Russia-Ukraine war: What happened today (May 16)
As Monday draws to a close in Kyiv and in Moscow, here are the key developments of the day:
More than 260 Ukrainian fighters were evacuated from the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, Ukrainian officials said. The troops have sheltered under the plant for weeks, fighting off a Russian siege. Russia said it had agreed to the evacuation of wounded Ukrainian fighters from the plant. Reuters reported buses carried Ukrainian fighters out of Mariupol and cited a witness as seeing evacuees arrive in Novoazovsk, an area controlled by Russia-backed separatists. Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said that the soldiers would come home as part of a prisoner exchange. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a video message that international organizations helped negotiate their release — and that "Ukraine needs its heroes alive."
Ukrainian forces continued to gain ground around the northeast city of Kharkiv, pushing Russian troops close to the Russian border, according to the Pentagon. The Ukrainian military previously said Russian troops were pulling back from Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, and the war was entering a new, long-term phase. NATO's secretary-general said Russia was "not achieving its strategic objectives" and Ukraine could win the war. Intense fighting continued in the southern and eastern regions.
Sweden joined Finland in seeking membership in NATO, the trans-Atlantic military alliance. The move changes decades of Finnish policy of neutrality and upends more than two centuries of Swedish policy. Sweden has avoided all military alliances, but like Finland, has also grown closer and closer to NATO over time.
McDonald's is exiting Russia after 32 years, planning to sell its full slate of restaurants to a Russian buyer. The fast-food giant had previously paused its operations in the country days after Russian troops invaded Ukraine in February. Now, McDonald's will start "de-arching" its Russian restaurants — stripping them of its trademark signs, menus and branding to prepare for a sale.
Ukraine's Kalush Orchestra returned home as winners of this weekend's Eurovision Song Contest. The folk-rap group ended their performance with a plea to help Ukraine, Mariupol and Azovstal. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy marked the victory with a vow to one day host Eurovision in the bombed-out city of Mariupol.
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