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Ukraine abandons defense of besieged steel plant

Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Anna Malyar said on May 16 that 53 seriously wounded soldiers were evacuated to Russian-occupied Novoazovsk. (Video: Reuters, Photo: Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)
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The fate of hundreds of Ukrainian fighters who had held off Russian forces for weeks at a Mariupol steel plant remained uncertain Tuesday, after Ukraine announced a negotiated surrender that allowed the soldiers to be evacuated into Russian-held territory, potentially ending the bloody and drawn-out battle for complete control of the southeastern port city.

Ukrainian soldiers remained at the Azovstal Iron and Steel Works facility, but it was not clear how many; President Volodymyr Zelensky said late Tuesday that “the evacuation mission continues.” Ukrainian officials say they will negotiate a prisoner swap with Moscow to secure the release of the roughly 260 soldiers already taken to Russian territory. The Kremlin signaled that it may interrogate them.

Meanwhile, the foreign ministers of Sweden and Finland signed their countries’ applications to join NATO, bringing the Nordic neighbors a step closer to membership. Both are expected to submit their applications this week, marking what would be a significant expansion of the military alliance that Russia has long sought to weaken.

Here’s what else to know

  • Switzerland, with its deep-rooted tradition of neutrality, is considering options to bolster its security amid the war in Ukraine that could bring the country closer to NATO, according to Reuters.
  • President Biden will welcome Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Finnish President Sauli Niinisto to the White House on Thursday.
  • Attacks continued in other parts of Ukraine, with the regional governor of Lviv saying early Tuesday that Russian forces shelled a military facility near the border with Poland. Lviv’s mayor, Andriy Sadovyi, said the assault was “one of the largest” on the Lviv region “in terms of the number of missiles.”
  • The Washington Post has lifted its paywall for readers in Russia and Ukraine. Telegram users can subscribe to our channel.
9:17 p.m.
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In his nightly video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russian missile strikes across the country on Tuesday were an attempt to “compensate for a series of failures in the east and south of our country.” Although the Russian offensive has been stalled in the Donbas region, Moscow secured a victory in Mariupol on Monday, when Ukraine ended its defense of the ruined steel plant.Zelensky said that “the evacuation mission continues” at the facility and that the “most influential international mediators are involved.” He said he spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday about the negotiation process.