Ukraine news – live: EU agrees on partial Russian oil ban as Belarus plans war drills

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·47 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Belarus is making preparations to conduct military mobilisation exercises in June and July, reports say.

According to state news agency BelTA, the exercises will be held in the Gomel region which borders Ukraine in the south and Russia to the east.

From 22 June to 1 July, planned exercises with military commissariats - military administrative agencies - and armed forces will be conducted.

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

Meanwhile, EU leaders have agreed on to ban the export of Russian oil to the 27-nation bloc, its president has announced

“This immediately covers more than two thirds of oil imports from Russia, cutting a huge source of financing for its war machine,” EU Council president Charles Michel wrote on Twitter.

It was also agreed that the largest Russian bank Sberbank from the Swift system be cut off, while a further three Russian state-owned broadcasters will be outlawed.

Key Points

  • Zelensky visits front line

  • Situation in Luhansk ‘extremely escalated’, says governor

  • Russia claims to have seized rail hub likely key to next phase in Donbas

  • West should send Ukraine more heavy artillery, UK PM says

  • Use of US long-range rockets would cross red line, warns Russia

  • Ukraine leaders call for more weapons

EU leaders agree to ban export of Russian oil, says president

00:00 , Emily Atkinson

EU leaders have agreed on to ban the export of Russian oil to the 27-nation bloc, its president has announced

“This immediately covers more than two thirds of oil imports from Russia, cutting a huge source of financing for its war machine,” EU Council president Charles Michel wrote on Twitter.

The leaders also agreed to cut off the largest Russian bank Sberbank from the SWIFT system and to ban three more Russian state-owned broadcasters.

Belarus to conduct military mobilisation exercises near Ukraine border

23:09 , Emily Atkinson

Belarus is making preparations to conduct military mobilisation exercises in June and July, reports say.

According to tate news agency BelTA, the exercises will be held in the Gomel region which borders Ukraine in the south and Russia to the east.

From 22 June to 1 July, planned exercises with military commissariats - military administrative agencies - and armed forces will be conducted, BelTA reported, citing Andrey Krivonosov, military commissar of the Gomel region.

“Events of this kind are traditionally held to increase the combat and mobilization readiness of military commissariats, and improve military knowledge and practical skills of those liable for military service,” he reportedly said.

Military training will take place with those liable for military service from 28 June 16 July for territorial defence formations, Krivonosov said.

Watch: Zelensky visits Kharkiv front line in rare trip outside Kyiv

22:51 , Emily Atkinson

Zelensky says Russia hopes for famine crisis

22:29 , Emily Atkinson

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky says the Russian blockade of Ukrainian sea ports prevents Kyiv from exporting 22 million tons of grain.

In his nightly address Tuesday, Zelensky said the result is the threat of famine in countries dependent on the grain and could create a new migration crisis.

He charges that “this is something the Russian leadership clearly seeks.”

Zelensky accuses 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.”

He calls Russia‘s claims that sanctions don’t allow it to export more of its food “cynical” and a lie.

French journalist hit by shell shrapnel dies in Ukraine

22:10 , Emily Atkinson

A 32-year-old French journalist has died after being hit by shell shrapnel as he documented an evacuation operation in eastern Ukraine, Emmanuel Macron has said.

Frederic Leclerc-Imhoff, who worked for the news channel BFMTV, was killed on Monday on a road near the Ukrainian city of Sievierodonetsk.

The French president said his thoughts were with the victim’s family and friends.

“Aboard a humanitarian bus, alongside civilians forced to flee to escape Russian bombs, he was fatally shot,” Mr Macron said.

Rory Sullivan has more:

French journalist hit by shell shrapnel dies in Ukraine

21:50 , Emily Atkinson

Protesters gathered outside EU buildings before a summit in Brussels today, holding signs like “No to Russian oil and gas.”

 (Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
(Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
 (Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
(Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
 (EPA)
(EPA)

‘No sane person’ thinks Putin is ill, says Russian foreign minister

21:30 , Emily Atkinson

In case you missed it...

Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has denied that Vladimir Putin is ill, and lashed out at persistent western comments about the health of the country’s president.

In a rare interview with French television, Mr Lavrov said “no sane person” would regard the Russian leader as suffering from ill health.

In recent weeks it has been reported that Mr Putin has had cancer, lost his eyesight and has been given three years to live.

“I don’t think that sane people can see in this person signs of some kind of illness or ailment,” Mr Lavrov told the TF1 channel. “You can watch him on screens, read and listen to his speeches.

Sofia Barbarani reports:

‘No sane person’ thinks Putin is ill, says Russian foreign minister

Watch: No 'high expectations’ Russian crude oil supply solved in next two days, says Von Der Leyen

21:10 , Emily Atkinson

Nato’s support for Ukraine is unbreakable, Spanish PM says

20:50 , Emily Atkinson

Russia will not acheive its military objectives in Ukraine in the face of Nato’s unbreakable support for Kyiv, Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez has said.

During an event marking the 40th anniversary of Spain’s Nato membership, Sanchez said: “Supporting Ukraine with determination is the only way to ensure that the Europe and the world we have built has a certain future.”

At the same event, Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said that the “cold blast of conflict” would overshadow the upcoming historic Nato summit that Sanchez will host in Madrid in late June.

Bombed-out Mariupol - in pictures

20:30 , Emily Atkinson

 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)
 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)
 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)
 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)

Son-in-law to former Russian leader ‘quits as Putin’s advisor’

20:02 , Emily Atkinson

The son-in-law of Russia’s former leader has quit his role as a Kremlin advisor, reports claim.

Valentin Yumashev helped Vladimir Putin come to power and was an unpaid advisor, giving him little influence over the president’s decision-making.

But his departure removes one of the last links inside Putin’s administration to Boris Yeltsin’s rule, a period of liberal reforms and of Russian opening up towards the West.

Valentin Yumashev and Tatyana Dyachenko in 2009 (Getty Images)
Valentin Yumashev and Tatyana Dyachenko in 2009 (Getty Images)

Reuters adds:

Lyudmila Telen, first deputy executive director of the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Centre, a foundation where Yumashev is a member of the board of trustees, told Reuters Yumashev had given up his Kremlin advisor role in April.

Asked why he left the role, she said: “It was his initiative.”

A second person familiar with Yumashev’s thinking, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also said that Yumashev in April ceased to be a presidential advisor.

Zelensky addresses EU leaders

19:43 , Emily Atkinson

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has urged the EU to remain united and quickly adopt a new package of measures to stop Moscow’s “war machine”, according to a senior diplomat.

Addressing a gathering of the bloc’s 27 leaders in Brussels in a 10-minute video, Mr Zelensky reminded leaders of the atrocities going on in his country, including the death of civilians and children, telling them “it is crucial that sanctions are adopted as soon as possible”.

Moscow begins exporting Ukraine grain to Russia

19:30 , Emily Atkinson

A senior administrator in Ukraine’s Russian-controlled Kherson region said on Monday that they had begun exporting grain to Russia, in a move that is likely to anger Kyiv and deepen concerns over an impending global food crisis.

“We have space to store [the new crop] although we have a lot of grain here,” Kirill Stremousov told Russian state-owned news agency TASS. “People are now partially taking it out, having agreed with those who buy it from the Russian side.”

Since the start of the invasion on 24 February Russia has blockaded all of Ukraine’s seaports and interrupted its grain exports. This in turn has impacted global food prices, caused food insecurity, and affected vulnerable populations.

Sofia Barbarani reports:

Moscow begins exporting Ukraine grain to Russia

Anti-Russian Ukrainians blamed for Melitopol car bomb

19:13 , Emily Atkinson

Russian investigators have suggested a car bomb that exploded in the Russia-controlled city of Melitopol on Monday may have been the work of Ukrainians opposed to Moscow.

According to Russia‘s Investigative Committee and a Ukrainian official, the blast, which injured three people, according to preliminary information, was “organised by Ukrainian saboteurs.”

“On 30 May 2022, an explosion reportedly took place in the centre of Melitopol near a residential building at the time of distribution of humanitarian aid, which was organized by Ukrainian saboteurs,” the Russian investigative committee claimed.

Reuters adds:

Melitopol’s exiled mayor Ivan Fedorov also reported the explosion in separate statement, adding that it occurred near a building that belongs to the head of Russia-appointed administration.

He said it was possible that the explosion was the work of local resistance as the city’s inhabitants continued to protest against the occupation.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov earlier on Monday condemned the explosion, saying attacks against civilian infrastructure in Russia-occupied areas of Ukraine were “outrageous”.

Briton who joined Ukrainian army pictured in handcuffs after being captured by Russian troops

18:40 , Emily Atkinson

A volunteer from the UK who fought alongside Ukrainian troops in Mariupol has been pictured in handcuffs after being captured by Russian forces.

Aidan Aslin, 28, moved to Ukraine in 2018 and later joined the nation’s armed forces, but was forced to surrender two days ago after Russian attacks cut off supplies and ammunition to the besieged port city.

An image shared on his official social media account, which is currently being run by one of his friends, showed Mr Aslin in handcuffs, with damage to his eyes and forehead.

My colleague Joe Middleton reports:

Brit who joined Ukrainian army pictured in handcuffs after capture by Russian troops

French foreign minister visits Bucha

18:27 , Emily Atkinson

Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba has said it is important that his French counterpart Catherine Colonna also visited Bucha - the sight of Russian atrocities.Moscow has pressed the West to lift sanctions against it over the war in Ukraine, seeking to shift the blame for a growing food crisis worsened by Kyiv’s inability to ship grain while under attack.

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Zelensky warns of Russia food supply 'blackmail’

18:07 , Emily Atkinson

Ukraine’s president has called on France not to succumb to Moscow’s “blackmail” over food supplies at a meeting with France’s foreign minister Catherine Colonna.

Volodymyr Zelensky’s office said that Russia is using food security issues in an attempt to have international sanctions eased.

Ukraine has accused Russia of looting grain and farm equipment from regions its troops hold in Ukraine and of obstructing Ukraine’s exports of grain.

Biden says US will not send Ukraine rocket systems that can reach Russia

17:49 , Emily Atkinson

President Joe Biden has said that the US will not send rocket systems to Ukrain that would be able to reach Russia, Reuters reports.

Ukrainian officials have been asking allies for longer-range systems including the Multiple Launch Rocket System, or MLRS, that can fire a barrage of rockets hundreds of miles away.

“We’re not going to send to Ukraine rocket systems that strike into Russia,” Biden told reporters after arriving back at the White House after a weekend in Delaware.

Biden did not rule out providing any specific weapons system, but instead appeared to be placing conditions on how they could be used. Biden and his team are working on a new package of military equipment and it is expected to be announced in coming days.

The MLRS was under consideration, but nothing with long-range strike capabilities outside of battlefield use, a senior administration official said.

 (AP)
(AP)

Watch: Russian soldier gives finger to Ukrainian drone before it hits tank

17:34 , Emily Atkinson

Officials pay tribute to ‘deeply shocking’ death of French journalist

17:11 , Emily Atkinson

French foreign minister Catherine Colonna called the death of BFM TV journalist Frederic Leclerc-Imhoff “deeply shocking.”

 (AP)
(AP)

“France demands that a transparent inquiry be launched as soon as possible to shed full light on the circumstances of this tragedy,” she added.

Here a few more tributes paid to Mr Leclerc-Imhoff:

French journalist Frederic Leclerc-Imhoff killed in Donbas

16:46 , Emily Atkinson

A 32-year-old French journalist has been killed Ukraine’s Donbas region after being hit by shell shrapnel while covering a Ukrainian evacuation operation.

French news broadcaster BFM TV said its journalist Frederic Leclerc-Imhoff was fatally hit while “covering a humanitarian operation in an armored vehicle” near Sievierodonetsk, a key city in the east of Ukraine.

He had worked for the television channel for six years.French president Emmanuel Macron paid tribute to Leclerc-Imhoff on Twitter:

The Independent’s defence and diplomatic editor Kim Sengupta has also tweeted a tribute:

Donetsk under siege - in pictures

16:32 , Emily Atkinson

 (Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
(Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
 (Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
(Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
 (Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
(Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
 (EPA)
(EPA)

Russia ready to facilitate transit of grains from Ukraine ports, says Putin

16:20 , Emily Atkinson

President Vladimir Putin has told his Turkish counterpart that Moscow was ready to facilitate unhindered sea transit of cargoes, including grains from Ukrainian ports,

According to a Kremlin readout, Putin also told president Tayyip Erdogan in a phone call today that Russia may export significant volumes of fertilisers and food in case sanctions against the country are lifted.

 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)

Moscow TV presenter says Russia should invade UK and take Stonehenge

16:08 , Eleanor Sly

A Russian television personality with close links to Vladimir Putin has threatened Britain, claiming the despot’s invasion could stretch as far as Stonehenge.

Firebrand anchorman Vladimir Solovyov, known as ‘Putin’s Voice’, and ranted that Russia could invade Britain and target Boris Johnson’s foreign secretary Liz Truss, the Daily Mirror reported.

When asked by the Ukrainian political analyst Vasil Vakarov where Putin’s savage regime would stop its war, he replied: “Well, when we have to, then we will.

Tom Ambrose writes:

Moscow TV presenter says Russia should invade UK and take Stonehenge

‘No sane person’ thinks Putin is ill, says Russian foreign minister

15:49 , Eleanor Sly

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has denied that Vladimir Putin is ill, and lashed out at consistent western comments about the health of the country’s president.

In a rare interview with French television, Mr Lavrov “no sane person” would regard the Russian leader as suffering from ill health.

In recent weeks it has been reported that Mr Putin has had cancer, lost his eyesight and has been given three years to live.

Sofia Barbarani reports:

‘No sane person’ thinks Putin is ill, says Russian foreign minister

15:30 , Eleanor Sly

EU will reach consensus on oil embargo, Scholz

15:05 , Eleanor Sly

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that he expects that the European Union will reach a consensus on an oil embargo against Russia.

He did not, however, give a time frame when it might happen.

“Everything I hear sounds like there could be a consensus - and sooner or later there will be”, Reuters reports he told reporters as he arrived in Brussels for an EU summit.

Biden says US will not send Ukraine weapons systems to reach into Russia

14:46 , Eleanor Sly

US President Joe Biden has revealed that the United States will not send rocket systems to Ukrain that would be able to reach Russia, Reuters reports.

His comments followed reports that the Biden administration was intending to send advanced long-range rocket systems to the Ukrainian capital Kyiv.

Supermarket food costs surge with pasta up by 50 per cent in last year, ONS data shows

13:25 , Eleanor Sly

Supermarket grocery costs have surged with pasta up by 50 per cent since last year new ONS data shows.

The findings assessed the price of 30 everyday grocery shopping items between April 2021 and April 2022, finding varying increases across the items with five products showing a 15 per cent increase.

It comes as Russia’s blockade of Black Sea ports has left 25 million tonnes of grain stuck in Ukraine – threatening famine in the poorest countries, but with stark implications also for the UK, which relies on food imports.

Thomas Kingsley has more:

Supermarket food prices surge, ONS data shows

Why did Russia invade Ukraine? The conflict explained

13:05 , Eleanor Sly

Russia’s long-feared invasion of Ukraine continues to rage following Vladimir Putin’s announcement of his “special military operation” against the country in the early hours of 24 February, the Russian leader declaring, groundlessly, a need to “demilitarise and de-Nazify” the neighbouring state after eight years of fighting in the Donbas.

As Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky leads by example from the streets of Kyiv, tirelessly rallying the international community for support, his people mount an impressive resistence, holding back Russia’s armed forces as best they can.

The aggressor meanwhile continues to employ brutal siege warfare tactics, surrounding the country’s cities and subjecting them to intense shelling campaigns, a strategy previously seen in Chechnya and Syria.

Read more:

Why did Russia invade Ukraine?

EU leaders split over Russian oil ban as street fighting rages in besieged Donbas city

12:43 , Eleanor Sly

European leaders are split over whether to target Russian oil in the latest round of sanctions aimed at supporting Ukraine.

Heads of state and government from the European Union’s 27 nations will meet on Tuesday at a summit to discuss further measures to inflict pain on Russia in response to its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

But the extent to which the bloc can help could be limited as it emerged Hungary is leading a group of countries, along with Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria, to prevent an oil embargo.

Tom Ambrose has more:

EU leaders split over Russian oil ban as fighting rages in Donbas

Moment Russian soldier gives middle finger to Ukraine drone before it blows up tank

11:57 , Eleanor Sly

The moment a Russian soldier gives the finger to a Ukrainian drone just before it drops a grenade on the tank next to him has been captured on camera.

The tank, a Russian BTR-82A APC, was being hidden at the side of a building but was left a blazing wreck by the attack as Ukrainian forces continue to defend the country’s east.

In the footage released by Ukrainian military and posted on Twitter, six Russian troops are sighted converged around the vehicle and one of them sticks up his middle finger in the direction of the drone.

Read more:

Moment Russian soldier gives middle finger to Ukraine drone before it blows up tank

New satellite imagery of activity in eastern Ukraine

11:10 , Eleanor Sly

 (Satellite Imagery Maxar Technologies Provided by European Space Imaging)
(Satellite Imagery Maxar Technologies Provided by European Space Imaging)
 (Satellite Imagery Maxar Technologies Provided by European Space Imaging)
(Satellite Imagery Maxar Technologies Provided by European Space Imaging)
 (Satellite Imagery Maxar Technologies Provided by European Space Imaging)
(Satellite Imagery Maxar Technologies Provided by European Space Imaging)
 (Satellite Imagery Maxar Technologies Provided by European Space Imaging)
(Satellite Imagery Maxar Technologies Provided by European Space Imaging)

Putin loses two more colonels in Ukraine war including ‘best’ paratroop commander

10:35 , Eleanor Sly

Two more Russian colonels have been killed in Ukraine - including the country’s “best paratroop commander” delivering another blow to Vladimir Putin’s war.

Lt Col Alexander Dosyagayev, 34, was a commander of an airborne assault battalion of the 104th paratrooper regiment.

Troops from his 104th air assault regiment were reportedly in Bucha, which was the scene of alleged rape and torture atrocities by Vladimir Putin’s forces earlier in the war.

Thomas Kingsley has more:

Putin loses two more colonels in Ukraine war including ‘best’ paratroop commander

Eurovision winners Kalush Orchestra sell trophy to fund drones for Ukraine war

09:53 , Eleanor Sly

The winners of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest have raised more than £700,000 for the Ukrainian war effort by selling the competition’s trophy.

Hip-hop group Kalush Orchestra were propelled to victory in the music contest with their entry ‘Stefania’ earlier this month after a surge of public support from across the continent saw them claim an emotional win.

It was reported that on Sunday that they had sold the crystal microphone trophy in a Facebook auction led by the Ukrainian TV presenter Serhiy Prytula.

Tom Ambrose has more:

Eurovision winners Kalush Orchestra sell trophy to fund drones for Ukraine war

Six million UK homes ‘could face winter power cuts and rationing’ if Russia cuts supplies

09:24 , Eleanor Sly

Ministers have been warned of potential power cuts to as many as six million households this winter, with the government reportedly drawing up plans for rationed electricity if supply issues deteriorate.

Government modelling of a “reasonable” worst-case scenario predicts major gas shortages in winter if Russia cuts off more supplies to the EU over the Ukraine war, it is claimed.

Limits could be imposed on industrial use of gas, including on gas-fired power stations, causing electricity shortages.

Read more:

Six million homes ‘could face winter power cuts and rationed supply’

Russia to service foreign debt using gas-for-roubles type scheme, says newspaper

09:05 , Eleanor Sly

Russia plans to settle its Eurobond obligations using a mechanism similar to the scheme used to pay for Russian gas in roubles, the Vedomosti newspaper reported citing Finance Minister Anton Siluanov.

In order to receive payments, Eurobond holders will have to open foreign currency and rouble accounts at a Russian bank, Siluanov told Vedomosti.

The United States pushed Russia closer to the brink of a historic debt default last Wednesday by not extending its license to pay bondholders, as Washington ramps up pressure following Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine.

Facing an unprecedented debt crisis, Finance Minister Siluanov said on Friday that Moscow will continue to service its external debt in roubles, defending its role as a reliable borrower by all possible means.

“As it happens with paying for gas in roubles: we are credited with foreign currency, here it is exchanged for roubles on behalf of [the gas buyer], and this is how the payment takes place. The Eurobond settlement mechanism will operate in the same way, only in the other direction,” Vedomosti cites Siluanov as saying.

Russia's Gazprom continues shipping gas to Europe via Ukraine

08:25 , Eleanor Sly

Russian gas producer Gazprom said on Monday its supply of gas to Europe through Ukraine via the Sudzha entry point stood at 44.6 million cubic metres (mcm), up from 44.1 mcm on Sunday.

An application to supply gas via another major entry point, Sokhranovka, was rejected by Ukraine, Gazprom said.

War in Ukraine adds to food price hikes, hunger in Africa

08:06 , Eleanor Sly

It now costs Ayan Hassan Abdirahman twice as much as it did just a few months ago to buy the wheat flour she uses to make breakfast each day for her 11 children in Somalia’s capital.

Nearly all the wheat sold in Somalia comes from Ukraine and Russia, which have halted exports through the Black Sea since Moscow waged war on its neighbour on 24 February.

The timing could not be worse: The UN has warned that an estimated 13 million people were facing severe hunger in the Horn of Africa region as a result of a persistent drought.

Read more:

War in Ukraine adds to food price hikes, hunger in Africa

Scotland must put sympathy to one side when against Ukraine, says Callum McGregor

07:40 , Eleanor Sly

Callum McGregor admits heartfelt sympathy for Ukraine’s plight will be put on hold when Scotland take to the Hampden Park pitch for the World Cup semi-final play-off on Wednesday night.

Ukraine is in turmoil following the invasion by Russia and the visitors will travel to Glasgow racked with ongoing worry about family and friends back in their homeland.

The Celtic skipper recognised a “real horrific” situation in Ukraine but insists Steve Clarke’s side will focus, as will their opponents, on getting to the play-off final against Wales in Cardiff.

Read more here:

Scotland must put sympathy to one side when against Ukraine, says Callum McGregor

Russia’s morale may decrease after ‘devastating losses' in military - British MoD

07:02 , Arpan Rai

The British defence ministry has said Russia’s military is likely to face a decrease in morale after it suffered “devastating losses” in mid and junior ranking officers.

“Russia has likely suffered devastating losses amongst its mid and junior ranking officers in the conflict. 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,” the MoD said in its latest intelligence update on the conflict.

It added that junior officers in Russia’s battalion 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, the ministry said on Monday.

It added: “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,” the ministry said.

Ukrainian defenders hold out in Donbas

05:57 , Arpan Rai

As Russian attacks in southeastern Donbas increase, Ukrainian troops in the region remained on defensive all day on Sunday.

At least three civilians were killed and two others were wounded after Russian forces fired on 46 communities in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, Ukrainian officials said, destroying 62 buildings.

The Russian offensive, including incessant shelling, has reportedly left some 90 per cent of buildings in Donbas damaged.

Speaking of the strategic city of Sievierodonetsk, president Volodymyr Zelensky said: “More than two-thirds of the city’s housing stock has been completely destroyed. There is no telecommunication.”

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

The “liberation” of the Donbas was an “unconditional priority” for Moscow, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said.

Kalush Orchestra auctions off Eurovision trophy, raises $900,000 for military

05:31 , Arpan Rai

Eurovision Song Contest champions from Ukraine Kalush Orchestra have raised $900,000 (£712,071) from auctioning its trophy of a crystal microphone, the band announced on Sunday.

The funds from the online auction on Facebook will now be used for backing the Ukrainian armed forces, the band said.

Ukrainian TV presenter Sehiy Prytula said that the proceeds will help the troops with PD-2 unmanned aerial system which includes three aircraft and a ground control station.

The band’s frontman Oleg Psyuk also auctioned his iconic pink bucket hat.

Kalush Orchestra won the Eurovision contest earlier this month for their song “Stefania”, riding a wave of public support for Ukraine.

After sending artillery shells to Ukraine, Canada asks South Korea for refill

04:49 , Arpan Rai

Canada has sought South Korea’s help to replenish its stock of artillery rounds after it sent howitzers and shells to Ukraine, officials in Seoul said on Monday.

The request for lethal military aid from Ottawa was confirmed by South Korea’s defence ministry but the spokesperson added that “no official proceedings are underway related to the request”.

Seoul is now “actively pursuing a plan to provide 100,000 rounds to Canada”, the official said.

According to a high-ranking South Korean defence ministry official, Seoul could send the hundreds of thousands of shells from the country’s reserves likely sold below market value.

In its recent dispatch, Justin Trudeau-led administration has sent M777 towed howitzers, which fire 155-millimetre shells to Ukraine.

Defence minister Anita Anand had announced last week that the country would be assisting Ukraine with an additional 20,000 rounds of 155mm ammunition, sourced from the United States.

Russia has lost battle for Kyiv and its future, says Zelensky

04:33 , Arpan Rai

Volodymyr Zelensky has said that the Russian state can see itself and the losses it has suffered in the full-scale war against Ukraine, adding that the troops sent by Moscow in February have failed to capture Kharkiv and Kyiv.

“Russia has already lost not only the battle for Kharkiv, not only the battle for Kyiv and the north of our country. It lost its own future and any cultural ties to the free world. They all burned down. In particular, there, in Saltivka,” Mr Zelensky said in his nightly address on Sunday.

Talking about his visit to Kharkiv — a third of which still remains under Russia’s control — on Sunday, the Ukrainian president said that the city has been battered in the war.

“Both the city itself and the frontline positions of our military in the region. Kharkiv suffered terrible blows from the occupiers. Black, burnt-out, half-ruined apartment buildings face east and north with their windows - from where Russian artillery was firing,” he said.

“From where Russian combat aircraft arrived. They face Russia. And in them now, like in a mirror, the Russian state can see itself. See how much it lost during these 95 days of full-scale war against Ukraine,” Mr Zelensky said.

The wartime president said that he and his administration will work to liberate the entire territory of Kharkiv.

During his trip, Mr Zelensky said that the officials discussed the post-war reconstruction of Kharkiv and the Kharkiv region “very objectively with the local authorities”. “We must use only advanced ideas, only modern technologies in reconstruction. In particular, security technologies. And the best offers from our partners,” he said.

Kharkiv and all other cities and communities in our country affected by the war must be reconstructed to have the most modern look in Europe, he added.

Russia increases intensity of attack on Sievierodonetsk

03:00 , Rory Sullivan

Fighting has intensified in Ukraine’s Luhansk region as Russian forces try to capture the largest city still under Ukrainian control in the territory, officials have said.

The Kremlin’s forces have their sights on Sievierodonetsk, which is located around 90 miles from the Russian border on the strategically-important Siverskiy Donetsk river.

In recent weeks, the Kremlin’s forces have pounded it with heavy artillery, with much of the city thought to lie in ruins.

Read more of our daily round-up of Ukraine here:

Russia ‘escalates’ attacks in eastern Ukraine, says regional governor

Zelensky fires security service boss in Kharkiv

02:00 , Rory Sullivan

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has fired the head of the security service in Kharkiv, after accusing him of inaction during the war.

Speaking on the same day that he visited troops in Kharkiv, Mr Zelensky said Roman Dudin, who he claimed had not contributed to his city’s defence, would be investigated.

Eurovision winners raise $900,000 for Ukraine by selling trophy

01:00 , Rory Sullivan

Kalush Orchestra, the Ukrainian band which won this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, has raised $900,000 (£715,000) for their country by auctioning off their trophy.

The funds generated by the sale will be spent by the army on the PD-2 unmanned aerial system.

The Kalush Orchestra from Ukraine celebrate after winning the Eurovision Song Contest in Turin on 14 May ((Luca Bruno/AP))
The Kalush Orchestra from Ukraine celebrate after winning the Eurovision Song Contest in Turin on 14 May ((Luca Bruno/AP))

Moscow’s ‘unconditional priority’ is to take Donbas, says Lavrov

Sunday 29 May 2022 23:58 , Rory Sullivan

Moscow’s “unconditional priority” is to capture Ukraine’s Donbas region, the Russian foreign minister has said.

Sergei Lavrov’s comments came three months after the Kremlin recognised the eastern Ukrainian provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk as breakaway states, shortly before Vladimir Putin ordered his soldiers to launch a full-scale invasion.

After Russia failed in its attempts to capture Kyiv, its troops withdrew from around the Ukrainian capital. The most intense fighting is now taking place in the Donbas, the eastern region which contains Donetsk and Luhansk.

Photos from Ukraine

Sunday 29 May 2022 23:00 , Rory Sullivan

In some of the latest photos to emerge from Ukraine, a man walks over the rubble of his destroyed village, while a Ukrainian soldiers stands guard in a trench elsewhere in Donetsk region.

A Ukrainian soldier called Nataliia stands in a trench in Donetsk region, Ukraine, on 29 May, 2022 (REUTERS)
A Ukrainian soldier called Nataliia stands in a trench in Donetsk region, Ukraine, on 29 May, 2022 (REUTERS)
Ukrainian soldiers walk near the village of Zaytseve in the Donetsk region (EPA)
Ukrainian soldiers walk near the village of Zaytseve in the Donetsk region (EPA)
A man walks amid the rubble of Zaytseve (EPA)
A man walks amid the rubble of Zaytseve (EPA)
People walk post photographs of fallen Ukrainian troops in the capital’s Saint Michael’s Sqaure as the city celebrates Kyiv Day on 29 May, 2022 (Getty Images)
People walk post photographs of fallen Ukrainian troops in the capital’s Saint Michael’s Sqaure as the city celebrates Kyiv Day on 29 May, 2022 (Getty Images)

Fears EU unity against Russia ‘starting to crumble’, says German minister

Sunday 29 May 2022 22:00 , Rory Sullivan

There are fears that Europe’s unity against the Russian invasion of Ukraine is “starting to crumble”, according to the German economy minister Robert Habeck.

His comment came as the bloc failed to agree to a Russian oil embargo. More negotiations will take place on Monday.

Russia’s ‘principal aim’ is to take Severodonetsk, says Zelensky

Sunday 29 May 2022 21:15 , Rory Sullivan

Russia’s “principal aim” is to capture the city of Severodonetsk, where all the critical infrastruction has now been destroyed, the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has said.

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

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

Truss will ‘prolong’ Ukraine war, claims Russian ambassador to UK

Sunday 29 May 2022 20:30 , Rory Sullivan

The Russian ambassador to the UK has accused the British foreign secretary Liz Truss of “belligerence”, saying she will prolong the war by sending Ukraine weapons.

Andrei Kelin claimed that her stance “will be no good for Ukraine, it will be no good for European peace and stability, and Europe itself”.

Truss belligerence will prolong conflict in Ukraine – Russian ambassador to UK

EU yet to agree to Russian oil embargo

Sunday 29 May 2022 19:45 , Rory Sullivan

The EU is yet to agree to a Russian oil embargo and will continue negotiations on Monday, one of the bloc’s officials has said.

The discussions centre around a ban by the end of the year on Russia oil which reaches the EU by sea.

However, it is thought that the Russian Druzhba pipeline will be exempt, which supplies countries including Hungary, which has opposed a total ban.

Stopping Russian is a common mission, says Ukraine’s presidential adviser

Sunday 29 May 2022 19:06 , Holly Bancroft

Ukraine’s presidential adviser Mykhaylo Podolyak has said that stopping Russia is the common mission of all civilised countries.

Writing on Twitter, he said: “Why is the world paying more attention to Ukraine than to Africa and the East?” - such a narrative is promoted by Russian agents of influence.

“Only Russian barbarians can weigh tragedies on the scales. The war in Ukraine is not a local conflict or a humanitarian crisis. This is the question of what the world will be like tomorrow.”

He warned that if Russia won the war “it will open the Pandora’s box and throw humanity into the dark ages.

“Every hypocritical autocrat will be able to provoke territorial conflicts, seize countries, destroy nations.”

 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)

Russia shelling northern Ukraine, says state border guard

Sunday 29 May 2022 18:35 , Rory Sullivan

Russia shelled parts of northern Ukraine on Sunday, the Ukrainian state border guard has said.

The Kremlin’s forces fired projectiles at the Sumy and Chernihiv oblasts.

Russians storm city and shell East Ukraine

Sunday 29 May 2022 18:06 , Holly Bancroft

Russian and Ukrainian troops engaged in close-quarter combat in an eastern Ukraine city on Sunday as Moscow’s soldiers, supported by intense shelling, attempted to gain strategic footholds for conquering the region in the face of fierce Ukrainian resistance.

Ukrainian regional officials reported Russian forces “storming” Sievierodonetsk after trying unsuccessfully to encircle the city.

The fighting knocked out power and mobile phone service, and a humanitarian relief centre could not operate because of the danger, the mayor said.

Sievierodonetsk, located about 89 miles south of the Russian border, emerged in recent days as the epicentre of Moscow’s quest to capture all of Ukraine‘s industrial Donbas region.

Russia also stepped up its efforts to take nearby Lysychansk, where civilians rushed to escape persistent shelling.

The two eastern cities span the strategically-important Siverskiy Donetsk river. They are the last major areas under Ukrainian control in Luhansk province, which makes up the Donbas together with neighbouring Donetsk.

Reporting by the Associated Press.

Zelensky commends soldiers during visit to Kharkiv region

Sunday 29 May 2022 17:05 , Andy Gregory

Here are more details from Volodymyr Zelensky’s visit to Kharkiv – his first official appearance outside the Kyiv region since Russia’s invasion began.

“You risk your lives for us all and for our country,” the president's office website cited him as telling soldiers on the front line, adding that he handed out commendations and gifts.

Mr Zelensky's chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, wrote on the Telegram app that the president also toured destroyed residential buildings, noting that their replacements had to be built with bomb shelters in place.

The president's chief of staff added that 31 per cent of Kharkiv region’s territory was currently occupied by Russia, and a further 5 per cent had been taken back by Ukraine having been occupied earlier.

Voldoymyr Zelensky visits the Kharkiv region (EPA/Ukrainian presidential press service handout)
Voldoymyr Zelensky visits the Kharkiv region (EPA/Ukrainian presidential press service handout)
Volodymyr Zelensky awarding Ukrainian servicemen during his visit (EPA/Ukrainian presidential press service)
Volodymyr Zelensky awarding Ukrainian servicemen during his visit (EPA/Ukrainian presidential press service)

Poland ‘has given Ukraine 18 howitzers

Sunday 29 May 2022 16:42 , Andy Gregory

Poland has given Ukraine 18 AHS Krab self-propelled howitzers and trained some 100 Ukrainians to operate them, Polish public radio has reported, citing a government source.

Faced with heavy shelling in its eastern provinces, Ukraine has called on the West to provide it with more longer-range weapons in order to turn the tide in the war.

The AHS Krab has a maximum firing range of 40 kilometres.

Blasts heard in Kharkiv after Zelensky makes trip to city

Sunday 29 May 2022 16:19 , Andy Gregory

Several explosions were heard in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv just hours after a visit by Volodymyr Zelensky, a Reuters journalist said.

The Ukrainian president 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.

Turkey's Erdogan still against Finnish, Swedish NATO bids

Sunday 29 May 2022 15:59 , Andy Gregory

Turkey’s president has told journalists he still intends to block Finland and Sweden’s accession to NATO.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan said meetings this week with Finnish and Swedish delegations had not been “at the expected level,” noting there had been no steps taken to alleviate Turkey’s security concerns.

“As long as Tayyip Erdogan is at the head of the Republic of Turkey, we cannot say ‘yes’ to countries that support terror joining NATO,” he told journalists on his plane following a visit to Azerbaijan Saturday, according to the daily Hurriyet newspaper.

Erdogan referred to an interview on Swedish state television with Salih Muslim, a member of the Syrian Kurdish administration in northeast Syria, on the night of the delegation meeting. He cited this as evidence of Sweden’s support for Syrian Kurdish militants that Turkey views as an extension of an outlawed Kurdish group that has led an insurgency against Turkey since 1984.

“They are not honest or genuine,” Erdogan said and vowed to not allow countries that “nuzzle terrorists to their bosom, feed terrorists on their laps.” He also accused Germany, France and the Netherlands of committing the same “mistake” of supporting terror.

The Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, forms the backbone of U.S.-led forces in the fight against the Islamic State group. Turkey has been fighting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, since 1984 inside Turkey and northern Iraq, where it has stepped up its operations. Ankara has also led cross-border operations into Syria to push the YPG away from its border, saying they are one and the same as the PKK.

All NATO members must approve the two Nordic nations’ historic bid to join the alliance, propelled by alarm at Russia‘s invasion of Ukraine. Turkey, which commands the second largest army in the alliance, has said it won’t allow their accession unless steps are taken, including a lifting of restrictions on weapons sales to Turkey.

Erdogan added he would be speaking by phone with Russian and Ukrainian leaders on Monday.

Vladimir Putin ‘given three years to live’ and ‘is losing his eyesight due to illness’, spy claims

Sunday 29 May 2022 15:34 , Andy Gregory

A supposed Russian spy has claimed that Vladimir Putin has been given just three years to live by doctors, my colleague Maryam Zakir-Hussain reports.

Messages said to be from an unidentified Russian spy to FSB defector Boris Karpichkov claim the 69-year-old president “has no more than two to three years to stay alive” and has “a severe form of rapidly progressing cancer”.

“We are told he is suffering from headaches and when he appears on TV he needs pieces of paper with everything written in huge letters to read what he’s going to say,” the Russian officer told the Sunday Mirror. “They are so big each page can only hold a couple of sentences. His eyesight is seriously worsening.”

The spy added that Putin’s limbs are “now also shaking uncontrollably”.

Putin ‘given three years to live’ and ‘is losing eyesight due to illness’ spy claims

Russia fires hypersonic missile capable of reaching target 600 miles away

Sunday 29 May 2022 15:10 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Russia has successfully fired its new hypersonic Zircon cruise missile ahead of the weapon’s debut on warships in the coming weeks, its defency ministry said.

It was launched from the Admiral Gorshkov frigate in the Barents Sea, and hit its target some 625 miles away in the White Sea, Russia’s defence ministry announced.

“According to objective control data, the Zircon hypersonic cruise missile successfully hit a sea target located at a distance of about 1,000 km,” its statement read.

My colleague Zaina Alibhai has more:

Russia fires hypersonic missile capable of reaching target 600 miles away

ICYMI - Ukraine leaders make desperate call for more weapons

Sunday 29 May 2022 14:40 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Ukraine leaders have repeated a call for US-made long-range multiple-rocket launchers to defend against strengthening Russian attacks.

“It is hard to fight when you are attacked from 70 km away and have nothing to fight back with,” Ukrainian presidential adviser and peace negotiator Mykhailo Podolyak posted on Twitter.

Ukraine can return Russia behind the Iron Curtain, but we need effective weapons for that.”

President Volodymyr Zelensky voiced hopes that Ukraine‘s allies would provide needed weapons, adding that he expected “good news” this week.

US officials said such systems are actively being considered and a decision could be given in the coming days.

Why did Russia invade Ukraine? The conflict explained

Sunday 29 May 2022 14:10 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Russia’s long-feared invasion of Ukraine continues to rage following Vladimir Putin’s announcement of his “special military operation” against the country in the early hours of 24 February, the Russian leader declaring, groundlessly, a need to “demilitarise and de-Nazify” the neighbouring state after eight years of fighting in the Donbas.

As Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky leads by example from the streets of Kyiv, tirelessly rallying the international community for support, his people mount an impressive resistence, holding back Russia’s armed forces as best they can.

My colleagues Thomas Kingsley and Joe Sommerlad explain how the conflict began:

Why did Russia invade Ukraine?

Serbia's Vucic says agreed 3-year gas supply contract with Putin

Sunday 29 May 2022 13:40 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said on Sunday he had agreed a new three-year gas supply contract in a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“I can not speak about the price now, all details will be agreed with Gazprom,” Vucic told reporters. Vucic said that Serbia he had agreed with Putin that the price of gas would be linked to the oil price, but did not elaborate.

Serbia’s 10-year gas supply contract with Gazprom expires on May 31.

Vucic also said that he had discussed with Putin expansion of gas storage space in the Balkan country.

“Putin said to call him if I feel there is anything more to be discussed,” said Vucic, Putin’s closest ally in Europe.

Serbia, which aims to join the European Union, has come under pressure recently from Western countries to align its foreign policy with the bloc and impose sanctions on Russia.

In 2008 the Balkan country put its gas and oil sectors in the hands of Russian companies. Gazprom Neft and Gazprom together hold a majority stake in the country’s sole oil company while Gazprom is majority shareholder in the country’s sole gas storage facility.

ICYMI - ‘All this suffering because of a madman’: Putin’s forces intensify attacks in bid to seize the Donbas

Sunday 29 May 2022 13:10 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Reporting from Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk, Kim Sengupta speaks to families about their grief over losing loved ones as Russia steps up its assault on the two cities of eastern Ukraine.

“No mother should have to watch her daughter die. No mother should have to piece together her daughter’s body. They killed her, they broke my heart, they broke the hearts of our family,” inconsolable Vera Ivanova said.

Read the full piece here:

‘All this suffering because of a madman’: Russia intensifies Donbas assault

Months after dam destroyed to stop Russian advance, parts of village still flooded

Sunday 29 May 2022 12:40 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Some 50 homes in the village of Demydiv remain partially submerged months after a dam was destroyed and the area flooded to stop Russian troops from advancing on Ukraine capital Kyiv, regional governor Oleksiy Kuleba said late on Saturday.

The Ukrainian military blew up a dam on the river Irpin in February, sending water surging into the village and thousands of acres around it, flooding houses and fields, but preventing Russian tanks from reaching the capital city.

“At this time, about 50 houses in the village of Demydiv remain flooded,” 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 village, whose history goes back a thousand years, had been partially evacuated after the start of the invasion, local media reported, but some residents have returned since Moscow shifted its offensive to east Ukraine.

Over the weekend, Russian forces pummelled eastern towns in what the Kremlin calls its “special operation” to disarm Ukraine and protect it from fascists. Kyiv and Western countries dismiss this as a false pretext for a land grab.

Ukrainan defenders hold out in Donbas city under heavy fire

Sunday 29 May 2022 12:10 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Ukrainian forces were on Sunday resisting a Russian assault on Sievierodonetsk, the largest city they still hold in the eastern Donbas region, but were weathering heavy artillery barrages, Ukrainian officials said.

The shelling was so intense it was not possible to assess casualties and damage, the governor of Luhansk region, Serhiy Gaidai, said. Dozens of buildings have been destroyed in the past few days.

“The situation has extremely escalated,” Gaidai said.

The Ukrainian government meanwhile urged the West to provide it with more longer-range weapons in order to turn the tide in the war, now in its fourth month.

The battle for Sievierodonetsk, which lies on the eastern side of the Siverskyi Donets River, has become the focus of attention as Russia ekes out slow but solid gains in the Donbas, comprising of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions.

Russia has concentrated huge firepower on a small area, a contrast to earlier phases of the conflict when its forces were often spread too thinly.

Russia says destroyed arsenal of Ukrainian army in Kryvyi Rih

Sunday 29 May 2022 11:40 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

The Russian defence ministry said on Sunday that Russian missiles have destroyed a large arsenal of the Ukrainian army in the city of Kryvyi Rih in central Ukraine, state news agency TASS quoted the ministry as saying.

The defence ministry also said Russian anti-aircraft defence systems shot down a Ukrainian SU-25 fighter jet in Dnipro region, TASS reported.

Mothers flee with toddlers as fighting in Lysychansk intensifies

Sunday 29 May 2022 11:10 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

As Russian forces press their offensive to take the eastern Ukrainian cities of Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk, civilians who have managed to flee say intensified shelling over the past week left them unable to even venture out from basement bomb shelters.

Bouncing her 18-month-old son on her lap, Yana Skakova choked back tears as she described living in a basement under relentless bombing, and having to leave her husband behind when she fled with her baby and four-year-old son.

Initially after the war broke out, there were quiet times when they could come out of the basement to cook in the street and let the children play outdoors.

But about a week ago, the bombing intensified. For the past five days, they hadn’t been able to venture out of the basement at all.

“Now the situation is bad, it’s scary to go out,” she said.

It was the police who came to evacuate them Friday from the basement where 18 people, including nine children, had been living for the past two and a half months.

“We were sitting there, then the traffic police came and they said: ‘You should evacuate as fast as possible, since it is dangerous to stay in Lysychansk now,”’ Skakova said.

Despite the bombings and the lack of electricity, gas and water, nobody really wanted to go.“None of us wanted to leave our native city,” she said. “But for the sake of these small children, we decided to leave.”

She broke down in tears as she described how her husband stayed behind to take care of their house and animals.

“Yehor is 1 1/2-years old, and now he’s without a father,” Skakova said.

Russian forces advance in east, shifting momentum

Sunday 29 May 2022 10:40 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Russian forces have stepped up their assault on the Ukrainian city of Sievierodonetsk after claiming to have captured the nearby rail hub of Lyman, as Kyiv intensified calls for longer-range weapons from the West.

Slow, solid Russian gains in recent days in eastern Ukraine‘s Donbas, comprising the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, point to a subtle momentum shift in the war, now in its fourth month.

Invading forces appear close to seizing all of the Luhansk region, one of the more modest war goals the Kremlin set after abandoning its assault on the capital, Kyiv, in the face of Ukrainian resistance.

Russia‘s defence ministry said on Saturday its troops and allied separatist forces were in full control of Lyman, the site of a railway junction west of the Siverskyi Donets River in the Donetsk.

However, Ukraine‘s deputy defence minister, Hanna Malyar, said the battle for Lyman continued, the ZN.ua website reported.

Sievierodonetsk, some 60 km (40 miles) from Lyman on the eastern side of the river and the largest Donbas city still held by Ukraine, was under heavy assault from the Russians.

“With the use of artillery, Russian forces carried out assault operations in the area of the city of Sievierodonetsk. The fighting continues,” the General Staff of Ukraine‘s armed forces said early on Sunday.

Russian artillery was also pounding the Lysychansk-Bakhmut road, which Russia must take to close a pincer movement and encircle Ukrainian forces, and police said there was “significant destruction” in Lysychansk.

The governor of Luhansk said on Friday Russian troops had already entered Sievierodonetsk. Ukrainian troops may have to retreat from the city to avoid capture, Governor Serhiy Gaidai said. It was not clear whether they had begun to pull out on Saturday.

Lithuanians fundraise to buy drone for Ukraine

Sunday 29 May 2022 10:10 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Hundreds of Lithuanians clubbed together to buy an advanced military drone for Ukraine in its war against Russia, in a show of solidarity with a fellow country formerly under Moscow’s rule.

The target of five million euros ($5.4 million) was raised in just three and a half days, largely in small amounts, to fund the purchase of a Byraktar TB2 military drone, according to Laisves TV, the Lithuanian internet broadcaster that launched the drive.

“Before this war started, none of us thought that we would be buying guns. But it’s a normal thing now. Something must be done for the world to get better,” said Agne Belickaite, 32, who sent 100 euros as soon as the fundraising launched on Wednesday.

“I’ve been donating to buy guns for Ukraine for a while now. And will do so until the victory,” she told Reuters, adding she was motivated in part by fears Russia could attack Lithuania.

The drone has proven effective in recent years against Russian forces and their allies in conflicts in Syria and Libya, and its purchase is being orchestrated by Lithuania’s Ministry of Defence, which told Reuters it planned to sign a letter of intent to buy the craft from Turkey next week.

“Novel, unexpected fundraisers fire people up again. It’s the third month of the invasion, it’s important to avoid getting used to it,” Lithuania’s Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte told Laisves TV.

“This is the first case in history when ordinary people raise money to buy something like a Bayraktar. It is unprecedented, it is unbelievable,” Beshta Petro, Ukraine‘s ambassador to Lithuania, told Laisves TV.

Zelensky says Ukraine could soon outnumber Russian technology

Sunday 29 May 2022 09:40 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

President Volodymyr Zelensky said Ukraine, working to boost weapons supplies, was approaching the point where it would outnumber the Russians technologically and in terms of its ability to strike.

“Of course, a lot depends on our partners and their readiness to provide Ukraine with everything necessary to protect freedom. And I expect good news on this next week,” he said in a late-night video, without giving details.

Zelensk y adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said late on Saturday that “the weapons we so desperately need will most likely be delivered soon.”

Why did Russia invade Ukraine? The conflict explained

Sunday 29 May 2022 09:10 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Vladimir Putin’s military assault continues in face of near-unanimous international condemnation.

My colleagues Thomas Kingsley and Joe Sommerlad explain why Russia is invading Ukraine.

Why did Russia invade Ukraine?