Russia-Ukraine war latest: ‘heavy battles’ taking place in Sievierodonetsk; Zelenskiy to address EU leaders – live | Ukraine


Two killed as Russian troops enter outskirts of Sievierodonetsk, mayor says

Two civilians have been killed and five wounded by shelling as Russian troops entered the outskirts of the Ukrainian city of Sievierodonetsk, Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Gaidai said in a statement issued early on Monday morning.

Gaidai said “heavy battles” were taking place as Russian troops attack the city with all weapons and air support, and have entered its southeastern and northeastern areas.

The enemy has used all possible weapons, uses aircraft. However, our military is firmly defending itself to prevent the enemy from entering the country.

Russian shells killed two Severodon residents and wounded five others. Most of them are residents of one block in the old part of the city. They were preparing food in the yard when the shelling suddenly started. Two residents of Sirotyn were seriously injured. All the wounded received home care and are already in hospitals in Donetsk region.

Overnight, at least 12 houses were destroyed in Sievierodonetsk and 18 in neighbouring Lysychansk, he added.

Russian forces are transferring ammunition and equipment in large numbers to the Sievierodonetsk area, the mayor said.

In its most recent operational update as of 6am this morning, Ukraine’s military appeared to confirm that Russian troops were focusing on the city’s northeastern and southeastern outskirts.

European Union members should be able to reach an agreement on a new sanctions package against Russia, including imposing restrictions on Russian oil imports, during talks being held by officials, according to EU top diplomat Josep Borrell.

Reuters reports he told broadcaster France Info: “We need to decide unanimously. There were tough talks yesterday afternoon, as well as this morning. I think that this afternoon, we will be able to offer to the heads of the member states an agreement.”

European Union governments failed to reach an agreement on an embargo on Russian oil on Sunday as they seek to prepare an agreement in time for an EU summit on Monday afternoon.

Asked if plans to include a ban to import Russian oil could fail over the resistance from Hungary and other eastern European states, Borrell said: “No, I don’t think so … there will be an agreement in the end.”

A proposal under discussion among EU countries on Sunday evening would ban Russian oil delivered to the EU by sea by the end of the year, but exempt oil delivered by the Russian Druzhba pipeline, which supplies Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

“We have to take the individual circumstances of everybody into account,” Borrell said, adding that a EU-wide solution should give the three countries which accounted for 7% to 8% of Russian oil imports “more time to adjust.”

This is how Reuters has summed up the latest developments in Ukraine, reporting that Russian troops have entered the outskirts of the Ukrainian city of Sievierodonetsk. Regional governor Serhiy Gaidai has described the fighting as “very fierce”.

Gaidai has also appeared on national television in Ukraine to say “Unfortunately we have disappointing news, the enemy is moving into the city.”

Incessant shelling has left Ukrainian forces defending ruins in Sievierodonetsk, but their refusal to withdraw has slowed a massive Russian offensive across the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine.

“Some 90% of buildings are damaged. More than two-thirds of the city’s housing stock has been completely destroyed. There is no telecommunication,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in a televised speech.

“Capturing Sievierodonetsk is a fundamental task for the occupiers … We do all we can to hold this advance.”

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov on Sunday said the “liberation” of the Donbas, an industrial region which includes Luhansk and Donetsk, was an “unconditional priority” for Moscow.

A series of portraits by the award-winning British photographer Lewis Khan from the Romanian border documents the stories of mothers and children who fled Ukraine as bombs and bullets rained down on their homes. You can see our photo essay here:

Serhiy Haidai, governor of Luhansk, has posted to his social media a further update about the situation in Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk. He writes:

[Russians] are consolidating on the outskirts of Sievierodonetsk, the killed Russians are not taken away, the corpse smell filled the regional centre. Two residents were killed, five injured.

[Russians] are trying to surround Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk, further continue to storm the direction of the “road of life”, to cut it off.

Over the past 24 hours, 14 enemy attacks have been fought back, two artillery systems have been destroyed, 11 units of combat armoured equipment and 10 enemy vehicles. Air defence units shot down two winged missiles and three Cube-type Bpla.

Yesterday, the [Russians] were hard at Lysychansk and Sievierodonetsk. In the regional centre in the old area of the city, two were killed, five more were injured, including in a village near the city. All [now] at the hospital. About 50 houses were destroyed in the area per day.

The Tass news agency is reporting that grain is being shipped from Kherson, which the Russians now occupy, to Russia.

They quote Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the military-civilian administration that has been imposed on Kherson, as saying “We have space to store (the new crop) although we have a lot of grain here. People are now partially taking it out, having agreed with those who buy it from the Russian side.”

He is quoted as saying that the administration was working on the supplies of sunflower seeds to local and Russian processing plants.

Ukraine has previously accused Russia of stealing its grain.

Russia likely suffered ‘devastating losses’ amongst junior officers, UK MoD says

Russia has likely suffered devastating losses amongst its mid and junior ranking officers in the conflict, according to the UK ministry of defence.

The latest intelligence report reads:

Brigade and battalion commanders likely deploy forwards into harm’s way because they are held to an uncompromising level of responsibility for their units’ performance.

Similarly, junior officers have had to lead the lowest level tactical actions, as the army lacks the cadre of highly trained and empowered non-commissioned officers (NCOs) who fulfil that role in Western forces.

The loss of large proportion of the younger generation of professional officers will likely exacerbate its ongoing problems in modernising its approach to command and control.

More immediately, battalion tactical groups (BTGs) which are being reconstituted in Ukraine from survivors of multiple units are likely to be less effective due to a lack of junior leaders.

With multiple credible reports of localised mutinies amongst Russia’s forces in Ukraine, a lack of experienced and credible platoon and company commanders is likely to result to a further decrease in morale and continued poor discipline.”

Nato has the right to deploy in eastern Europe, deputy chief says

Nato is no longer bound by past commitments to hold back from deploying its forces in eastern Europe, the US-led alliance’s deputy secretary general has said.

Moscow itself has “voided of any content” the Nato-Russia Founding Act, by attacking Ukraine and halting dialogue with the alliance, Mircea Geoana told Agence France-Presse.

Under the 1997 Founding Act, intended to reset the relationship between Russia and the Alliance, both sides agreed to work to “prevent any potentially threatening build-up of conventional forces in agreed regions of Europe, to include Central and Eastern Europe”. Geoana, speaking in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius, said:

They took decisions, they made obligations there not to aggress neighbours, which they are doing, and to have regular consultations with Nato, which they don’t.

So I think that in fact this founding act is basically not functioning because of Russia,” he added.

Russia, he said, had effectively moved away from the terms of the 1997 agreement.

Now we have no restrictions to have robust posture in the eastern flank and to ensure that every square inch of Nato’s territory is protected by Article 5 and our allies.”

Nato’s article 5 is the one referring to collective defence, which says that an attack on one member is an attack on all of them.

Geoana did not give details of any such planned deployment, but said he anticipated “a robust, flexible and sustainable presence”.

Lavrov denies speculation that Putin is ill

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has denied speculation that president Vladimir Putin is ill.

Answering a question from France’s broadcaster TF1, Agence France-Presse quotes Russia’s top diplomat as saying:

I don’t think that sane people can see in this person signs of some kind of illness or ailment.”

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has denied speculation that president Vladimir Putin is ill.
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has denied speculation that president Vladimir Putin is ill. Photograph: Mikhail Metzel/SPUTNIK/KREMLIN POOL/EPA

Lavrov said that Putin, who will turn 70 in October, appeared in public “every day.

In comments released by the Russian foreign ministry, Lavrov said:

You can watch him on screens, read and listen to his speeches.

I leave it to the conscience of those who spread such rumours.”

Putin’s health and private life are taboo subjects in Russia, and are almost never discussed in public.

The ‘liberation’ of Donbas is ‘unconditional priority’ for Moscow: Lavrov

The “liberation” of the Donbas was an “unconditional priority” for Moscow, Russia’s foreign minister said earlier on Sunday, adding that other Ukrainian territories should decide their future on their own.

“The liberation of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, recognised by the Russian Federation as independent states, is an unconditional priority,” Sergei Lavrov told French TV channel TF1 in an interview on Sunday.

For the rest of the territories in Ukraine, he said: “I do not believe that they will be happy to return to the authority of a neo-Nazi regime that has proven it is Russophobic in essence. These people must decide for themselves.”

Russia’s incursion, he said, became “inevitable” after western countries failed to heed what he described as warnings about Ukraine’s disregard for, and military attacks on, its Russian-speaking citizens.

“Yes, people are being killed,” Lavrov said. “But the operation is taking so much time primarily because Russian soldiers taking part are under strict orders categorically to avoid attacks and strikes on civilian infrastructure.”

French foreign affairs minister Catherine Colonna will meet Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Kyiv later today to express France’s solidarity with Ukraine and offer more support for the country.

According to a statement issued by the French foreign affairs ministry, Colonna has just arrived in Ukraine to show France’s support for the Ukrainian people.

Щойно прибула до України, щоб виявити підтримку Франції 🇫🇷 українському народові 🇺🇦. pic.twitter.com/5BFHYHDWmF

— Catherine Colonna (@MinColonna) May 30, 2022

Two killed as Russian troops enter outskirts of Sievierodonetsk, mayor says

Two civilians have been killed and five wounded by shelling as Russian troops entered the outskirts of the Ukrainian city of Sievierodonetsk, Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Gaidai said in a statement issued early on Monday morning.

Gaidai said “heavy battles” were taking place as Russian troops attack the city with all weapons and air support, and have entered its southeastern and northeastern areas.

The enemy has used all possible weapons, uses aircraft. However, our military is firmly defending itself to prevent the enemy from entering the country.

Russian shells killed two Severodon residents and wounded five others. Most of them are residents of one block in the old part of the city. They were preparing food in the yard when the shelling suddenly started. Two residents of Sirotyn were seriously injured. All the wounded received home care and are already in hospitals in Donetsk region.

Overnight, at least 12 houses were destroyed in Sievierodonetsk and 18 in neighbouring Lysychansk, he added.

Russian forces are transferring ammunition and equipment in large numbers to the Sievierodonetsk area, the mayor said.

In its most recent operational update as of 6am this morning, Ukraine’s military appeared to confirm that Russian troops were focusing on the city’s northeastern and southeastern outskirts.

Zelenskiy to address EU leaders at Brussels summit

Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy is set to address European Union leaders at an emergency summit later today to push for new sanctions against Russia.

EU leaders will meet in Brussels to declare their continued support for Ukraine but have so far failed to agree on a new sanctions package against Moscow.

Over two days, leaders of the 27-nation bloc are to discuss how best to aid Ukraine and how to deal with the conflict’s impacts: high energy prices, an impending food shortage and the EU’s defence needs.

But draft conclusions of the meeting, seen by Reuters, showed that while the EU will be generous with verbal support for the government in Kyiv, there will be little in terms of new decisions on any of the main topics.

German economy minister, Robert Habeck, had a slightly more pessimistic stance on Sunday.

After Russia’s attack on Ukraine, we saw what can happen when Europe stands united. With a view to the summit tomorrow, let’s hope it continues like this. But it is already starting to crumble and crumble again.”

The most tangible will be the leaders’ political backing for a €9bn package of EU loans, with a small grants component to cover part of the interest, so that Ukraine can keep its government going and pay wages for around two months, according to Reuters.

‼️ TIME CHANGE – The OFF the record virtual press briefing ahead the special #EUCO meeting of 30-31 May will take place today Sunday 29 May at 18:30 https://t.co/PA2hMloONX

— EU Council Press (@EUCouncilPress) May 29, 2022

However, the decision will be only made later, after the European Commission makes a proposal on how to raise the money.

Despite efforts since the start of May, EU governments cannot agree on the sixth package of sanctions against Moscow because one of the elements – an embargo on buying Russian oil – is not acceptable to Hungary and a big problem for Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

Other elements, such as disconnecting Russia’s biggest Sberbank from the SWIFT messaging system, banning Russian broadcasters from the EU and adding more people to a list whose assets are frozen and who cannot enter the EU, are all held up by the lack of agreement on the oil ban.

Russia intensifies assault on Sievierodonetsk

Officials in eastern Ukraine have said Russian shelling of Sievierodonetsk has been so intense that it has not been possible to assess casualties and damage, as Moscow closes in on the largest city still held by Ukraine in the Donbas.

Fighting is believed to be taking place in the streets and “the entire critical infrastructure” of the city has been destroyed, according to president Zelenskiy.

Ukrainian authorities have described conditions in Sievierodonetsk as reminiscent of Mariupol.

People evacuate from Lysychansk, eastern Ukraine, as fighting rages around the city and neighbouring Sievierodonetsk, the last major cities under Ukrainian control in Luhansk region.
People evacuate from Lysychansk, eastern Ukraine, as fighting rages around the city and neighbouring Sievierodonetsk, the last major cities under Ukrainian control in Luhansk region. Photograph: Francisco Seco/AP

In Zelenskiy’s latest national address, the Ukrainian president said:

As a result of the Russian strikes at Sievierodonetsk, the entire critical infrastructure of the city has already been destroyed. 90% of houses are damaged. More than two-thirds of the city’s housing stock has been completely destroyed. There is no mobile connection. Constant shelling.

Capturing Sievierodonetsk is a fundamental task for the occupying contingent. And they don’t care how many lives they will have to pay for this attempt to raise the Russian flag on 32 Druzhby Narodiv boulevard (Friendship of Nations – ed.) – no matter how bitter the name sounds now – where the Sievierodonetsk administration is located.

We are doing everything to repel this offensive.”

The battle for Sievierodonetsk, which lies on the eastern bank of the Siverskyi Donets River, about 145km (90 miles) south of the Russian border, is in the spotlight as Russia grinds out slow but solid gains in the industrial Donbas, which comprises the Luhansk and Donetsk regions.

“They don’t care how many lives they will have to pay for this,” Zelenskiy said in his latest national address, referring to Russian forces in the region.

Regional officials reported that Russian forces were “storming” Sievierodonetsk and that fighting was taking place street by street, knocking out power and mobile phone services.

Sievierodonetsk’s mayor, Oleksandr Striuk, said those residents remaining in the city, which had a prewar population of about 100,000, risked exposure to shelling when they left their homes to access water. Striuk has estimated that 1,500 civilians have already died either from Russian attacks or from a lack of medicine and diseases that couldn’t be treated.

Summary and welcome

Hello. I’m Samantha Lock and welcome to our live coverage of the war in Ukraine.

European Union leaders will meet in Brussels today in an attempt to make progress on an embargo of Russian oil. Officials have so far failed to come to an agreement, debating whether to water down a ban on Russian oil imports to placate Hungary’s leader, Viktor Orbán, who is blocking the latest sanctions. Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy is set address the summit by video link.

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has denied speculation that president Vladimir Putin is ill. “I don’t think that sane people can see in this person signs of some kind of illness or ailment,” Russia’s top diplomat said.

If you’re just waking up or dropping in to catch up on what’s been happening, here are some of the latest developments:

  • Officials in eastern Ukraine say Russian shelling of Sievierodonetsk has been so intense that it has not been possible to assess casualties and damage, as Moscow’s forces close in on the largest city still held by Ukraine in the Donbas. Fighting is believed to be taking place in the streets and “the entire critical infrastructure” of the city has been destroyed, according to president Volodymyr Zelenskiy. Ukrainian authorities have described conditions in Sievierodonetsk as reminiscent of Mariupol.
  • The “liberation” of Ukraine’s Donbas region is an “unconditional priority” for Moscow, while other Ukrainian territories should decide their future on their own, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said, according to a release from Russia’s foreign ministry.
  • Zelenskiy visited troops in Kharkiv and toured the country’s second-largest city to see damage by Russian forces in the Ukrainian president’s first official appearance outside the Kyiv area since the start of the war. “Kharkiv suffered terrible blows from the occupiers … One third of the Kharkiv region is still under occupation,” he said. According to local officials, more than 2,000 apartment blocks have been wholly or partially destroyed by Russian shelling in the region.
  • About 31% of the Kharkiv region’s territory is occupied by Russian forces while 5% has been liberated by Ukrainian defenders, the head of the Kharkiv regional military administration said. “We are not yet able to fully inspect some of the liberated settlements, conduct full-fledged de-mining and begin rebuilding critical infrastructure, as shelling continues. Where we can do it remotely, we do it,” Oleg Synegubov said, according to a release from the president’s office.
  • Zelenskiy said he has fired the head of the state security service in Kharkiv for not working to defend the city, adding that “law enforcement officers” are now involved. “I came, figured out and fired the head of the security service of Ukraine of the [Kharkiv] region for the fact that he did not work on the defence of the city from the first days of the full-scale war, but thought only about himself,” the president said in his daily national address. “On which motives? The law enforcement officers will figure it out.”
  • The European Union failed to agree on an embargo of Russian oil during talks on Sunday while debating whether to water down a ban on Russian oil imports to placate Hungary’s leader, Viktor Orbán, who is blocking the latest European sanctions. However, diplomats said they would still try to make progress ahead of a Monday-Tuesday summit on an exemption for pipeline deliveries to landlocked Central European countries. Zelenskiy is set to speak by video link to EU leaders in Brussels on Monday.
  • The German economy minister, Robert Habeck, raised concerns that European Union unity on new sanctions against Russia was “starting to crumble”. “After Russia’s attack on Ukraine, we saw what can happen when Europe stands united. With a view to the summit tomorrow, let’s hope it continues like this,” he told a news conference on Sunday. “But it is already starting to crumble.”
  • Russia will continue to supply gas to Serbia, after a phone call between the Russian president and his Serbian counterpart. Aleksandar Vučić said he agreed a three-year gas supply contract with Putin, with further details to be finalised with producer Gazprom.
  • Russia is continuing to ship gas to Europe through Ukraine, Gazprom has confirmed. The Russian gas producer said its supply via the Sudzha entry point stood at 44.1m cubic metres, up from 43.95m on Saturday.
  • Lavrov has denied speculation that president Vladimir Putin is ill. Answering a question from France’s broadcaster TF1, Agence France-Presse quotes Russia’s top diplomat as saying: “I don’t think that sane people can see in this person signs of some kind of illness or ailment.”
  • Zelenskiy said he believed Russia would agree to talks if Ukraine could recapture all the territory it had lost since the invasion. However, he ruled out the idea of using force to win back his land. “I do not believe that we can restore all of our territory by military means. If we decide to go that way, we will lose hundreds of thousands of people,” he said.
  • Nato is no longer bound by past commitments to hold back from deploying its forces in eastern Europe after Moscow “voided of any content” the Nato-Russia Founding Act, the US-led alliance’s deputy secretary general, Mircea Geoana, told Agence France-Presse.
  • Ukraine has started receiving Harpoon anti-ship missiles from Denmark and self-propelled howitzers from the US. “The coastal defence of our country will not only be strengthened by Harpoon missiles – they will be used by trained Ukrainian teams,” Ukrainian defence minister Oleksiy Reznikov said.
  • Poland has also agreed to send artillery to Ukraine, Polish state media reported.
Yana Skakova and her son Yehor who fled from Lysychansk with other people sit in an evacuation train at the train station in Pokrovsk, eastern Ukraine.
Yana Skakova and her son Yehor who fled from Lysychansk with other people sit in an evacuation train at the train station in Pokrovsk, eastern Ukraine. Photograph: Francisco Seco/AP





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