African leaders eye peace mission to Ukraine, Russia

Draft EU sanctions proposal cautious about hitting China
A draft proposal for a new package of EU sanctions on Russia says “alternative measures” should be considered before blocking trade with third countries, a document seen by the Reuters news agency read.

The proposal comes after Germany expressed concern last week over any possible future restrictions on trade with China.

The new draft would make sanctioning third countries more difficult after a new paragraph was added saying that before making a proposal to include any third country, alternative measures should also be considered, such as individual listing.Ukrainian official condemns Georgian decision to resume flights to Moscow
Head of Ukraine’s presidential office, Andriy Yermak, slams Georgia’s decision to resume direct flights to Russia from May 20, after Russia lifted a flight ban last week.

On Twitter, Yermak wrote, “Georgia allowed one more airline to operate direct flights to Russia. Georgian Airways, and earlier “Azimuth”. Georgian people constantly show solidarity with Ukraine. We have a common enemy that has been killing Georgians since the ’90s and then in 2008, and since 2014 it has been killing Ukrainians.”

“But some seem to be trying to ignore the rocket attacks on Kyiv, the destroyed Maryinka, those killed in Buch, Irpen, Izyum, the abduction of children … Some seem to have forgotten the tragedy in Gori,” he said.Denmark to strengthen ties with Nordic neighbours amid Russia threat
Denmark says it aims to strengthen ties with other Nordic countries to protect infrastructure and counter Russia’s threat in the Arctic and Baltic Sea region.

Copenhagen called for increased joint military exercises and coordination of defence plans with its Nordic neighbours.

“With Finland’s accession to NATO and Sweden on the way, there is a historic opportunity for us to move closer together in a situation where all the Baltic Sea countries, except Russia, are members of the same defence alliance,” Foreign Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said in a speech.

The strategy also calls for closer diplomatic ties in Moldova, West Balkans and Georgia to counter Russian influence.

Russia undecided on renewing grain deal: Kremlin
Russia says it is still undecided on renewing the Black Sea grain export deal, which is set to expire on May 18.

“There are a lot of unanswered questions regarding our part of the deal. … Now we have to make a decision,” Peskov told reporters.

Russia has repeatedly threatened to withdraw from the deal, saying obstacles remain on its exports of food and fertiliser.

Russia has laid out a list of conditions for it to agree to an extension, including allowing the Russian Agricultural Bank (Rosselkhozbank) to reconnect to Swift, the international electronic payment system.

Turkey, a mediator in the grain export talks, expressed optimism that a deal could be reached. During recent talks in Istanbul, its defence minister, Hulusi Akar, said: “We are heading towards an agreement on the extension of the grain deal.”Putin gives 15th-century icon to Russian Orthodox Church
Putin has decided to hand over The Trinity, a 15th-century painting considered one of the holiest and most artistically important Russian icons, from a museum to the Russian Orthodox Church because of its importance to believers, the Kremlin’s spokesman says.

Andrei Rublyov’s artwork, displayed for nearly a century in the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, is thought to have been painted to honour St Sergius of Radonezh in Sergiyev Posad near Moscow.

The Moscow Patriarchate said in a statement that it would be displayed for a year at Christ the Saviour Cathedral in central Moscow before returning to Sergiyev Posad.

Peskov told reporters: “This concerns a large number of believers in our country, for whom this is a very sacred object. For these, our believers, of course, hiding it in a museum doesn’t fulfil their desire.”

Two people killed in shelling in Kharkiv: Governor
Two people have been killed in Russian shelling in the village of Dvorichna in Kharkiv, the top Ukrainian official in the region says.

“Unfortunately, two civilians – a man and a woman – were killed as a result of artillery shelling in the village of Dvorichna in the Kupyan district,” Governor Oleg Synegubov said on Telegram. “Another man received shrapnel wounds and was hospitalised. Yesterday evening, the enemy massively shelled the city of Vovchansk, Chuguyiv District.

“At least three residential buildings, farm buildings, a local hospital building were damaged, [and] several shells hit an open area. In the village of Tyshchenkovka, Kupyan district, as a result of shelling from multiple rocket launchers, at least four residential buildings and commercial buildings were damaged, and fires broke out.”

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