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Zelensky denies the fall of Bakhmut: spokesperson

PREVIEW Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky denies claims that the city of Bakhmut has fallen to Russian forces, his spokesperson Sergiy Nykyforov said Sunday.

“I think no,” Zelensky told reporters, when asked both whether he thinks the city is still in Kyiv’s control and about claims Russia captured the city. 

His office later clarified to CNN the president was referring to Russian claims to have taken the city.

“The president has denied Bakhmut has been taken over,” Nykyforov said.

“There is nothing. They destroyed everything. There are no buildings. It’s a pity, it’s a tragedy, but for today Bakhmut is only in our hearts,” Zelensky said, speaking alongside US President Joe Biden in Hiroshima ahead of a one-on-one meeting.

Zelensky thanked the Ukrainian “defenders” of Bakhmut, saying “we appreciate them for their great job.”

Zelensky thanks Biden for new aid package

Zelensky and Biden shake hands in Hiroshima on Sunday.
Zelensky and Biden shake hands in Hiroshima on Sunday. Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Reuters

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked President Biden Sunday for the “powerful” financial assistance provided by the US, which totals $37 billion, and for the new military assistance package, according to a readout from the president’s office.

“A huge gratitude from our people. I am glad that we have such strong relations,” Zelensky said, adding, “We discussed further cooperation to bolster the defense capabilities of our country.”

Biden earlier announced the military assistance package, worth $375 million, which includes include ammunition, artillery and vehicles, as he met with Zelensky in Japan at the G7 summit in Japan.

“The United States continues to do all we can to strengthen Ukraine’s ability to defend itself,” Biden said, citing his recent decision to allow F16 fighter jets to go to Ukraine and to train Ukrainian pilots on the aircraft in the United States.

Biden said new sanctions on Russia would “ensure that we keep pressure on Putin to hold his backers accountable.”

G7 strives to bring ‘just and lasting peace’ to Ukraine as soon as possible, says Japanese PM

The Group of Seven nations strives to bring “just and lasting peace to Ukraine as soon as possible,” Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on Sunday, following talks between G7 leaders and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Hiroshima.

Kishida said the summit was held in the midst of “challenges to principles that our predecessors had forged and defended over the years,” including respect for sovereignties and territorial integrity, and that inviting Zelensky showed the “unwavering solidarity” between the G7 and Ukraine.

The Japanese prime minister, who hosted the event, also highlighted the multiple crises facing the global community, including climate change and the pandemic, as well as the impacts of the war in Ukraine.

“If we do not show a willingness to listen to the voices of countries and people and cooperate on a wide range of urgent issues, our claim to uphold a free and open international order based on the rule of law could become futile,” Kishida said in his remarks.

Kishida also highlighted an action plan endorsed by G7 leaders to work toward global nuclear disarmament.

The document, known as the Hiroshima Vision on Nuclear Disarmament, is of “historical significance,” Kishida said.

Ukrainian forces continue to hold areas of Bakhmut, Armed Forces spokesperson says

An armored infantry carrier is seen driving to the front line south of Bakhmut on May 17,
An armored infantry carrier is seen driving to the front line south of Bakhmut on May 17, Vincenzo Circosta/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Ukraine’s Armed Forces (AFU) said Sunday it continues to hold a number of buildings in the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, after Russia’s Wagner group claimed to have taken the city Saturday.

“We have strong holds in the southwestern part of the city. Our units are in the city. We continue efforts to counterattack the enemy,” Serhii Cherevatyi, spokesperson for the eastern grouping of the Ukrainian Armed Forces told CNN.

Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar also reiterated Sunday that Ukrainian forces were holding the defense, posting on Telegram that the “enemy failed to encircle and they lost some of the dominant heights around the city.”

She said Ukrainian forces were still making advances in the suburbs around the city, which “makes it very difficult for the enemy to remain in Bakhmut.”

“Our defenders retain control over industrial and infrastructure facilities and the private sector of Bakhmut in the ‘Airplane’ district,” Maliar said.

CNN cannot independently verify these battlefield claims.

“We dream of peace after our victory,” Zelensky tells G7

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said what he has seen in Hiroshima, Japan, is similar to “the ruins of [Ukrainian] cities which have been burned to the ground by Russian bombs and artillery.”

Speaking during a news conference at the Group of Seven (G7) summit on Sunday, he said Hiroshima is now a rebuilt city and Ukrainians “dream of rebuilding all our cities that are now in ruins, and every village where not a single house is left intact after Russian strikes.”

“We dream of returning our territories, just as we have regained our northern territories which were occupied by Russia. We must regain our eastern and southern territories of Ukraine.

“We dream of returning our people who are now in Russian captivity. These are prisoners of war and civilians, deported adults and also abducted children. We dream of winning, we dream of peace after our victory,” Zelensky said.

Some context: G7 talks culminated Sunday with a series of dramatic, in-person appeals from Zelensky as he pressed leaders gathered in Japan to remain united against Russian aggression.

Zelensky’s decision to travel halfway across the world to deliver his entreaties to the world’s major industrial democracies in person underscored both the unity and the uncertainty leaders find themselves in fourteen months since Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine began.

“Our soldiers are in Bakhmut,” Zelensky says

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has again denied that Bakhmut is occupied by Russia, saying Ukrainian soldiers remain in the city.

“We are keeping on, we are fighting,” Zelensky said at a news conference at the G7 in Japan.

“I clearly understand what is happening in Bakhmut. I can’t share the tactics of the military, but a country even bigger than ours cannot defeat us. A little time will pass and we will be winning. Today our soldiers are in Bakhmut. I will not share the locations,” Zelensky said.

“Bakhmut is not occupied by Russian Federation as of today. There are no two or three interpretations of those words,” he added.

There are conflicting reports about who controls Bakhmut and CNN is unable to independently verify battlefield claims.

Zelensky’s comments come after Russia’s Wagner mercenary group on Saturday claimed to have finally taken the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, the scene of bitter fighting for months.

Hiroshima reminds me of Bakhmut, Zelensky tells G7

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the pictures of ruined Hiroshima he saw on his visit to the Japanese city “really remind” him of the embattled eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, and other similar settlements or towns.

“Just the same, nothing alive left, all of the buildings have been ruined,” Zelensky said at a news conference.

The city, which Ukraine denies Russia controls, has seen some of the most brutal fighting of the conflict.

Zelensky says would like Japan and South Korea to send lethal weapons

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he would like Japan and South Korea to provide lethal weapons to Ukraine but he understands “there are legislative and constitutional difficulties”.

He said regarding diplomatic pressure on Russia and certain formats of diplomatic resolution of the war in Ukraine “the key is respect for the UN Charter and international law”.

“Russia has no chance for any diplomatic paths as long as its troops are on our territory in violation of our territorial integrity and sovereignty,” he told a news conference at the G7 summit in Japan.
“We all understand that no one will have anything to do with Russia as long as its troops are on the territory of Ukraine.”

Zelensky made the comments as part of a series of in-person appeals to fellow leaders gathered in Japan to remain united against Russian aggression.

Eurovision 2023: Royal themes and unicorns in first semi-final

Noa Kirel of Israel (C) performs with dancers during a rehearsal for the 67th annual Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) at the M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool, Britain, 08 May 2023

After months of planning it’s finally here – the world’s biggest music event kicks off in Liverpool later with the first semi-final of the Eurovision Song Contest.

Fifteen countries will compete for 10 places in Saturday night’s grand final.

Tuesday night’s show, hosted by Alesha Dixon, Hannah Waddingham and Ukrainian singer Julia Sanina, will be broadcast live on BBC One from 20:00 BST.

It will be down to viewers to decide whose choreography was on point, who could hit the high whistle notes, and which costume caught the eye.

The second semi-final takes place at the Liverpool M&S Bank Arena on Thursday.

As it happened: Eurovision Song Contest first Semi-Final

Ukraine qualify for the final after Kalush Orchestra won last year. France, Spain, Germany, Italy and the UK are also through because they pay more to organisers, the EBU.

What to look out for

Some of the biggest hitters in the competition perform tonight, including two of the favourites to win the whole contest – Finland and Sweden.

With it generally being considered the stronger of the two preliminary stages this year, there is a real risk of a shock elimination.

Image caption,

Fans will be keeping an eye out for Loreen’s striking staging

There’s a lot of talk about Swedish act Loreen this year, the bookies’ favourite. She won in 2012 with her track Euphoria and wants to become the first woman to win twice. This time she’s singing Tattoo.

Image caption,

Käärijä’s Cha Cha Cha is a great song to run to

Also looking for a spot in the final is Finnish rapper Käärijä, who says he views her as his main competition – could they set up a battle of the Nordic nations for the final?

But it’s Let 3 from Croatia who will no doubt have viewers staring at the screen wide-eyed, when the band strip down to their underwear as missile props join them on stage.

For slick dance moves, strong vocals, and a new word, “femininal” stay tuned for Israel‘s Noa Kirel and her track, Unicorn.

Eurovision 2023: Fans ‘already in love with Liverpool’

Eurovision fans are flocking from across Europe and beyond to join locals in Liverpool as the city hosts this year’s song contest.

Irish Eurovision fans Sinead Quinlan (left) and Eve O'Mahony in Liverpool

Friends Sinead Quinlan (left) and Eve O’Mahony, from Cork in Ireland, normally enjoy Eurovision on TV together. “We watch it every year at each other’s house,” Sinead says.

When Liverpool was named as host city, Sinead got tickets for the public rehearsals. But Eve now lives in Australia. “When I found I was coming here I was like, I can’t go without Eve.

“But she came over to surprise me for my birthday. She arrived last night. I was bawling crying, of course.”

The pair now are in the city for the whole week. “I think it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Eve adds.

French Eurovision fans Jean-Michel Juiot (left) and Jerome Dubois in Liverpool

“We love the city, it’s very friendly,” says Jerome Dubois (right), from Lot in France, who is having the full Eurovision experience over 10 days. “The accent is very strong, though,” he adds with a smile.

He has already immersed himself in local culture by going to nightclub institution Bingo Lingo, and has tickets for all three live shows, including the final.

That comes at a cost. The hotels, he says, are “very expensive”, explaining: “I have a Travelodge. Normally it’s about £35, and now it’s about £200. And it’s quite basic.”

But it’s worth it. “There’s loads of stuff to do. It’s very well organised,” he says. “In Turin [in 2022], the organisation was not so great. So no problem at all. We love it.”

Ukrainian Eurovision fans Liliia (left) and Serhii outside Liverpool's M&S Bank Arena

Flags and symbols of Ukraine are a common sight in Liverpool. The country should have hosted this year’s contest after winning last time, but was unable to because of the Russian invasion.

Serhii (right), 25 is originally from the city of Kryvyi Rih, in central Ukraine, and moved to London when the war started. He has now come to Liverpool.

“I’ve been here just for a couple of hours,” he says. “But from first sight I see many Ukrainian colours.”

Liverpool has said it is hosting the show on behalf of Ukraine. “We consider your country and your people as our friends so we believe we can share this event,” Serhii says.

Sharp family from Liverpool in homemade Beatles Sgt Pepper-style costumes in Liverpool

When the Sharp family from Liverpool got tickets for the first semi-final rehearsal, they wanted to make an effort. They thought about dressing as Eurovision legends Abba, but instead decided to form their own Sgt Pepper’s band.

Elaine Sharp (in green) made outfits for the family – a Fab Five including nine-month-old granddaughter Evelyn.

“We want to represent our city, that’s why we’re The Beatles,” she says.

It’s “great” that Liverpool is hosting, she says. “It’s a shame it can’t be you in Ukraine. But we’re very pleased to host it on their behalf.”

Australian Eurovision fans Michelle (left) and Sharon Stevenson in the Liverpool fan village

Michelle Stevenson (left) and wife Sharon normally host a party – which starts at 5am at their home on the Central Coast in Australia.

But this year they have come to Liverpool. “We love Eurovision,” Michelle says. “We have always been Eurovision fans.

“It’s the inclusivity. No matter what country you’re from, you just absorb it all, you appreciate every other country. There is never any bad feeling.”

Quoting this year’s slogan, she adds: “It’s such a positive thing and to be united by music is just fabulous.”


When Malta’s Eurovision group The Busker stepped on stage in the first semi-final on Tuesday, there was one particularly proud spectator in Liverpool’s arena – singer David Jr Meilak’s mum Jane.

She wasn’t a huge fan of the contest before. “My husband and son and one of my daughters always watch it together.

“I’m in the kitchen or somewhere around – listening not watching, normally. They were very keen.”

But now David Jr has reached the contest’s stage, she is a lot more interested. “Definitely,” she says, with the country’s flag draped around her shoulders.


“I drove from Croatia and I definitely always wanted to see Liverpool,” says Slavko Svagelj, soaking up the sun and atmosphere in his sequined black top in the fan village.

“I heard the best things about it, The Beatles come from here, and it is definitely amazing opportunity to see this place.”

Events so far have been “perfectly organised”, he says. “I’m so happy how people are [here from] all around the world. And the diversity here is stunning. It’s just like happiness.”

British Eurovision fans in costumes in Liverpool

Dressed as half of Jedward, from their 2012 Eurovision appearance, Lizzie Watts (left) from the Wirral – just across the River Mersey – was thrilled when Liverpool was chosen to host.

“It’s just so amazing it’s come to Liverpool because we just never thought this would ever happen,” she says. “I remember thinking, we’re gonna fly wherever it is next. And it was here, and we were just like, yeaaahhhh!”

Liverpool is a good location, she says. “We’re famous for our sense of humour, so the fact that there’s people walking around everywhere dressed mad, I think it just really fits with the city’s vibe.”

Friend Jane O’Neill (third left) adds: “There’s a real buzz about the place. Everyone’s quite excited.”


Alejandro Marin, from Spain, was in the UK for a conference – so decided to take the opportunity to fulfil an ambition.

“It’s my first time at Eurovision and I’m having the time of my life,” he says.

“It’s just like I dreamed. It’s very peaceful, there are a lot of people coming from everywhere with different backgrounds. And it’s a place of acceptance and integrity, and that’s what I like the most.”

Eurovision is about “a feeling of union”, he says. “I have been listening to Eurovision songs for a decade. It’s part of European culture.”


Markku Uotila has been to every Eurovision (except during Covid) since it was in his home country, Finland, in 2007.

How is Liverpool doing as a host city so far? “We are impressed. We arrived last night but we already in love with Liverpool,” he says.

“At first I was like, oh my God the UK is going to arrange it. But actually I’m very happy that you arranged it because it’s such a long time since you have done it.”

Eurovision is a chance to meet up with friends he has made over the years. “It’s like all of Europe coming together. Spring time is always a good time after a long winter, and this is like a spring gathering.”