Russia-Ukraine latest updates: Zelenskyy visits Kharkiv

Ukrainian leaders visits troops on the front lines in the northeastern Kharkiv region.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy walks with his staff as he visits the war-hit Kharkiv region, describing the situation in the east as "indescribably difficult" [Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP]
  • Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made his first trip to the country’s east since the start of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin tells the leaders of France and Germany that Moscow is ready to look for ways to ship grain stuck in Ukrainian ports.
  • Putin cautions German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron against providing Ukraine with heavy weapons in an 80-minute phone call.
  • Russia’s army claims it has captured the strategic town of Lyman in eastern Ukraine.
INTERACTIVE Russia-Ukraine map Who controls what in Donbas DAY 95
(Al Jazeera)

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These were the updates on Sunday, May 29:

Ukraine’s Donbas ‘unconditional priority’ for Moscow: Russia’s FM Lavrov

The “liberation” of Ukraine’s Donbas is an “unconditional priority” for Moscow, while other Ukrainian territories should decide their future on their own, the RIA news agency cited Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying.

“The liberation of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, recognised by the Russian Federation as independent states, is an unconditional priority,” Lavrov said in an interview with French TV channel TF1, according to RIA.

For the rest of the territories in Ukraine, “the people should decide their future in these areas,” he said.

Top Kharkiv official fired over city’s defence: Zelenskyy

Zelenskyy says he fired Kharkiv’s security services chief for “not working on the defence of the city” since the start of Russia’s invasion.

“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,” Zelenskyy said in his daily national address.

He spoke after visiting the country’s war-ridden east for the first time since Russia’s invasion.

Zelenskyy: All critical infrastructure in Severodonetsk destroyed

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says Russian shelling has destroyed all of the critical infrastructure in Severodonetsk, describing the taking of the city as Russia’s “principal aim” right now.

“As a result of Russian strikes on Severodonetsk, all the city’s critical infrastructure is destroyed… More than two-thirds of the city’s housing stock is destroyed,” Zelenskyy said in a televised speech.

“Taking Severodonetsk is the principal aim of the occupying contingents,” he added.

No EU deal on Russian oil embargo yet; more talks on Monday

European Union governments have failed to reach an agreement on an embargo on Russian oil, but will continue negotiations on Monday morning, an EU official told the Reuters news agency.

The proposal under discussion now among EU countries assumes a ban on Russian oil delivered to the EU by sea by the end of the year but foresees an exemption for oil delivered by the Russian Druzhba pipeline, which supplies Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech republic.

German minister: EU unity on Russian sanctions ‘starting to crumble’

German Economy Minister Robert Habeck says he fears that the European Union’s unity was “starting to crumble” ahead of a summit to discuss an oil embargo against Russia and plans to cut dependence on Russian energy.

EU leaders will meet on Monday and Tuesday to discuss a new sanctions package against Russia, which could also include an oil embargo and a programme to speed up ending dependence on fossil fuels, including Russian gas.

“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,” Habeck said at a news conference.

Explosions heard in Kharkiv after Zelenskyy visit

Several explosions have been heard in Kharkiv hours after a visit by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who was making his first trip outside of the Kyiv region since the start of Russia’s invasion.

A large plume of dark smoke could be seen rising northeast of the city centre.

Kharkiv has been subjected to Russian shelling in recent days after several weeks of relative quiet.

Russia investigates son of British lawmaker fighting for Ukraine

Moscow’s judiciary says it has opened a criminal case against Ben Grant, the son of British lawmaker and ex-minister Helen Grant, for fighting against the Russian military in Ukraine.

“Within the framework of a criminal case on mercenarism, investigators are determining the role of a relative of British
Parliamentarian Helen Grant,” the Russian Investigative Committee announced.

Ben Grant, who served for several years in the Royal Marines, is hailed as a hero in British media for fighting on the side of Ukraine since March. The British press frequently reports on his combat activities, including recently, that he saved the life of an injured comrade under fire and carried him off the battlefield.

Mercenarism is a criminal offence in Russia, as in many other countries, and Grant could be punished by up to seven years in prison should he ever stand trial in Russia.

President Zelenskyy visits front lines in first visit outside Kyiv region

Ukraine says Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited troops on the front lines in the northeastern region of Kharkiv.

“You risk your lives for us all and for our country,” the President’s office website cited him as saying to the soldiers, adding that he handed out commendations and gifts.

The visit marks his first official appearance outside the kyiv region since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022 [Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP]

Russian Patriarch: I understand Ukrainian branch’s decision to break

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill I, has said he understands the decision of Ukraine’s branch of the church to cut ties with Moscow.

“We fully understand how the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is suffering today,” the head of the Russian Orthodox Church has said in his first comments since the announcement, according to AFP.

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church – once aligned with Moscow – recently announced it was cutting ties with Russia over its war on Ukraine, declaring “full independence”.

Russian ambassador dismisses war crime accusations

Russia’s ambassador to the United Kingdom has said that allegations of war crimes committed in the Ukrainian town of Bucha are a “fabrication.”

Andrei Kelin told the BBC that Russian forces did not shell civilian areas.

Moscow has refused to take responsibility for the crimes committed by its forces, claiming that the reports of indiscriminate killings, mass graves, and forced disappearances are false.

Putin, Serbian counterpart agree on gas supplies

Putin and his Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vucic agreed that Russia will continue supplying natural gas to Serbia and that the two countries will bolster their partnership, the Kremlin said, according to the Reuters news agency.

Vucic said the two leaders agreed – in a phone call on Sunday – on a three-year gas supply contract, with further details to be finalised with energy giant Gazprom.

Lithuanians fundraise to buy combat drone for Ukraine

Hundreds of Lithuanians pooled funds to buy an advanced military drone for Ukraine, in a show of solidarity with a fellow country formerly under Moscow’s rule.

$5.4m were raised in less than four days, primarily due to small amounts, to fund the purchase of a Bayraktar TB2 military drone, according to Laisves TV, the Lithuanian broadcaster that launched the drive.

Russian envoy rules out the use of nuclear weapons

Russia’s ambassador to the United Kingdom on Sunday ruled out the Kremlin’s use of tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine, saying such weapons are “not used in conflicts like that at all”.

In an interview airing Sunday morning on the BBC, Andrei Kelin said Russia has a “very strict provision on the issue of the use of tactical nuclear weapons,” adding that Russian doctrine allows their use mainly when “the existence of the state is endangered”.

Russia says destroyed Ukrainian army arsenal

The Russian defence ministry has said it destroyed a large arsenal of the Ukrainian army in the city of Kryvyi Rih in central Ukraine, Reuters reported.

The ministry also said that Russian anti-aircraft defence systems shot down a Ukrainian SU-25 fighter jet in the Dnipro region, according to the Russian state news agency Tass.

Ukraine Orthodox church breaks with Moscow hierarchy

Leaders of the central branch of the Orthodox church in Ukraine have made a formal break with the hierarchy in Moscow, formalising a schism that has been brewing since 2014, the year that Russia annexed Crimea.

The council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which had been formally subordinate to the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church, has said it was seeking “full independence and autonomy”.

It has also said it was cutting ties with its leader, Patriarch Kirill I, over his support for the war. Kirill is the leader of the church in both countries, but he has avoided condemning attacks on Ukrainians.

Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulates Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia in Moscow, Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes the hand of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow  [Alexei Druzhinin/Sputnik/Kremlin via Reuters]

Situation “more difficult” in Severodonetsk

Fighting is continuing in Severodonetsk in eastern Ukraine, where the situation is “even more difficult” and “the enemy keeps assaulting,” the head of the Luhansk regional administration said on Sunday.

In a statement, Serhiy Hayday has said that 60 houses were destroyed in the region, and two people, including a girl, were found dead under the rubble.

Ukraine accuses Russia of looting metal

Ukraine has accused Moscow of stealing metal from the captured city of Mariupol and loading it onto a ship bound for Russia.

Ukrainian parliament’s commissioner for human rights Lyudmyla Denisova said Russia has started shipping 3,000 tonnes of metal products on the first ship to Rostov-on-Don, according to the Kyiv Independent.

She added that “for more convenient removal of the loot, the occupiers [Russians] have begun to restore railway connections in Mariupol and Volnovakha”.

Gazprom still shipping gas to Europe via Ukraine

Russia is continuing to ship gas to Europe through Ukraine, Russian gas producer Gazprom has confirmed.

The Russian gas producer has said its supply of gas to Europe through Ukraine – via the Sudzha entry point – continues, despite the war.

An application to supply gas via another entry point, Sokhranovka, was rejected by Ukraine, according to Reuters.

682 children killed or injured in Ukraine

More than 682 children have been injured or killed in Ukraine, the country’s Prosecutor General’s Office said on Telegram.

The statement said 242 have died, and 440 have been wounded, adding that the figures were not final as it was difficult to confirm reports in places of active fighting. The most significant numbers were in Donetsk (153), Kyiv (116) and Kharkiv (108).

Ukraine children
More than 682 children have been injured or killed in Ukraine. [Christophe Archambault/AFP]

Russia scraps age limit for new troops

Russia has scrapped the upper age limit for Russians and foreigners to join the military, according to Russian state news agency TASS, enabling people over 40 to enlist in the armed forces.

Previously, the army had age limits of 18 to 40 for Russian citizens and 18 to 30 for foreigners wishing to enlist.

“No talks” on referendum

The deputy head of the Russian-installed administration in occupied Kherson has said that there will not be a referendum on formally joining Russia until fighting stops in the area and the nearby regions of Odesa and Mykolaiv.

Kirill Stremousov said that there are “are no talks about a referendum,” but that “we’ll announce later when some kind of vote or plebiscite is taking place”. Ukrainian officials previously warned that Russian-appointed administrators were preparing for a sham vote to take over parts of Ukraine.

Ukraine calls for long-range weapons

An adviser to Ukraine’s president has called on the West to supply his country with long-range weapons if it really wants Kyiv to win against Russia.

“It is hard to fight when you are attacked from a 70km distance and have nothing to fight back with. Ukraine can bring Russia back behind the Iron Curtain, but we need effective weapons for that,” Mykhailo Podolyak wrote on Twitter.

Fighting for Severodonetsk continues: Ukraine’s military

Ukraine’s military has said fighting for the eastern Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk is continuing with Russian forces conducting assault operations on Saturday.

“With the use of artillery, Russian forces carried out assault operations in the area of the city of Severodonetsk,” the General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed forces said in a statement on its Facebook page on Sunday.

“The fighting continues.”

Dozens of Ukrainian athletes killed in war: Official

Ukraine’s Minister of Youth and Sports says more than 50 Ukrainian athletes have died while defending their country against Russia, according to the Ukrainian state news agency Ukrinform.

“These are all our guys who played different sports. There are still many athletes who currently serve with the Armed Forces of Ukraine, some of them – in the territorial defense units,” Vadym Huttsalt said.

Zelenskyy says he is expecting ‘good news’ on arms deliveries

Ukraine’s president says he expects good news about the delivery of weapons from partner countries next week.

“Every day we are bringing closer the time when our army will surpass the occupiers technologically and by firepower. Of course, a lot depends on the partners. On their readiness to provide Ukraine with everything necessary to defend freedom. And I expect good news on this already next week,” he said in his evening address.

Japan pledges $1.7m to transport Ukraine aid

Japan has announced $1.7m in aid to help transport aid supplies to Ukraine, according to the NHK broadcaster.

Officials said the money will go to the United Nations Office for Project Services, NHK reported.

Parts of Ukraine village still flooded months after dam destroyed to stop Russian advance

Dozens of homes in the Ukrainian village of Demydiv remain partially submerged months after a dam was destroyed and the area flooded to stop Russian troops from advancing on Kyiv, officials say.

“At this time, about 50 houses in the village of Demydiv remain flooded,” regional Governor Oleksiy Kuleba wrote in a post on the Telegram messaging app.

“People are understanding of the situation. We, in turn, make every effort to resolve the issue.”

The Ukrainian military blew up the dam on the river Irpin in February, flooding houses and fields in Demydiv, whose history goes back a thousand years.

Russia preventing Ukrainians from leaving Kherson, says Zelenskyy

Ukraine’s president says Russian forces are trying to prevent the departure of Ukrainians from occupied areas in the southern Kherson region.

“They do not provide any humanitarian corridors. And closed the individual departure of people. Those who are confident in their position would definitely not make such decisions. This is clearly a sign of weakness,” Zelenskyy said in his evening address.

Zelenskyy to address European Council

Ukraine’s president says he is preparing to address a meeting of the European Council, which will take place on May 30-31.

“In particular, I will talk about the following: terror, which has become in fact the only form of action of the Russian state against Europe. Terror on the land of Ukraine. Terror in the energy market of Europe, not just our country. Terror in the food market, and on a global scale. And what type of terror will be next?”

He said in his evening address that he will continue to address the parliaments of European countries next week.

“There will be many other international activities aimed at strengthening our state and increasing the joint pressure of the whole free world on Russia.”

Situation in eastern Ukraine ‘very difficult’: Zelenskyy

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says Russia’s war on the front lines in Donbas and Kharkiv region “is very difficult”.

Wearing a t-shirt that read, “I’m Ukrainian”, Zelenskyy said the Russian focus remains on the cities of Severodonetsk, Lysychansk, Bakhmut and Popasna.

He added: “I will remind the world that Russia must finally be officially recognized as a terrorist state and a state sponsor of terrorism.”

Ukrainian counteroffensive in Kherson region ongoing: ISW

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said an ongoing counteroffensive by Ukrainian forces in the Kherson region has reportedly pushed Russian forces back to “unfavourable borders” near the villages of Andriyivka, Lozove, and Belohirka in Kherson.

The policy research organisation said earlier on Saturday that a ground attack launched by Russian forces near Kherson-Mykolaiv had been unsuccessful.

It was the first such Russian attack near Kherson for several weeks.

Ukraine receives Harpoon anti-ship missiles, howitzers

Ukraine has started receiving Harpoon anti-ship missiles from Denmark and self-propelled howitzers from the United States, Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said.

Reznikov said Ukraine had received a range of heavy artillery pieces, including modified US-made M109 self-propelled howitzers that will allow the Ukrainian military to strike targets from longer distances.

Harpoon shore-to-ship missiles will be operated alongside Ukrainian Neptune missiles in the defence of the country’s coast, including the southern port of Odesa, the minister wrote on his Facebook page.

Serhiy Bratchuk, a spokesman for the Odesa regional military administration in southern Ukraine, said in an online post that “so many Harpoons have been handed over to us that we can sink the entire Russian Black Sea Fleet. Why not?”

A Harpoon missile on display at the Taipei Aerospace and Defence Technology Exhibition in 2011 [Patrick Lin/AFP]
A Harpoon missile on display at the Taipei Aerospace and Defence Technology Exhibition in 2011 [Patrick Lin/AFP]

Ukraine official says agreements with Moscow not worth ‘broken penny’

Ukrainian presidential adviser and peace talks negotiator Mykhailo Podolyak said any agreement with Russia could not be trusted, adding the only way to stop Moscow’s invasion was by force.

“Any agreement with Russia isn’t worth a broken penny,” Podolyak wrote on the Telegram messaging app. “Is it possible to negotiate with a country that always lies cynically and propagandistically?”

“Russia has proved that it is a barbarian country that threatens world security,” Podolyak said. “A barbarian can only be stopped by force.”

Russia and Ukraine have blamed each other after peace talks stalled, with the last known face-to-face negotiations on March 29.

Putin says he is willing to discuss ways to ship grain to Ukraine’s ports

Russian President Vladimir Putin has told the leaders of France and Germany that Moscow is ready to look for ways to ship grain stuck in Ukrainian ports but demanded the West lift sanctions.

Putin said the difficulties in supplying grain to world markets were the result of “erroneous economic and financial policies of Western countries”.

“Russia is ready to help find options for the unhindered export of grain, including the export of Ukrainian grain from the Black Sea ports,” Putin told Macron and Scholz, the Kremlin said.

“An increase in the supply of Russian fertilisers and agricultural products will also help reduce tensions on the global food market, which, of course, will require the removal of the relevant sanctions.”

Mayor shows aftermath of shelling in Mykolaiv

The Mayor of the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv has released video footage which showed damage caused by shelling in the residential area of the city.

One woman died and seven people were injured, with two of them in a serious condition, according to Mayor Alexander Senkevich.

Several residents were seen cleaning up damage in the footage – a couple made comments about their damaged homes laced with irony, saying the Russian army had “made it better”, and that they had been “freed” from “everything that we have got in our 40 years”.

Welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the Russia-Ukraine war.

Go here for all the updates from Saturday, May 28.


Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies