Germany and the EU continue to put pressure on former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder because of ties with Rosneft, the UN is again sounding the alarm because of the global food crisis, and Russia is blocking the entire Black Sea coast and is going to leave Finland without its gas.
Meanwhile, the Western media is again reporting on the deteriorating health of bloodthirsty dictator Vladimir Putin, and the United States is preparing to hand over anti-ship missiles to Ukraine.
Pressure on Schröder over Rosneft
The Washington Post reports that former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder is facing pressure from his party, as well as from the EU, to step down from his board position at Russian state-owned energy giant Rosneft.
Schröder has headed the board of directors at Rosneft since 2017, earning $600,000 a year. He remains the head of the Nord Stream shareholders' committee, where he earns about $270,000 a year.
According to a representative of the German Green Party, on May 20, Schröder was stripped of the office and staff.
In addition, the European Parliament's Committee on Budgets is enacting a new provision on benefits the former chancellors are entitled to — this refers to the privileges in the amount of more than 400,000 euros. The draft resolution urgently demands Schröder to resign from Rosneft.
Markus Ferber, one of the lawmakers who drafted the resolution, told Reuters that holding a senior position at a major state-controlled company means Schröder is "de facto closely cooperating with Russia."
Schröder is also required not to join the board of directors of Gazprom. Ferber has previously advocated that Schröder be added to the sanctions list and that the assets of the former German leader be frozen.
In a recent interview with the New York Times, Schröder called Russia’s war and said that killings of Ukrainian civilians in Bucha should be investigated. But he refused to renounce his friendship with Vladimir Putin and assured that the bloodshed in Bucha was not ordered by the Russian leader.
Skulls instead wheat kernels: UN sounds alarm again
The BBC, citing The Economist, reports that Russia's invasion of Ukraine could cause a global food crisis that may last for years. This warning was made by the United Nations.
The war has cut off supplies from Ukraine's ports, which once exported vast amounts of cooking oil as well as cereals such as maize and wheat.
This has reduced global supplies and caused the price of alternatives to soar, with food prices worldwide almost 30% higher than the same time in 2021, according to the UN.
The high cost of staple foods has already raised the number of people who cannot be sure of getting enough to eat by 440m to 1.6bn, with nearly 250m on the brink of famine.
Russia has staged a blockade all along Ukraine's Black Sea coast and millions of tonnes of grain has not been able to leave.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned the only effective solution to the crisis is reintegrating Ukraine's food production, as well as fertilizer produced by both Russia and Belarus, back into the global market.
To emphasize this point the magazine's striking front cover has replaced wheat kernels with skulls.
Russia to leave Finland without its gas
The Guardian reports that Russia will cut off gas supplies to Finland on the morning of May 21st.
As Finnish state-owned gas wholesaler Gasum informs, it has refused to pay Gazprom Export in roubles. The company will continue to supply gas to customers in Finland from other sources through the Balticconnector pipeline.
Gasum CEO, Mika Wiljanen, described the news as "regrettable" and sought to reassure customers that there would be enough gas in the coming months:
"We have been carefully preparing for this situation and provided that there will be no disruptions in the gas transmission network, we will be able to supply all our customers with gas in the coming months."
Putin's health is deteriorating
Steele, who wrote a dossier on Donald Trump and Moscow's alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. elections, had earlier stated that the Russian leader was "quite seriously ill", although the "exact details" of what ailed him are not known.
The latest remarks come amid mounting speculation on the Russian president’s allegedly deteriorating health and rumours that he is suffering from cancer.
Steele also claimed that Putin’s key meetings have to be divided into sections so that the president can take breaks between them.
"Meetings of the security council that are shown to supposedly last for a whole hour are actually broken up into several sections... he goes out and receives some kind of medical treatment between those sections."
At the same time, it is not clear how terminally ill or incurable Putin is, the former spy said.
Earlier it was reported that the bloodthirsty dictator is "ill with blood cancer." The unnamed Russian oligarch alleged that Mr Putin had surgery on his back linked to his blood cancer shortly before the invasion on 24 February.
"There’s increasing disarray in the Kremlin and chaos in fact, that there’s no clear political leadership, and that in the military’s terms the structures of command and so on are not functioning as they should," Steele says.
U.S. may hand over advanced missiles to Ukraine
Reuters reports that the White House is working to put advanced anti-ship missiles into the hands of Ukrainian fighters.
The White House is working to put advanced anti-ship missiles in the hands of Ukrainian fighters.
This will help defeat Russia's naval blockade. The announcement came amid amid concerns more powerful weapons that could sink Russian warships would intensify the conflict.
Ukraine has made no secret it wants more advanced U.S. capabilities: Kyiv's list, for example, includes missiles that could push the Russian navy away from its Black Sea ports.
This is what will allow the restart of shipments of grain worldwide. Three U.S. officials and two congressional sources said two types of powerful anti-ship missiles, the Harpoon made by Boeing and the Naval Strike Missile made by Kongsberg and Raytheon Technologies were in active consideration.
In April, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appealed to Portugal to provide the Ukrainian military with Harpoons, which have a range of up to almost 300 km.
But there is a problem, in particular, limited availability of platforms to launch Harpoons from shore, as it is mostly a sea-based missile.
The United States is working on potential solutions that include pulling a launcher off of a U.S. ship. Both missiles cost about $1.5 million per round.
Sinking Russian fleet
About 20 Russian Navy vessels, including submarines, are in the Black Sea operational zone, the British defense ministry has said.
Bryan Clark, a naval expert, said 12 to 24 anti-ship missiles like the Harpoon with ranges over 100 km would be enough to threaten Russian ships and could convince Moscow to lift the blockade.
"If Putin persists, Ukraine could take out the largest Russian ships, since they have nowhere to hide in the Black Sea," Clark said.
A handful of countries would be willing to send Harpoons to Ukraine, the U.S. officials and the congressional sources said. But no one wants to be the first or only nation to do so, fearing reprisals from Russia.
The U.S. official said one country is considering being the first to supply the missile to Ukraine. Once that "well stocked" nation commits to sending Harpoons, others might follow, the official said.
What Kyiv may get
The Naval Strike Missile (NSM) can be launched from the Ukrainian coast and has a range of 250 km. It also takes less than 14 days training to operate.
The NSMs are viewed as less logistically difficult than Harpoons, because NATO allies could loan mobile ground launchers which are available, and warheads from Norway.
The congressional sources said another option would be for Norway to donate NSMs to Ukraine, an idea supported by Norwegian members of parliament.
Another weapon high on Ukraine's shopping list are Multiple Rocket Launch Systems (MLRS) such as the M270 made by Lockheed Martin which can strike a target 70 or more kilometers away.
In recent weeks, the Biden administration decided to send M777 towed howitzers.
The two U.S. officials said the M270 or similar system like the M142 HIMARS would be considered for shipment to Ukraine once Congress passed a $40 billion supplemental funding bill, which had already happened.
Instead of an afterword. The pressure on Schröder in the EU in Germany itself symbolizes that Western Europe is gradually moving away from the narratives about maintaining friendship with the Russian Federation and saving "Putin’s face", as was suggested to Vladimir Zelenskyy.
At the same time, tresuming supplies of grain and other products from Ukraine is possible only if Kyiv gets serious anti-ship weapons to unblock the Black Sea coast. As for Putin's health, it has only a mediocre impact on the global course of the war, because the Russian army could not boast of serious organization before, despite the strict hierarchy.
The main question remains how long the Western countries will be a pushover for Putin’s blackmail, including the proposal to unblock part of the sanctions in exchange for the passage of grain or the requirement to buy gas for rubles.
Obviously, it's time for the whole world to come to the conclusion that feeding a tyrant with handouts in the hope that he will fulfill at least one promise and become kinder has never worked and still does not work.