neighboring Abkhazia in August 2008 after a brief military conflict with Georgia. (AFP)

According to Western experts, the Russian troops are making little progress in their offensive in the Ukrainian Donbass region and must expect even stronger resistance in the future.

Russian territorial gains were mostly limited to just one or two kilometers, an expert told journalists on Friday. The Ukrainians are also very good at immediately launching counterattacks, so the front line often shifts back and forth.

So far mostly only villages and smaller settlements have been conquered. In larger cities like Kramatorsk, the Russians would have to reckon with even more heavily fortified defense structures, the experts continue. For larger-scale counter-offensives, however, the Ukrainians are dependent on further arms deliveries from the West. (dpa)