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Putin made ‘big strategic mistake,’ NATO chief says

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on May 23 that 87 people were killed after strikes in Desna on May 17. (Video: Telegram)
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Russian President Vladimir Putin “made a big strategic mistake” in invading Ukraine, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Tuesday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, as the war reached its three-month mark with no end in sight. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen accused Russia of “trying to trample the aspirations of an entire nation with tanks.”

Meanwhile, the European Union is facing a continued hurdle in its bid to phase out imports of Russian oil: Hungary is not yet on board. Concerns from Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban were outlined in a letter to European Council President Charles Michel, according to an E.U. official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters. And in an interview in Davos, von der Leyen told Politico there was no guarantee of a deal next week, when there will be a special European Council session in Brussels.

As the war continues, Russia has increased the intensity of its operations in Donbas, seeking to surround the cities of Severodonetsk, Lysychansk and Rubizhne, the British Defense Ministry said Tuesday, adding that capturing Severodonetsk could give Russia control over the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine. A regional official said Severodonetsk remains under Ukrainian control but is being pummeled mercilessly by nearby Russian forces that are “destroying the city completely.”

Here’s what else to know

  • Von der Leyen accused Russia of “hoarding its own food exports as a form of blackmail,” and said the best response is “global cooperation” to get grain out of Ukraine and diversify global supply.
  • More than 2 million Ukrainians have crossed back into the country since Feb. 28, border authorities said.
  • European energy companies appear to have bent to Putin’s demand on purchasing natural gas using an elaborate new payment system, a move that gives Putin a public relations victory while continuing to fund his war effort in Ukraine.
  • Ukraine’s prosecutor general has opened more than 13,000 investigations into cases of suspected Russian war crimes. The first war crimes trial in Ukraine concluded with the sentencing of a Russian soldier to life in prison.
  • The Washington Post has lifted its paywall for readers in Russia and Ukraine. Telegram users can subscribe to our channel.