Ukraine-Russia live news: Moscow closes in on Severodonetsk city | Russia-Ukraine war News

  • Russian troops are slowly advancing towards the centre of the city of Severodonetsk, the governor of Luhansk says.
  • A Russian separatist leader claims Moscow’s forces now control a third of Severodonetsk but their advance is slower than hoped.
  • The mayor of Mariupol discloses city staff have discovered 25 new grave trenches where bodies were being placed in “layers” and that Russian occupiers have buried at least 16,000 residents in mass graves near the city since the middle of April.
  • The Kremlin reveals Russia’s Vladimir Putin told Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan that Moscow is ready to facilitate the unhindered export of grain from Ukrainian ports in coordination with Turkey.
  • Charles Michel, president of the European Council, announces an agreement among European Union countries to ban most Russian oil imports.
INTERACTIVE Russia-Ukraine War Who controls what in Donbas DAY 96
[Al Jazeera]

Here are all the latest updates:

Table of Contents

Latvia welcomes EU ban on most Russian oil

Latvia’s Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins has praised the EU’s deal to ban most Russian oil imports, saying the bloc moved together on the sixth package of sanctions to starve Moscow of money to wage war against Ukraine.

“We move as quickly as we can move all together to make it more difficult for Russia to fund this war of aggression in Ukraine,” Karins said after the 27 national leaders sealed the deal, overcoming Hungarian resistance.

EU oil ban would cut money Russia has to spend on Ukraine war: Borrell

The EU deal to cut most of Russian oil imports would force Moscow to offer crude at a lower price to others, according to the bloc’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell.

“We are the most important client for Russia,” Borrell said on arriving to second day of EU leaders talks about the latest in Russia’s war against Ukraine. “The purpose is to make Russia have less financial resources to feed its war machine.”

Russian-backed separatists to own ships left in Mariupol port: TASS

The self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic will have its own “merchant navy” after ships in the port of Mariupol, including some foreign ships, are to be transferred into the ownership of the DPR, the separatist head of the republic has said, Russian state news agency TASS reports.

“Some of the ships will be transferred to the jurisdiction of the DNR. The relevant decisions have already been made. The flags that will be on them are also already clear,” Denis Pushilin said.

Earlier, the head of Russia’s national defence management centre had said that six foreign ships remain in the port of Mariupol: “Princess” (Bulgaria), “Azburg” (Dominican Republic), “Smart” (Liberia), “Blue Star” (Panama), “Azov Concord” (Turkey) and “Lady Augusta” (Jamaica).

TASS reported that Russian Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev said the countries that owned the ships have not taken measures to withdraw them.

Russia’s Gazprom says it cut off gas to Dutch GasTerra

Russian energy giant Gazprom says it has fully cut off gas supplies to Dutch gas trader GasTerra after it had failed to make payments for gas delivered in April.

It said the payments should be done in line with the gas-for-roubles scheme, ordered by the Russian president, the Reuters news agency reports.

Three killed, four injured in Donetsk: Governor

Three civilians were killed in the Donetsk region, and four more were injured on Monday, Ukraine’s regional governor has said.

Pavlo Kyrylenko said that two people died in the town of Toretsk and one in the town of Avdiivka.

“It is currently impossible to determine the exact number of victims in Mariupol and Volnovakha,” Kyrylenko said on Telegram.

Russia would need territory beyond Severodonetsk to fully control Donbas: UK

Russia will need to capture territory beyond Severodonetsk, including the key city of Kramatorsk and the M04 Dnipro-Donetsk main road, if it wants to fully occupy the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, the United Kingdom’s defence ministry has said.

In its latest intelligence briefing, the ministry noted that Russia’s capture of the town of Lyman supported its main operational effort of encircling Severodonetsk and closing the pocket around Ukrainian forces in Luhansk.

“Heavy shelling continues, while street fighting is likely taking place on the outskirts of Severodonetsk town,” the ministry said.

It added that Russia’s progress had been slow but it was holding gains, likely due to the fact it had massed forces and fires in relatively small areas, which forced it to accept risk elsewhere in occupied territory.

First ship leaves Mariupol since Russia took city: Separatist leader

A ship has left the port of Mariupol for the first time since Russia took the city and is headed east to Russia, the Interfax news agency quoted the Russian-backed separatist leader of the Ukrainian breakaway region of Donetsk as saying.

A spokesperson for the port said last week that the ship would be loading 2,700 tonnes of metal in Mariupol before travelling east to the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don.

Ukraine said the shipment of metal to Russia from Mariupol amounted to looting.

Children walk among buildings destroyed during fighting in Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, May 25, 2022
Children walk among buildings destroyed during fighting in Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, May 25, 2022 [AP Photo]

Russian troops advancing towards Severodonetsk centre

The governor of Luhansk has told Ukrainian television that Russian troops were slowly advancing towards the centre of Severodonetsk.

Serhiy Haidai said Ukrainian troops defending Severodonetsk were not at risk of being encircled as they could retreat to Lysychansk across the river.

Chechen leader posts video of troops in Severodonetsk city centre

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has posted a video of what look to be Chechen troops walking in the middle of the city of Severodonetsk, speaking with residents and taking a Ukrainian flag off one of the city’s central buildings.

Explosions can be heard in the background as residents happily thank the fighters for “liberating” them.

The governor of the Luhansk region, Serhiy Haidai, said that some fighters from the opposing side had entered the city, but that the scenes of residents welcoming them were staged.

“For the most part, these are stage scenes. Thousands who remain in the city are afraid of revenge or massacre for no reason, as was the case in Bucha,” Haidai said.

Two people killed in Lysychansk and three wounded: Governor

Two people have died and three have been wounded in Lysychansk, the governor of the Luhansk region has said.

Serhiy Haidai said it was unclear how many people had died in the city of Severodonetsk over the past two days, in which he said fierce fighting was continuing.

Japan will not leave Sakhalin-2 project even if asked: Minister

Japan will not leave the Sakhalin-2 liquefied natural gas (LNG) project even if asked to leave, the Japanese industry minister has said.

The land for the project is Russia’s but the plant is owned by the Japanese government and companies, Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Koichi Hagiuda told a parliamentary committee on Tuesday.

Kherson and Zaporizhia switch to Russia’s internet and mobile networks: RIA

The Kherson and Zaporizhia regions, now under Russian control, have switched over to Russia’s mobile and internet network, state news agency RIA reports citing an adviser to the Moscow-installed head of information policy in the annexed territory of Crimea.

“In the liberated territories, it is now exclusively Russian Internet and communications. In fact, this is the end of Ukrainian propaganda. Zelenskyy’s towers of lies have fallen,” Oleg Kryuchkov said.

RIA reports that the occupying military-civilian administration in Kherson asked Moscow whether it could use the capabilities of Russian telecommunications companies to restore cellular communications in the region. The request reportedly came after shelling by Ukrainian forces caused a network blackout.

Blinken and Saudi Arabia’s FM discuss Ukraine

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken held talks with Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, on Tuesday, which included discussions on international support for Ukraine, according to a statement from the state department.

“The Secretary underscored the importance of international support for Ukraine as it defends its sovereignty and territorial integrity and emphasised the need for a global response to the food security crisis resulting from President Putin’s brutal war,”  the statement said.

The two ministers reportedly also discussed the truce in Yemen, the consequences of the Safer oil tanker in the Red Sea region and Iran’s nuclear program.

Russian forces control one third of Severodonetsk: Moscow-backed separatist

Russian forces have seized control of about a third of Severodonetsk, but their assault is taking longer than they had hoped, according to a Moscow-backed separatist leader quoted in a TASS state news agency report.

“We can say already that a third of Severodonetsk is already under our control,” TASS quoted Leonid Pasechnik, the leader of the so-called Luhansk People’s Republic, as saying in a report on Tuesday morning.

Pasechnik told the Russian state news agency that fighting was raging in the city, but Russian forces were not advancing as rapidly as might have been hoped. “But we want, above all, to maintain the city’s infrastructure,” he said.

The advance of Russian troops was complicated by the presence of several large chemical plants in the Severodonetsk area, TASS reported.

Russian forces gaining ground in Severodonetsk: ISW

Russian forces reportedly control the northeast and southeast outskirts of the city of Severodonetsk and are continuing to gain ground within the city, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) has said.

“Ukrainian and Russian sources reported ongoing fighting to the south of Severodonetsk in Toshkivka, Ustynivka, Voronove, Borivske, and Metolkine, as Russian forces continue efforts to complete the encirclement of Severodonetsk from the south,” the ISW said in its latest campaign assessment.

It added that there had been reports Russian forces were transferring large quantities of personnel and equipment to the area to strengthen operations against Severodonetsk.

“A Russian Telegram channel claimed that Russian forces control the entire southern bank of the Siverskyi Donets River, except for the part of the river that runs through Severodonetsk. ISW cannot independently confirm this claim, though it is consistent with previous reporting on persistent, incremental Russian advances in and around the Severodonetsk-Lysychansk area,” the institute said.

Russians buried 16,000 Mariupol residents in mass graves since April: Mayor

The Ukrainian mayor of the now Russian-controlled city of Mariupol has said that since mid-April, Russian occupiers have buried at least 16,000 city residents in mass graves near the villages of Staryi Krym, Manhush and Vynohradne.

Vadym Boychenko also said on Telegram that 25 new trench areas had appeared at the Staryi Krym cemetery in the past month. He said the bodies had been placed in the trenches in layers, and then “masked” with plates as individual burial sites.

“We estimated the death toll at 22,000 people in Mariupol. But more and more facts show that the consequences of the Rashist crime are much worse. This and the dire state of the local population under occupation need special attention of the global community,” Boychenko said.

He said thousands of bodies still remained under rubble, in natural cemeteries and in temporary mortuaries.

People stand amid newly-made graves at a cemetery in the town of Staryi Krym outside Mariupol, Ukraine May 22, 2022
People stand amid newly-made graves at a cemetery in the town of Staryi Krym outside Mariupol, Ukraine May 22, 2022 [Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters]


EU backs 9 billion euros of loans for Ukraine

EU members have backed a package of loans worth 9 billion euros ($9.7 billion), with a small component of grants to cover part of the interest, for Ukraine to keep its government going and pay wages for about two months.

Leaders also backed the creation of an international fund to rebuild Ukraine after the war, with details to be decided later.

The European Council President Charles Michel said in a tweet that the council “will continue helping #Ukraine with its immediate liquidity needs, together with @G7.”

Russia’s FM denies rumours of Putin’s ill-health

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has denied rumours that President Putin is ill, Russia’s TASS news agency has reported.

“You can watch him on screens, read and listen to his speeches,” Lavrov said in an interview on French TV, according to TASS

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

British intelligence sources were quoted telling media outlets that Putin was seriously ill in the last week.

Relatives of Ukraine’s surrendered Azovstal fighters seek news

Relatives of Ukrainian fighters who remained for weeks under the besieged Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol have said that they had received no news of the whereabouts of their loved ones since they were evacuated to Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine.

The relatives, all women, said they had formed a Council of Wives and Mothers, to ensure the fighters were treated in accordance with the Geneva Convention on prisoners of war.

Natalia Zarytska, wife of an Azov regiment soldier, said she had been contacted by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which helped oversee the mass evacuations.

“I was informed that it has been registered that he left the Azovstal plant but none of my questions – whether he is still alive, what condition he is in, where they have been taken – have been answered,” Zarytska said.

Russian troops pushed further into Severodonetsk Monday

Russian troops pushed farther into the key city of Severodonetsk, in the Luhansk region, on Monday and fought street by street with Kyiv’s forces.

The mayor said the battle has left the city in ruins and driven tens of thousands from their homes.

Military analysts have painted the fight for Severodonetsk as part of a race against time for the Kremlin.

The city is key to Russian efforts to complete the capture of the eastern industrial region of the Donbas quickly — before more Western arms arrive to bolster Ukraine’s defence.

Ukrainian tanks move in Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Monday, May 30, 2022
Ukrainian tanks move in Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Monday, May 30, 2022 [Francisco Seco/AP]

Russia stole half a million tonnes of grain: Zelenskyy

Zelenskyy has said that Russian occupiers have stolen “at least half a million tonnes of grain” from Ukraine.

They “are now looking for ways to illegally sell it somewhere. To sell it in a way to make money on what was stolen and to keep the deficit in the legal market,” he said in his nighttime address.

On Monday, CNN reported that satellite imagery showed a Russian merchant ship loaded with stolen Ukrainian grain had arrived in the Syrian port of Latakia. It was carrying nearly 30,000 tonnes of Ukrainian wheat, according to Ukrainian officials.

Zelenskyy says 32 media workers killed since invasion began

The killing of French journalist Frederic Leclerc-Imhoff brings the number of media workers killed in Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion to 32, Zelenskyy has said.

Zelenskyy said: “A little more than a month ago I gave an interview to this very TV channel. It was my first interview to the French media during the full-fledged war. My sincere condolences to colleagues and family of Frederic.”

Belarus to conduct military mobilisation exercises near Ukraine border

Belarus will conduct military mobilisation exercises in June and July in the Gomel region, which borders Ukraine to the south and Russia to the east, state news agency BelTA has reported.

“Events of this kind are traditionally held to increase the combat and mobilisation readiness of military commissariats, and improve military knowledge and practical skills of those liable for military service,” BelTA quoted Andrey Krivonosov, military commissar of the Gomel region, as saying.

EU agrees to ban most Russian oil imports: Official

The president of the European Council has announced an agreement among EU countries to ban most Russian oil imports to the 27-nation bloc.

“This immediately covers more than 2/3 of oil imports from Russia, cutting a huge source of financing for its war machine,” Charles Michel wrote on Twitter.

It remains unclear when the ban will go into effect or whether countries heavily dependent on Russian energy exports, which previously opposed the embargo, will be exempt from the measure.

The ban would be part of a sixth EU sanction package against Moscow that Kyiv had been seeking. Michel said the measures also include blocking Russia’s largest bank Sberbank from the SWIFT financial messaging service, banning three Russian state-owned broadcasters and sanctions against individuals responsible for war crimes.

Russia ‘clearly’ seeking global food crisis, Zelenskyy says

Zelenskyy has said the Russian blockade of Ukrainian seaports prevents Kyiv from exporting 22 million tonnes of grain.

In his nightly address, Zelenskyy said the result is the threat of famine in countries dependent on the grain and could create a new migration crisis. “This is something the Russian leadership clearly seeks,” he said.

Zelenskyy accused Moscow of “deliberately creating this problem so that the whole of Europe struggles and so that Ukraine doesn’t earn billions of dollars from its exports.”

Moscow has blamed Western sanctions for the crisis – a claim Zelenskyy dismissed as “cynical”.

WNBA star calls for bringing Brittney Griner ‘home’

Basketball star Breanna Stewart has called on Washington to bring home her fellow Women’s NBA player Brittney Griner who has been detained in Russia since February.

“We are paying attention and we are counting on you,” Stewart said in a tweet addressing the White House.

France opens war crimes probe into killing of journalist: Reports

France has announced the opening of a war crimes probe into the killing of journalist Frederic Leclerc-Imhoff and the wounding of his colleague Maxime Brandstaetter during Russian shelling in eastern Ukraine, French media outlets have reported.

The French journalist was working for the BFM television news channel, which said he was 32 years old and on his second Ukraine reporting trip since the war began on February 24.

France’s national anti-terrorism prosecutor’s office said it was also investigating five other incidents involving French citizens, AFP reported.

Frederic Leclerc-Imhoff
Frederic Leclerc-Imhoff, 32, was killed in shelling in eastern Ukraine [BFM TV via Reuters]

Zelenskyy warns against succumbing to Russian ‘blackmail’ on food supplies

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has asked France not to succumb to Russian “blackmail” over food supplies at a meeting with French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna, his office has said.

In its summary of the talks, the Ukrainian presidency accused Russia of using food security issues in an attempt to have international sanctions eased. Kyiv has said Moscow is looting grain and farm equipment from regions its troops hold in Ukraine and of obstructing Ukraine’s exports of grain.

Zelenskyy’s office said he and Colonna discussed sanctions, weapons supplies and Ukrainian aspirations to join the European Union.

The war in Ukraine has contributed to a global rise in food prices, raising fear of worsening the hunger crises in many places around the world.

German politicians agree to $107bn deal to boost military

Germany’s government and conservative opposition have agreed on a deal that will release 100bn euros ($107bn) to modernise the country’s army in response to Russia.

An agreement was reached to create a special fund for military procurement that will also allow Berlin to achieve NATO’s target spending of two percent of gross domestic product (GDP) on defence.

The deal, which involves amending budgetary rules in the national constitution, was struck after weeks of difficult negotiations between the parties in the governing coalition and the conservatives of former chancellor Angela Merkel, representatives of these groups told the AFP news agency.

Erdogan holds separate talks with Putin, Zelenskyy

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has held talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Russia’s Vladimir Putin, offering to facilitate the reopening of Ukrainian ports.

“During the discussion of the situation in Ukraine, emphasis was placed on ensuring safe navigation in the Black and Azov seas and eliminating the mine threat in their waters,” the Kremlin said of Putin’s call with Erdogan.

For its part, Ankara said Erdogan told Putin that peace needed to be established as soon as possible and that Turkey was ready to take on a role in an “observation mechanism” between Moscow, Kyiv and the United Nations, if an agreement is reached.

Erdogan later said that he “especially valued the project to create a secure sea route for exporting Ukrainian agricultural products”, according to his office, adding the Turkish leader welcomed, in principle, the idea of making Istanbul a headquarters for the “observation mechanism”.

No EU agreement on Russian oil embargo

European Union countries meeting in Brussels to discuss more sanctions on Moscow have failed to agree on a ban on Russian oil imports, despite last-minute haggling before the two-day summit.

The EU has rolled out five packages of sanctions against Russia since its troops invaded Ukraine, but an agreement on an oil embargo has proved elusive because so many countries depend on Russian crude.

“There is no compromise for this moment at all,” said Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, whose country has been the main holdout for a deal.

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

Read all the updates from Monday, May 30 here.