Ukraine latest updates: Moscow rejects blame for food crisis

Ukraine news from May 27: Putin says accusations aimed at Russia over difficulty shipping grain worldwide ‘groundless’.

A local farm worker unloads Ukrainian-made fertiliser from a truck to use on a wheat field near the village of Yakovlivka after it was hit by an aerial bombardment outside Kharkiv, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues [File: Thomas Peter/Reuters]
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin says attempts to blame Russia for difficulties shipping grain worldwide are unfounded and points to Western sanctions being responsible instead.
  • The UN human rights office says it has recorded more than 4,000 civilians killed in Ukraine since the Russian invasion began, noting the actual number is likely much higher.
  • Pro-Russian separatists claim full control of Lyman, a strategic town in northeastern Donbas.
  • Ukraine’s defence ministry appeared to counter the claim, saying Ukrainian troops were still fighting to control the northwestern and southeastern parts of the town.
  • Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says Russia’s offensive in Donbas could leave the eastern region “uninhabited” and that Moscow’s forces want to turn cities such as Popasna, Lysychansk and Severodonetsk to ashes.

INTERACTIVE Russia-Ukraine map Who controls what in Donbas DAY 92

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These were the updates on Friday, May 27:


ICC prosecutor urges Russia to cooperate on Ukraine probe

Russia should cooperate with the International Criminal Court’s investigation into alleged war crimes carried out during Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, the tribunal’s prosecutor has told the AFP news agency.

“The invitation is there. My door is open, and I will also keep knocking on the door of the Russian Federation,” ICC prosecutor Karim Khan said in an interview at the Hague-based court.

Ukraine nuclear inspectorate accuses IAEA of falling for Russian propaganda

Ukraine’s state nuclear inspectorate has accused the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of falling for Russian propaganda and demanded it back efforts by Kyiv to expel Moscow’s forces from a major power plant.

Oleg Korikov, acting head of the inspectorate, said IAEA director general Rafael Grossi had this week told the World Economic Forum at Davos that there were large stocks of plutonium and enriched uranium at the Zaporizhzhia power plant that could be used to make nuclear weapons. Korikov said this was totally untrue.

“It is very sad that the bold lies of Russian propaganda are broadcast at a high level by the IAEA’s top official,” he said in statement posted on the inspectorate’s Facebook page.

Korikov also complained that the IAEA – the UN’s nuclear watchdog – had not responded to numerous Ukrainian appeals to do more about what he called Russia’s “nuclear terrorism”.

US buys more Stingers to refill stock sent to Ukraine

The United States military has signed a contract for $687m worth of anti-craft Stinger missiles to replenish US stocks sent to Ukraine, sources told the Reuters news agency in an exclusive report.

Read more here.

Ukraine’s Moscow-backed Orthodox Church cuts ties with Russia

The Moscow branch of Kyiv’s Orthodox Church has said it is cutting ties with Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, declaring “full independence” in a historic move against Russia’s spiritual authorities.

“We disagree with the position of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow… on the war,” the church said in a statement after holding a council focused on Russia’s “aggression” where it declared the “full independence and autonomy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church”.

“The Council condemns war as a violation of God’s commandment ‘You shall not kill!’ and expresses condolences to all those who suffered in the war,” it said.

Ukraine military may have to retreat from Luhansk cities, governor says

The governor of Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk region, which has almost completely fallen under Russian control, has said it was possible that Kyiv’s forces would be forced to retreat from the final pocket of resistance to avoid being captured.

“The Russians will not be able to capture Luhansk region in the coming days as analysts have predicted,” Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Gaidai said in a post on the Telegram messaging service, referring to the near-surrounded cities of Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk.

“We will have enough strength and resources to defend ourselves. However it is possible that in order not to be surrounded we will have to retreat,” he said.

Italy’s Draghi discusses wheat exports with Zelenskyy

Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi and Zelenskyy discussed unblocking wheat exports from Ukraine to tackle the food crisis which is threatening the world’s poorest countries, Draghi’s office has said.

Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian ports has prevented shipments of grain, of which both countries are major exporters. Russia accuses Ukraine of mining the ports and Ukraine has described the Russian position as “blackmail”.

In a phone call, Draghi assured the Italian government’s support for Ukraine along with the rest of the European Union countries.INTERACTIVE - WHEAT PRODUCTION IN UKRAINE

Russia needs huge financial resources for military operation, finance minister says

Russia needs huge financial resources for its military operation in Ukraine, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov has said, putting the amount of budget stimulus for the economy at 8 trillion roubles ($120bn).

“Money, huge resources are needed for the special operation,” Siluanov said in a lecture at a Moscow financial university.

Putin this week ordered 10 percent rises in pensions and the minimum wage to cushion Russians from inflation, but denied the economic problems were all linked to what Russia calls “a special military operation” in Ukraine.

Putin ready to deliver gas, discuss prisoner swap

Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer has said Russian President Vladimir Putin told him on a telephone call that Moscow would meet its natural gas delivery commitments and was ready to discuss a prisoner swap with Ukraine.

Asked what Putin had told him about gas deliveries, Nehammer said: “He also raised the subject [and said] that all deliveries would be completed in full.”

In a separate statement, the Kremlin said Russia had reaffirmed its commitment to comply with contractual obligations on natural gas supplies to Austria, which gets 80 percent of its gas from Russia.

Nehammer, who visited Russia last month for talks with Putin, said the Russian leader had expressed readiness to discuss a prisoner swap with Ukraine.

“If he is really ready to negotiate is a complex question,” he added.

Attempts to blame Russia for grain shipping trouble ‘groundless’: Putin

Putin has told Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer that attempts to blame Russia for difficulties shipping grain worldwide were unfounded and pointed to Western sanctions being responsible instead, the Kremlin said.

“Vladimir Putin stressed that attempts to make Russia responsible for the difficulties with the supply of agricultural products to world markets are groundless,” the Kremlin said after the phone call. “Detailed explanations have been given of the real causes of these problems, which have emerged due to anti-Russian sanctions by the United States and the European Union, among other things.”

Putin says Ukraine ‘sabotaging’ negotiating process

Putin has accused Ukraine of “sabotaging” the negotiating process between the two countries, the Kremlin said, citing comments he made to Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer in a phone call.

Putin also informed Nehammer about actions that Russia was taking to secure safe passage for vessels in the Azov and Black Seas, the Kremlin said in a statement.

Ukraine demands Germany cut or halt Nord Stream 1 gas flows

Ukraine’s state gas company and gas infrastructure operator have issued a request to the German government to either halt or severely curtail gas flows through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, the head of the head of gas system operator said.

The request argues that the operation of the pipeline is allowed under German law on the basis that it contributes to the strengthening of he security of gas supplies to Europe, but that Russia had “violated these principles,” the head of Ukraine’s gas system operator Serhiy Makogon told national television.

Ukraine fighting to keep control of town of Lyman: Defence ministry

Ukrainian troops are still fighting to keep control of the northwestern and southeastern parts of the town of Lyman, Ukraine’s defence ministry has said.

Defence ministry spokesperson Oleksandr Motuzyanyk made the comments hours after pro-Russian separatists said on their Telegram channel that they had taken full control of the strategically important town.

Motuzyanyk added at a briefing that Ukrainian troops were “counteracting attempts” by Russia to push its offensive towards the key Ukrainian town of Sloviansk.

Two-thirds of Severodonetsk surrounded by Russian forces: Luhansk Governor

Ukrainian forces are engaged in a “fierce defence” of the eastern city of Severodonetsk, which is two-thirds surrounded by Russian forces, the Luhansk region’s governor has said, citing the head of the city’s administration.

Shelling, which is “very strong”, has damaged 90 percent of the housing in the city, Serhiy Haidai said.

UN says more than 4,000 civilians killed in Ukraine so far

More than 4,000 civilians have been killed in Ukraine since Russia’s invasion began on February 24, although the true number is likely much higher, the UN human rights office (OHCHR) has said.

In total, 4,031 people have been killed, including nearly 200 children, according to OHCHR, which has dozens of monitors in the country. Most were killed by explosive weapons with a wide impact such as shelling from heavy artillery or air raids.

It did not attribute blame for the deaths. Russia has denied targeting civilians in the conflict.

Russia strengthening defensive positions in Kherson: Governor

Russian forces are fortifying their defensive positions in the Kherson region, which lies just north of Crimea, while shelling Ukraine-controlled areas on a daily basis, the region’s governor has said.

Hennadiy Laguta said that the humanitarian situation was critical in some parts of the region and that people are finding it almost impossible to leave Russian occupied territory, with the exception of a 200-car convoy that left on Wednesday.

Map of Kherson, Ukraine

[Al Jazeera]

Scholz: Putin cannot get away with ‘cynical, inhuman war’

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said Putin must not be allowed to get away with his “cynical, inhuman war”.

“Putin’s war is directed against a peace order that arose from the commitment ‘never again’ after two devastating world wars. He wants to return to the law of the strongest,” Scholz said during a speech at the German Catholic Convention in the southwestern city of Stuttgart.

‘About 10 dead’ in Russian attack on central Ukraine military base: Defence official

Russian attacks on a military facility in the central Ukrainian city of Dnipro early on Friday left about 10 people dead and injured more than 30 others, a local defence official said.

“A national guard training centre was hit this morning by Iskander missiles. People were killed,” Gennady Korban, the regional head of the national guard, told local Ukrainian media.

“Unfortunately, about 10 people died and between 30 and 35 people have been injured.”

Kremlin says Ukraine ‘contradictory’ on peace talks

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov has blamed Ukraine for the fact that peace talks between the two countries are frozen, saying it was unclear what Kyiv wanted.

“The Ukrainian leadership constantly makes contradictory statements,” he said in a call. “This does not allow us to fully understand what the Ukrainian side wants.”

His statement came after Zelenskyy on Friday said that Ukrainians need to “face the realities” and engage with Putin on peace talks. The Ukrainian leader added Russia did not appear ready to begin talks.

Moldova says Europe’s security policies need ‘paradigm shift’

Amid fears that Moldova could be drawn into the Ukraine war, Ana Revenco, Moldova’s interior minister, has told Al Jazeera that Europe needs a “paradigm shift” in its security policies.

Neither a European Union nor NATO member, Moldova is worried about its future – particularly because Russian troops are present in its Moscow-backed separatist region of Transnistria – and is seeking help, hoping the international community does not forget its humanitarian contributions.

“Food security, border security, cyber-vulnerabilities, uninterrupted services for the population, uncertainty about the presence of Ukrainian refugees, and other immediate and emerging threats including use of mercenaries in Ukraine, large caches of incoming foreign weapons and divisive propaganda – must all be tackled,” Revenco said.

Read more here.

A woman walks past the Operational Group of Russian Forces headquarters in Tiraspol in 2021, the capital of the breakaway region of Transnistria, a disputed territory unrecognised by the international community, in Moldova [File Photo: Dmitri Lovetsky/AP]
A woman walks past the Operational Group of Russian Forces headquarters in Tiraspol, the capital of the breakaway region of Transnistria, a disputed territory unrecognised by the international community, in Moldova [File: Dmitri LovetskyThe Associated Press]

Ukraine needs to ‘face the realities’ and talk to Putin: Zelenskyy

Zelenskyy has said that while talking directly with Russia’s Vladimir Putin may not be popular, the country has to “face the realities” that direct engagement is needed to end the war.

“There are things to discuss with the Russian leader. I’m not telling you that to me our people are eager to talk to him, but we have to face the realities of what we are living through,” Zelensyy said in an address to an Indonesian think-tank.

“What do we want from this meeting … We want our lives back … We want to reclaim the life of a sovereign country within its own territory,” he said.

He added that Russia did not appear ready for serious peace talks.

Russia Ukraine
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy virtually addresses the audience during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland [File: Markus Schreiber/The Associated Press]

Alleged capture of Lyman shows ‘growing level’ of Russian tactical strength: Ukrainian official

Oleksiy Arestovych, a top adviser to Zelenskyy, has said the purported capture of the strategic town of Lyman in the Donbas region shows the “growing level of operational management and tactical skills of the Russian army”.

Arestovych said in televised remarks: “according to unverified data, we lost the city of Lyman. The Russian army captured it.

“And the way it captured [the city] shows that there are very talented commanders who organised the operation correctly. And this shows the growing level of operational management and tactical skills of the Russian army.”

The statement came hours before pro-Russian separatists claimed on their Telegram channel they had taken full control of the town, which contains a strategically significant railway junction.

Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev in Kyiv. 

Russia expels five Croatian diplomats in retaliatory move

Russia’s foreign ministry has said it is expelling five staff members of the Croatian embassy in Moscow in response to Zagreb ordering out some of its staff.

Croatia in April told 24 Russian embassy staff to leave over Moscow’s actions in Ukraine.

Pro-Russia separatists say they have taken full control of Lyman

Pro-Russian separatists from the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic have said they have established full control over the strategic town of Lyman in the northeast of Ukraine’s embattled Donbas region.

Ukrainian and Russian-backed forces had been fighting for the town, which contains an important railway junction, for several days.

The separatists’ claim, which was made on their Telegram channel, could not immediately be independently verified.

A girl with her grandparents from Lyman, Ukraine in May [File: Evgeniy Maloletka/The Associated Press]

US weighing sending long-range rocket systems to Ukraine: Report

The Biden administration is leaning towards approving sending multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) to Ukraine, technology that would vastly increase the military’s capabilities, CNN has reported, citing multiple unnamed US officials.

The MLRS and the lighter-weight version, the high mobility artillery rocket system (HIMARS), can launch rockets as far as 300km (186 miles).

The systems have topped the list of weapons requested by Ukraine as fighting has concentrated in the sprawling eastern region of the country.

Russia says Washington has lost most of the world’s support

The speaker of Russia’s parliament has said the outcome of most recent vote in the UN’s Security Council to strengthen sanctions on North Korea over its renewed ballistic missile launches – vetoed by Russia and China – shows that the US has lost the support of the majority of the world’s population.

Vyacheslav Volodin said this was already evident in March, when the UN General Assembly considered condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Forty countries refused to oppose Russia, including China, India, Iran, Iraq, Vietnam, South Africa, Algeria, Pakistan and others. The population of these states is 4.47 billion people – 57.3 per cent of the world’s population,” Volodin said.

“Often behind majority decisions in the UN, in reality, there is a minority … Joe Biden is striving to reform the UN in order to maintain the position of the United States. He desperately wants to preserve the unipolar model, which has become obsolete,” Volodin said.

Woman in Russia’s shelled Belgorod region dies from wounds: Governor

The governor of the Russian border region of Belgorod has said that a woman injured in the shelling of a village on Thursday has died from her wounds, while another man is in a critical condition, Russia’s TASS news agency reports.

Vyacheslav Gladkov said that the village of Zhuravlevka was repeatedly shelled by Ukraine on Thursday.

Ukraine’s football team hopes to make nation proud in World Cup playoff

Ukraine full back Oleksandr Zinchenko has said his team hopes to make their country proud when they take on Scotland in a World Cup playoff semi-final next week.

Ukraine play Scotland at Hampden Park on June 1 in a match that was postponed from March due to Russia’s invasion. It will be Ukraine’s first competitive match since the invasion began in February. The Ukrainian Premier League season was abandoned last month.

“I can promise all the Ukrainian people that every one of us is going to give everything to win the game and to make them proud of us and just maybe for a few seconds we would like to give them this smile,” Zinchenko told the BBC.

Manchester City's Oleksandr Zinchenko celebrates with the Premier League trophy during the victory ceremony, May 23, 2022
Manchester City’s Oleksandr Zinchenko celebrates with the Premier League trophy during the victory ceremony, May 23, 2022 [Phil Noble/Reuters]

Four people killed in Severodonetsk Thursday: Governor

Four people were killed in Severodonetsk on Thursday, the governor of the Luhansk region has said.

“Residents of Severodonetsk have already forgotten when the city was silent for at least half an hour. Russians are targeting residential neighbourhoods continuously,” Serhiy Haidai said.

On May 26, four Severodonetsk residents were killed by enemy shells … Two of them at the same time, near one high-rise building,” he added.

Haidai said about 11 apartment buildings and one private house were destroyed in Severodonetsk. Lysychansk also suffered a powerful attack, he said, but did not mention any casualties.

Russia’s shortage of combat-ready equipment showing in battle for Severodonetsk: UK

Russian ground forces are continuing their attempt to surround the cities of Severodonetsk and Lyscyhansk, recently capturing several villages north-west of Popasna, the UK’s defence ministry has said in its latest intelligence briefing.

The ministry said that in recent days, Russia likely moved 50-year-old T-62 tanks from deep storage into the area under the responsibility of its Southern Grouping of Forces, which are tasked with occupying Ukraine’s southern territory.

“The T-62s will almost certainly be particularly vulnerable to anti-tank weapons and their presence on the battlefield highlights Russia’s shortage of modern, combat-ready equipment,” the ministry said.

US wins latest legal battle to seize Russian yacht in Fiji

The US has won the latest round of a legal battle to seize a $325m Russian-owned superyacht in Fiji, with the case now appearing headed for the Pacific nation’s top court.

Fiji’s Court of Appeal on Friday dismissed an appeal by Feizal Haniff, who represents the company that legally owns the superyacht Amadea. Haniff had argued the US had no jurisdiction under Fiji’s mutual assistance laws to seize the vessel, at least until a court sorted out who really owned the Amadea.

The US argues that its investigation has found that behind various fronts, the Cayman Islands-flagged luxury yacht is really owned by the sanctioned Russian oligarch Suleiman Kerimov, an economist and former Russian politician.

Haniff said he now plans to take the case to Fiji’s Supreme Court and will apply for a court order to stop US agents from sailing the Amadea from Fiji before the appeal is heard.

Russians advancing in Luhansk, but slowly: Think-tank

Russian forces have made several gains in the Luhansk region in past week, but their offensive operations remain slow, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) has said.

“Russian forces continued steady advances around Severodonetsk and likely seek to completely encircle the Severodonetsk-Lysychansk area in the coming days,” the ISW said in its latest campaign assessment.

The institute added that Russia continued to make advances south and west of Popasna toward the town Bakhmut, “but the pace of advance will likely slow as they approach the town itself”.

“Russian forces are heavily degraded and will struggle to replace further losses,” the ISW added.

Russian-backed Zaporizhia administration scraps Ukraine’s daylight savings

Russia’s self-proclaimed military administration in the occupied Zaporizhia region says it has switched from Kyiv to Moscow time, meaning there will be no more daylight savings changes in summer and winter, Russia’s RIA news agency reports.

Ukraine launches criminal investigation into Thursday’s attack on Kharkiv

Investigators in the Kharkiv region have started criminal proceedings into Russia’s shelling of a busy area of Kharkiv city on Thursday, Interfax reports the Kharkiv’s prosecutor office’s press service as having said.

Eight civilians were killed in the shelling of the Shevchenkivskyi district, including a five-month-old child. A nine-year-old girl was taken to the hospital with shrapnel wounds, the press service said.

President Zelenskyy had spoken about the attack in his nighttime address.

The proceedings are being investigated under the “violation of the laws and customs of war, combined with premeditated murder”, part of Ukraine’s criminal code.

Injured South Korean fighter back from Ukraine faces investigation: Reuters

A South Korean volunteer fighter returned home from Ukraine on Friday saying he had to recover from injuries and was ready to face a police investigation on suspicion of breaking the law by defying a government ban on travel to Ukraine, Reuters reports.

Rhee Keun, a former member of South Korean naval special forces who is also known as Ken Rhee, flew back to South Korea with media broadcasting his return live on television.

He said about 10 policemen had been waiting for him as he stepped off the plane and they had told him after quarantining for a week, he would be summoned for questioning.

South Korea’s foreign ministry filed a police complaint against Keun in mid-March, shortly after he went to Ukraine, on charges of violating a passport act. Those who defy the country’s ban on travelling to Ukraine can be jailed for up to a year or fined 10 million won ($8,000).

Rhee Keun, a former member of South Korean naval special forces who is also known as Ken Rhee, speaks to the media upon his arrival at Incheon international airport
Rhee Keun, a former member of South Korean naval special forces who is also known as Ken Rhee, speaks to the media after returning from Ukraine where he served as a volunteer fighter, in Incheon, South Korea, on May 27, 2022 [Yonhap via Reuters]

NZ’s Ardern to meet with Biden on Ukraine, China next Thursday

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said she will meet with Joe Biden at the White House next Tuesday, where she expects to speak about the war in Ukraine and the increasing competition in the Indo-Pacific – an apparent reference to the growing rivalry between the US and its allies and China in the region.

Ardern, who spoke with reporters on Thursday after delivering the commencement address at Harvard University during a visit to the US, said she would also meet with US Vice President Kamala Harris the same day.

Zelenskyy urges West to ‘stop playing around with Russia’

Zelenskyy has urged the West to stop playing around with Russia and impose tougher sanctions on Moscow to end its “senseless war” in Ukraine, adding his country would remain independent, the only question was, at what price.

Zelenskyy’s criticism of the West has mounted in recent days as thousands of Russian forces try to encircle the two key cities of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk.

“Ukraine will always be an independent state and it won’t be broken. The only question is what price our people will have to pay for their freedom, and what price Russia will pay for this senseless war against us,” said Zelenskyy in his nighttime address.

“The catastrophic unfolding events could be still stopped if the world treated the situation in Ukraine as if it were facing the same situation, if the powers that be did not play around with Russia but really pressed to end the war,” he added.

No need to add ground forces in Sweden, Finland: US general

Sweden and Finland’s push to join NATO will not require adding more US ground forces into either country, the US general nominated to take over European Command told senators. But Army General Christopher Cavoli said military exercises and occasional US troop rotations will probably increase.

Cavoli, who currently serves as head of US Army Europe and Africa, said the increased military focus will probably continue to be on Eastern Europe – where nations are more worried about potential Russian aggression and any spillover of the war on Ukraine.

“The centre of gravity of NATO forces has shifted eastward,” Cavoli told the Senate Armed Services Committee during his nomination hearing on Thursday. “Depending on the outcome of the conflict, we may have to continue that for some time.”

Gen. Christopher Cavoli, Commander of United States Army Europe and Africa, walks past a guard of honour as he arrives to attend the African Lion military exercise in Grier Labouihi complex, southern Morocco, June 9, 2021
General Christopher Cavoli, the US general nominated to take over European Command [File: Mosa’ab Elshamy/AP]

Mayor says 1,500 killed in Severodonetsk

The mayor of the city of Severodonetsk, which is the centre of fierce fighting in Ukraine’s east, says at least 1,500 people have been killed, and only 12 were able to be evacuated on Thursday.

Oleksandr Stryuk said about 12,000 to 13,000 people remained in the city, where 60 percent of residential buildings have been destroyed.

Severodonetsk is the only part of the Luhansk region in the Donbas under Ukrainian government control, and Russian forces have been trying to cut it off from the rest of Ukrainian-controlled territory.

Stryuk said Ukraine is holding out even though a Russian reconnaissance and sabotage group went into a city hotel. He said the main road between the neighbouring town of Lysychansk and Bakhmut to the southwest remains open, but travel is dangerous.

Russia reinforcing its newly claimed ‘borders’ with Ukraine

Russia says it is reinforcing its recently drawn up borders with Ukraine with reserves, weapons and armoured vehicles.

“The situation remains difficult at the present time, which is mainly due to the shelling of Russian border guards, as well as the conduct of ‘actions of intimidation’ by Ukrainian nationalists,” a deputy director of the border service of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying.

Vladimir Kulishov said that additional forces would be deployed to protect “the Crimean transport crossing, other strategically important objects of the peninsula, as well as ensuring the safety of subjects of maritime economic activity in the Black and Azov seas”.

Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 and has captured the Azov Sea port city of Mariupol as well as the Black Sea port city of Kherson.

US considering sending Ukraine multiple rocket launcher: Reuters

US officials have told the Reuters news agency the Biden administration is considering supplying Kyiv with the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), which depending on the munitions, can have a range of hundreds of kilometres.

But Washington has also held discussions with Kyiv about the danger of escalation if it strikes deep inside Russia, US and diplomatic officials have told Reuters.

The behind-the-scenes discussions, which are highly sensitive and have not been previously reported, do not put explicit geographic restrictions on the use of weapons supplied to Ukrainian forces.

But the conversations have sought to reach a shared understanding of the risk of escalation, three US officials and diplomatic sources said.

Nine dead, 19 wounded in Kharkiv: Zelenskyy

At least nine people were killed in the shelling of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, on Thursday and 19 have been wounded, Zelenskyy has said.

“All civilians. A child, five months, and a father were killed. The mother is in grave condition. Among the wounded in Kharkiv is also a nine-year-old girl,” Zelenskyy said in his nighttime address.

A woman walks next to the body of a man killed during shelling in Kharkiv, eastern Ukraine.
A woman walks next to the body of a man killed during shelling in Kharkiv, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, May 26, 2022 [Bernat Armangue/AP]

Zelenskyy pleads for multiple launch rocket systems

Zelenskyy has pleaded with the West to send multiple-launch rocket systems to Ukraine as soon as possible to give it a chance against the Russian offensive in Donbas.

“We are fighting for Ukraine to be provided with all the weapons needed to change the nature of the fighting and start moving faster and more confidently toward the expulsion of the occupiers,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly address.

“They want to turn Popasna, Bakhmut, Lyman, Lysychansk and Severodonetsk into ashes as they did with Volnovakha and Mariupol,” Zelenskyy said.

Ukraine has enough stored grain to meet global demand until end of 2022: Adviser

An economic adviser to Zelenskyy has said Ukraine has enough stored grain to meet domestic and global demand until at least the end of 2022, maybe into 2023.

Oleg Ustenko told Newsweek that Russia had planned to block Ukrainian ports from the beginning of its invasion to create a global food crisis and put as much pressure as possible on the West.

“They are playing different cards at one time on the same table: energy, food, plus they have their ‘military operation’ on our land and they’re destroying infrastructure, all our food storage,” he said.

Ustenko added that Russia was currently firing at any ships that appeared in the Black Sea.

Zelenskyy accuses Russia of ‘genocide’ in Donbas

Zelenskyy has accused Russia of carrying out “an obvious policy of genocide” in his country’s eastern Donbas region.

Moscow’s offensive could end up wiping some eastern towns from the face of the Earth and leaving the region “uninhabited”, he said.

“All this, including the deportation of our people and the mass killings of civilians, is an obvious policy of genocide pursued by Russia,” he said in his daily televised address.

Zelenskyy complains about EU divisions over new Russia sanctions

Zelenskyy has complained about divisions inside the European Union over more sanctions against Russia and asked why some nations were being allowed to block the plan.

The EU is discussing a sixth round of punitive measures, including an embargo on Russian oil imports. Such a move requires unanimity, but Hungary opposes the idea for now on the grounds its economy would suffer too much.

“How many more weeks will the European Union try to agree on a sixth package?” Zelenskyy said in his nightly address, noting that Russia was receiving 1 bn euros ($1.07bn) a day from the 27-nation bloc for energy supplies.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy attends an interview with some of the Russian media via video link.
Zelenskyy calls on EU to pass sixth sanctions package against Russia [File: Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Reuters]

Russian soldiers accused of war crimes appear in Ukrainian court

Two Russian soldiers accused of war crimes in Ukraine appeared at a second trial hearing in the northeastern town of Kotelva.

The Russian servicemen, Alexander Alexeevich Ivanov and Alexander Vladimirovich Bobykin, are charged with shelling civilian infrastructure with a multiple rocket launcher. Both soldiers pleaded guilty at the hearing held at the Kotelevsky District Court.

If convicted, the servicemen could face up to 12 years in prison. Their defence attorney asked for eight years, saying the two were only following their officers’ orders.

One US military officer returns to embassy in Kyiv: Pentagon

The move to reopen the US embassy in Ukraine has brought one American military officer back into the country as part of the diplomatic team. But the Pentagon said no other troops are going into Ukraine at this point.

Pentagon Spokesperson John Kirby said the defence attache, a colonel, has gone back to Kyiv with other embassy staff. The military official reports to the chief of mission and is there for diplomatic work, not security.

Kirby said that so far, the State Department is handling embassy protection with diplomatic security personnel and has not asked for Marines.

“Nothing has changed about the president’s direction that US troops will not be fighting in this war in Ukraine,” Kirby told reporters at the Pentagon.

Russia alone to blame for global food crisis, Ukraine says

Russia is solely to blame for the global food crisis because of its blockade of Ukrainian ports, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has said.

“Russia and [the] Russian blockade of Odesa is the only reason why Ukrainian agricultural products are not making it to the global market,” Kuleba said. “If someone in Africa is dying because of hunger, it’s because of Russia. If someone cannot buy sunflower oil in a supermarket, it’s because of Russia.”

Moscow had said “politically motivated restrictions” were hindering the export of grain and fertilisers. But Kuleba said blaming sanctions for the crisis is a “false narrative”.

White House expects minimal effects on global economy from Russia default

The White House has said it expects minimal effects on the US and global economy from a potential Russia debt default as Washington decided to not extend a waiver that enabled Russia to pay US bondholders.

“We expect the impact on the US and the global economy to be minimal, given Russia has already been isolated financially,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.

“That being said, the treasury department continues to monitor and have conversations with global financial community.”

The US had pushed Russia closer to the brink of a historic debt default by not extending its license to pay bondholders.

‘We need heavy weapons’: Ukraine’s FM

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has called for heavy weapons, including launch rocket systems, for Ukraine to push back against Russian forces.

Asked during a question-and-answer session on Twitter what Ukraine supporters outside the country should ask of their lawmakers, Kuleba said: “Push for multiple launch rocket systems.”

“We need heavy weapons,” he added. “The only position where Russia is better than us, it’s the amount of heavy weapons they have. Without artillery, without multiple launch rocket systems, we won’t to be able to push them back.”

West considering offering buyout from sanctions to Russian oligarchs: Report

Allied Western nations are considering whether to allow Russian oligarchs to buy their way out of sanctions and use the money to rebuild Ukraine, The Associated Press has reported, citing unidentified officials familiar with the matter.

Canadian Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland proposed the idea at a G7 finance ministers’ meeting in Germany last week, the news agency said.

The official said the Ukrainians were aware of the discussions, adding that it is in the West’s interests to have prominent oligarchs dissociate themselves from Russian President Vladimir Putin while at the same time providing funding for Ukraine.

Belarus sending troops to Ukraine border

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has said he was forming a southern military command and sending battalion tactical groups to the area that borders Ukraine.

“A new front has opened and we can’t fail to pay attention to it,” Lukashenko, wearing military uniform, told a televised meeting of defence officials.

He said the new command had been proposed last year but needed to be set up immediately.

“Even before creating it, we are obliged today – quickly, on the run – to work out the defence of our southern borders,” Lukashenko said.

Alexander Lukashenko
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko is one of Russia’s last remaining allies in Europe [File: Sergei Sheleg/BelTA/Handout via Reuters]

Finnish prime minister visits Ukraine

Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin has become the latest European leader to visit Ukraine.

Marin met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the capital Kyiv and visited the towns of Bucha and Irpin, where Russian soldiers are alleged to have killed civilians.

Zelenskyy thanked Marin for Finland’s weapons deliveries and its support for sanctions against Russia.

“For us, Finland’s military assistance is very valuable,” Zelenskyy wrote on Facebook after talks with the Finnish leader. “Weapons, sanctions policy and the unity of our partners in the issue of Ukraine’s accession to the EU – this is what can provide strength in the defence of our land.”

Finland's Prime Minister Sanna Marin visits the town of Irpin, Ukraine.
Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin visits the town of Irpin, outside of Kyiv, May 26, 2022 [Reuters]

Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the war in Ukraine.

Read all the updates from Thursday, May 26 here.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies