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The US and Germany will supply Ukrainian forces with more advanced rocket systems and munitions. Fighting has intensified as Russia pushes to control the eastern Luhansk region. Follow DW for the latest.
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Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel called Russia's invasion of Ukraine a "barbaric war" at a Wednesday trade union event.
According to a participant in the event cited by Reuters, Merkel said that she would not offer advice from the sidelines but supported the government's efforts to "find an end to this barbaric war."
The event in question was a farewell ceremony for the outgoing president of the DGB trade union confederation.
This is the second time Merkel has publicly commented on the war. In February, the former chancellor gave a brief statement in which she said there was no justification for the blatant breach of international law.
Germany and The Netherlands will jointly drill for a new gas field in the North Sea, the Dutch government said. The plan to drill for gas 10 nautical miles (19 kilometres, 11 miles) offshore on the Dutch-German border is not new, but has taken on a new urgency in recent months.
Deputy minister of mining Hans Vijlbrief "issued permits for the Dutch part today," it said in a statement, adding that "an accelerated procedure for the required permits is underway" in Germany.
Although the German state of Lower Saxony had opted not issue permits because of ecological concerns near the islands of Schiermonnikoog and Borkum, officials there are "now making a different decision because of the war in Ukraine," the Dutch ministry said.
The first gas from the platform is expected to be extracted by 2024, it added.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg confirmed that he had convened a meeting of senior officials from Finland, Sweden and Turkey to address and seek to resolve Ankara's objections to the two Nordic countries joining the alliance.
Finland and Sweden have sought to join NATO, due to security concerns over Russia's war on Ukraine, but Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan rejected their bids, saying they're not doing enough to fight Kurdish extremism.
Stoltenberg said the talks will be held in Brussels "in a few days with senior officials,'' but provided no further details. "I'm confident that we will find a way forward,'' he said.
Washington expects Russia's war in Ukraine to continue for "many months" ahead despite pushbacks on the battlefield, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.
"As best we can assess right now, we are still looking at many months of conflict," Blinken told a joint news conference with NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg.
"That could be over tomorrow if Russia chose to end the aggression. We don't see any signs of that right now," Blinken said.
Blinken's remarks come as the US announced they would be supplying Ukraine with the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, which can carry and fire up to six medium-range rockets or can carry one long-range missile.
"The Ukrainians have given us assurances that they will not
use these systems against targets on Russian territory," Blinken said.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said there was some "progress" regarding talks to tackle the global food crisis triggered by Russia's assault on Ukraine.
"I think that there is progress, but we are not yet there. These are complex things and the fact that everything is interlinked makes the negotiation particularly complex," Guterres told the media in Stockholm along with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson.
Ukraine is a major exporter of wheat. along with corn and sunflower oil. Russia, meanwhile, is a major fertilizer exporter.
Ukrainian ports have been blocked from sending exports out to sea amid a Russian blockade. Russian ships, meanwhile, have reportedly had difficulty exporting grain due to sanctions.
Guterres is hoping to resume both Ukrainian and Russian exports in order to prevent a food catastrophe in the developing world, particularly in many African countries.
"As I said to the security council, I'm hopeful, but there is a ways to go and we are totally committed to make things happen," Guterres said.
UN Chief Antonio Guterres discussed the global food crisis during a meeting with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson
The US and Germany's decision to supply Ukrainian forces with rocket and air defense systems was "good news for Ukraine and very bad news for Russian artillery crews and artillery commanders," Frank Ledwidge, a military analyst from the University of Portsmouth, told DW.
Ledwidge said it would take months before the American High Mobility Rocket Artillery Systems could be effectively used in Ukraine.
Ukraine would probably use them in conjunction with the IRIS-T air defense and radar systems that Germany would send.
Moscow has expressed concern over the move, warning that enabling Ukraine to strike targets inside Russia would elevate the West's role in the war to a more direct involvement. However, Ledwige said that at least in some sense, the West has been involved in the conflict for some time.
"The West's objectives were set out by Lloyd Austin a few weeks ago, which was to grind down the Russian army, so it can't be a threat to its neighbors. And that's being done by the Ukrainian army with Western weapons. So, yes, of course, we're involved," Ledwidge said, referring to the US Secretary of Defense.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Poland and Ukraine will both benefit from several new economic agreements.
"Today we are preparing several agreements between specific ministries, which will help Ukraine and give Poland an economic impulse," Morawiecki said while on a visit to Borodyanka, a town near Kyiv which was devastated by Russia's military assault.
"For example these are agreements concerning the export of Ukrainian grain," he said.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki went to Borodyanka to open container houses for Ukrainians who lost their apartments
He said Poland could serve as an economic hub for Ukraine. Polish railways, for example, could benefit by transporting Ukrainian grain to Baltic sea ports.
"Polish companies will take part in rebuilding [Ukraine], but first we must free Ukraine," he asserted.
During a speech to German parliament, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Russia intends to "depopulate and extinguish civilization" in the eastern Donbas region of Ukraine.
"City by city, village by village, Russian troops are destroying them from a safe distance," she said. "First the missiles, then the warplanes with artillery, and then, when everything is flattened, the tanks roll in."
Baerbock said Ukraine needs weapons such artillery, drones and air defense weapons to defend itself from Russia's assault.
She believes Ukraine needs support over the long term. "We are defending the people of Ukraine the best we can," Baerbock emphasized.
She said German Chancellor Olaf Scholz's announcement that Berlin would send IRIS-T air defense systems to Ukraine was one means of support. Baerbock also acknowledged that the delivery of the air defense systems would take months.
Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist told DW that his country's bid to join NATO does not mean that it is abandoning its role as a neutral peacemaker. At the same time, he said Russia's assault on Ukraine has "fundamentally" changed the situation in Europe.
"Our values are the same values as other countries in Europe... that we try to create peace and we try to create peaceful solutions," he told DW anchor Gerhard Elfers. "But we are not native, we see the development around us and we must make conclusions from that situation."
He discussed the main reasons for Sweden's aspirations to join NATO.
"The whole idea is to be a member of NATO is also that we will have NATO represenations in different sort of exercises and activities on Swedish soil," Hultqvist said. "I think we can build a higher level and higher threshold towards with Russia with NATO membership."
Russia said it will "minimize" the consequences of an partial oil imports ban imposed by the EU.
"Sanctions will have a negative effect for Europe, us and the whole energy market," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said. "But a reorientation is underway (in Russia) that will allow us to minimize the negative consequences."
The EU will prohibit 90% Russian oil imports by the end of the year in an attempt to hurt the Kremlin financing towards the war in Ukraine.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov told state-run media outlet RIA Novosti that Moscow sees US military aid to Ukraine "extremely negatively."
The remarks came after US announced it would send "advanced rocket systems" to Ukraine.
Ryabkov said arms shipments increase the risk of confrontation between the US and Russia.
"Any arms shipments that continue, that are on the rise, increase the risks of such a development," Ryabkov said.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Pesko told journalists that the US "is deliberately pouring oil on the fire" with the decision.
Russia Defense Ministry claimed it had destroyed dozens of weapons systems the West had sent to Ukraine.
Luhansk region governor Serhiy Haidai said on Telegram that Russian forces now control 70% of the critical city of Sievierodonetsk.
Haidai said the evacuation of civilians in the city had been halted.
"There is no possibility to bring in humanitarian aid," he said.
Meanwhile, he said the city of Lysychansk remains "fully" under Ukrainian control. Lysychansk is the only city in Luhansk that has not been taken by Russia or Russian-backed separatists.
Russian energy firm Gazprom said its gas exports to nations outside of the former Soviet Union has dropped 27% year-on-year between January and May.
Gazprom has lost European buyers such as Poland and Bulgaria amid Russia's demands for gas clients to pay in rubles.
Pope Francis has urged authorities to stop the blockade of wheat exports from Ukraine.
"The blocking of exports of wheat from Ukraine is very worrying because the lives of millions of people depend on it, especially in poorer countries," the pope said.
He said grain cannot be used as a "weapon of war."
Ukraine is one of the world's top wheat exporters.
The African Union has already warned that the blockade could result in a food crisis on the continent.
Russian ships are blockading Ukrainian ports, preventing exports from moving through the Black Sea and Sea of Azov. Ukraine has also called for the blockade to be lifted, while Russia claims the Ukrainian sea territory near the ports are mined.
A major energy firm in Denmark said Russia is cutting off natural gas to the Scandinavian country, after Copenhagen declined to pay in rubles.
The energy company, Orsted, said it would still be able to meet the needs of its customers despite the cutoff.
"We stand firm in our refusal to pay in rubles, and we've been preparing for this scenario," Orsted CEO Mads Nipper said. "The situation underpins the need of the EU becoming independent of Russian gas by accelerating the build-out of renewable energy."
Russian energy firm Gazprom later confirmed it halted gas supplies to Orsted on its website.
Russia has already stopped natural gas supplies from reaching Finland, Poland and Bulgaria after those nations refused to pay in Russian currency.
In his speech to the Bundestag, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Germany would deliver modern IRIS-T air defense systems to Ukraine.
The German leader said with the help of these systems, Ukraine will be in a position "to protect an entire major city from Russian air attacks."
Scholz also said Germany has vowed to give Ukraine tracking radar which is capable of detecting enemy howitzers, mortars and rocket artillery.
In addition, Scholz said Berlin would send multiple rocket launchers to Ukraine in close coordination with the United States. Ukrainian officials have said these systems would not be used to target Russian territory.
German news outlet dpa reported that Berlin plans to send four of the launchers to Ukraine, with the US training Ukrainian soldiers to use the systems.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz spoke in parliament on Wednesday, outlining his government's spending priorities — with a particular emphasis on how Berlin is approaching the war in Ukraine.
Scholz emphasized the impact that Russia's invasion in Ukraine is having on rising prices, with the chancellor vowing to do what he can to ease the burden.
He is set to share details on how a €100 billion ($107 billion) fund would be used to revamp and update the German military's weapons and equipment.
Fighting intensified in the streets of Sievierodonetsk in recent days, as Russian troops push to take control of more of the strategic city, the UK Defense Ministry said on Wednesday.
"Over half of the town is likely now occupied by Russian forces, including Chechen fighters," the ministry said in an intelligence update.
Fighting in Sievierodonetsk, the regional capital of the eastern Luhansk region, intensified on May 30 and 31, the ministry said. The city is one of the last areas in the Luhansk region that is under control by Ukrainian forces.
Heavy casualties have been reported on both the Ukrainian and Russian sides.
Elsewhere in Ukraine, Russian forces are targeting key infrastructure — particularly bride links that have been critical to ensuring the flow of some Ukrainian exports after Russian forces blockaded the country's Black Sea ports.
Russia's nuclear forces are holding drills in the Ivanovo region northeast of Moscow, the Interfax news agency cited the Russian defense ministry as saying.
Some 1,000 servicemen are exercising in maneuvers using over 1,000 vehicles, the ministry said.
More than 5 million Ukrainian children are dependent on humanitarian aid, according to the UN's children's fund (UNICEF).
Within Ukraine, about 3 million children are in need of support and 2.2 million that have fled Ukraine require assistance.
At least 262 children have been killed since the war began and hundreds of schools have been damaged, UNICEF said.
"Instead of celebrating the occasion, we are solemnly approaching June 3 — the 100th day of a war that has shattered the lives of millions of children," UNICEF Director Catherine Russell said, referring to the Children's Day commemorations observed in Ukraine, Russia and other countries on June 1.
"Without an urgent ceasefire and negotiated peace, children will continue to suffer — and fallout from the war will impact vulnerable children around the world."
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked the EU for its sixth package of sanctions imposed on Russia.
Zelenskyy said that a seventh package would be needed once the terms of the sixth round of sanctions had been implemented.
"At the end of the day, there should be no significant economic ties at all between the free world and the terrorist state," Zelenskyy said.
"We will work on new restrictions against Russia for this war."
Ukraine's president said that Russia was losing "tens of billions of euros" due to the EU's partial oil embargo. He argued that a full embargo would assist EU countries in their transition to renewable energies.
US President Joe Biden said that Washington will send Ukraine "advanced rocket systems" to hit "key targets."
The advanced rocket systems are part of a $700 million (€653 million) weapons package expected to be unveiled on Wednesday.
Officials said that the package will also include ammunition, counterfire radars, a number of air surveillance radars, additional Javelin anti-tank missiles and anti-armor weapons.
Washington is providing Ukraine with high mobility artillery rocket systems (HIMARS) after Kyiv gave "assurances" they would not use the missiles to strike inside Russia.
Earlier, the US government said it was weighing up sending multiple rocket launchers to Ukraine.
White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre added that the delivery of US-produced multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) and HIMARS was being considered.
On Monday, Biden said that no missile systems that could strike Russian territory would be sent to Ukraine. Jean-Pierre said Biden meant no systems would be sent "for use beyond the battlefield in Ukraine."
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Moscow of "madness" after Russian forces hit a chemical plant in the eastern city of Severodonetsk.
French President Emmanuel Macron called for a UN resolution to lift Russia's blockade of Odesa.
The Ukrainian prosecutor's office said it had uncovered a "few thousand" cases of war crimes in the eastern Donbas region.
Oil prices spiked following the EU's announcement it would ban most Russian imports of the commodity.
Russia's Ministry of Defense said its forces found "152 bodies of dead militants and servicemen of Ukraine's armed forces" underneath the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol.
Two Russian soldiers were sentenced to 11 years and six months in jail for shelling Ukrainian villages by a court in central Ukraine.
You can revisit our live updates from May 31 here.
rs, sdi/jsi, sms (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)