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Ukraine court jails 2 Russians for war crimes

May 31, 2022

A Ukraine court has sentenced two Russian soldiers to over 11 years in prison for the shelling of civilian buildings. Meanwhile, Ukraine says Russia controls "around half" of Sievierodonetsk.

A building destroyed by Russian shelling
Russian shelling has destroyed many residential buildings in Ukrainian cities, although Moscow claims it does not target civilian structuresImage: Yuliia Ovsiannikova/Ukrinform/abaca/picture alliance
  • Two more Russian soldiers sentenced to jail for war crimes.
  • Ukrainian official says half of Sievierdonetsk is under Russian control
  • First ship sails from Mariupol since Russia seized city
  • EU proposes €9 billion in financial aid to Kyiv
  • Russia's Gazprom suspends gas supplies to the Netherlands
  • Russia's Lavrov to visit Turkey on June 8 for talks on Ukrainian exports

This live updates article has been closed.

Zelenskyy says Sievierodonetsk chemical plant hit 'crazy'

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Moscow of "madness" after Russian forces hit a chemical plant in the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk.

"Given the presence of large-scale chemical production in Sievierodonetsk, the Russian army's strikes there, including blind air bombing, are just crazy," Zelenskyy said.

"But on the 97th day of such a war, it is no longer surprising that for the Russian military, for Russian commanders, for Russian soldiers, any madness is absolutely acceptable."

Regional authorities said that Russian forces had hit a nitric acid tank at a chemical plant and warned people to stay indoors.

Mayor: Russia controls half of Sievierodonetsk

The battle for Sievierodonetsk, located in the Luhansk region in Ukraine's eastern Donbas, has been intensifying this week. Ukrainian authorities have said that Russian forces control half of the city.

Before Russia's invasion, Sievierodonetsk served as the Luhansk region's de facto administrative center, as the city of Luhansk fell in the hands of pro-Russian separatists in 2014.

European People's Party supports Ukrainian EU candidacy

German politician Manfred Weber said EU membership for Ukraine was a priority as he was elected leader of the conservative European People's Party (EPP).

The EPP is currently the largest bloc in the European parliament. Weber replaces former EU Council chief Donald Tusk of Poland.

"The first message we have to give in this moment is that we as EPP family we say yes you are welcomed, yes it's worth to fight, yes you can become a member of the European Union," Weber said, referring to Ukraine.

"The EPP supports the candidate status for our Ukraine friends," he said in a speech after he was elected.

Kyiv has demanded the EU fast-track Ukraine's application for membership in the 27-member bloc. A number of EU leaders such as France's Emmanuel Macron, the Netherlands' Mark Rutte and Germany's Olaf Scholz have opposed a fast-track for Ukrainian EU accession.

Kherson communications shutdown — Ukrainian officials

Ukraine’s State Service for Special Communication and Information Protection said that in the country’s southern Kherson region an unspecified intrusion "by the occupation regime" had taken place.

Equipment had been powered down and cables were disconnected, the service said.

"The residents of the region are currently left without Ukrainian mobile communication and Internet access, as well as with no means to make national and international phone calls using landline phone devices."

German energy giants pay for Russian gas in ruble-euro transfer scheme

Germany's RWE and Uniper paid for Russian gas shipments in May using a scheme proposed by Moscow involving setting up accounts paid in euros and then swapped for rubles, Reuters news agency reported Tuesday.

The two companies are major importers of Russian gas, and said they had set up accounts in Russia to ensure that gas flows are not interrupted.

Uniper said the payment process was coordinated with the German government and follows EU guidelines on energy sanctions.

"Like other German and European companies, Uniper has changed the payment method for gas deliveries from Russia. Uniper pays in euros in accordance with the new payment mechanism," Uniper said in comments to Reuters. A spokesperson for RWE also made a similar statement.

However, Dutch energy concern GasTerra has said in a statement it considers the payment scheme would "risk breaching sanctions imposed by the EU and also because there are too many financial and operational risks associated with the required payment route." GasTerra said it did not want to open both a ruble and euro account at Gazprombank in Moscow.  

On Tuesday, Russia's Gazprom shut off supplies to the Dutch energy company after it did not make payments for April gas payments using the scheme.

Independence from Russian gas?

Macron calls for UN resolution on lifting of Odesa blockade

French President Emmanuel Macron has called for a UN resolution to lift Russia's blockade of Odesa. 

Macron said following a EU summit in Brussels that he proposed the idea to Russian President Vladimir Putin during a phone call last Saturday. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also took part in the discussion.  

The vital Black Sea port city exports Ukrainian goods such as wheat to the rest of the world. The continued blockade could result in a food crisis in other regions such as Africa.

Scholz welcomes EU oil embargo as symbol of unity

Germany Chancellor Olaf Scholz praised the EU's partial ban on Russian oil imports as a symbol of unity.

He also expressed understanding for EU countries such as Hungary, which are not able to wean themselves off Russian oil as quickly as Germany.

Following EU talks in Brussels, Scholz said the sanctions are intended to end the war and lead to a peaceful solution with Ukraine.

The German leader also announced that Germany would sent German infantry fighting vehicles (IFV) to Greece. This would allow the government in Athens to then send Soviet-style weapons to Ukraine.

"We will provide Greece with German infantry fighting vehicles," Scholz told journalists. He didn't yet specify what type of vehicles Berlin would sent to Greece or what types of weapons would be passed onto Kyiv.    

Russian budget will lose 25% of revenue due to EU embargo, says oil expert 

Ukraine says thousands of war crime cases in Donbas region  

The Ukrainian prosecutor's office said it has uncovered a "few thousand" cases of war crimes in the eastern Donbas region. 

Kyiv's top prosecutor also said it has identified over 600 Russian war suspects and started prosecuting around 80 of them.

During a news conference in The Hague, Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova said the list of war crimes suspects "includes top military, politicians and propaganda agents of Russia."   

Estonia, Latvia and Slovakia have joined an international investigation team in Ukraine dedicated to finding information related to war crimes. 

The International Criminal Court has deployed dozens of investigators, forensic experts and support personnel to Ukraine to aid in these efforts. 

"We should collect and protect everything in the right way. It should be acceptable evidence in any court," Venediktova said.

African Union chair: Russia's blockade of Ukrainian ports spells disaster

African Union Chair Mickey Sall told EU leaders that Russia's blockade of Ukrainian ports could lead to a "catastrophic scenario" for the continent, triggering shortages and price hikes.

Sall said stopping grain and fertilizer exports via the Black Sea could especially have a major negative impact. Hundreds of millions of Africans are considered undernourished.

"According to some estimates, cereal yields in Africa will fall by 20% to 50% this year," Sall said. "We would like to see everything possible done to free up available grain stocks and ensure transportation and market access."  

Russia's Medvedev claims sanctions are aimed directly at citizens

The deputy head of Russia's Security Council Dmitry Medvedev said the latest round of sanctions are not just aimed at the country's political elite, but also ordinary citizens.

Medvedev said on Telegram that the latest sanctions won't be "fatal" for large firms, but are "directed precisely against the people of Russia."

He said embargos from other countries towards Russian oil and gas are intended to force the government into enacting budget cuts. 

"An embargo on buying oil and gas from Russia? The same thing: to reduce the budget incomes and force the state to abandon its social obligations," Medvedev asserted.

"The basis for these decisions is hatred for Russia, for Russians and for all its inhabitants," Medvedev said without backing up his claim. 

Medvedev previously served as Russia's president and prime minister.     

Oil prices spike after EU embargo announcement 

Oil prices spiked Tuesday following the EU's announcement it would ban most Russian imports of the commodity.

The price of Brent Crude, for example, surged to two-month highs of over $123 per barrel (€115).

West Texas Intermediate rose to over $119 per barrel, its high price since early March.

Inflation is also surging in Europe amid Russia's war on Ukraine. Inflation in the 19 countries of the Eurozone reached a record 8.1% in May, according to authorities.    

EU agrees sixth package of Russia sanctions

War crimes meeting underway in The Hague

Representatives of a group of nations working together to investigate war crimes committed in Russia's war in Ukraine are meeting in The Hague.

Members of a Joint Investigative Team and International Criminal Court Prosecutor Karim Khan held a coordination meeting at the European Union's judicial cooperation agency, Eurojust.

The Joint Investigation Team, made up of Ukraine, Lithuania and Poland, was established in late March, a few weeks after the ICC opened an investigation in Ukraine. The ICC has a team of investigators in Ukraine gathering evidence of alleged war crimes.

The head of the Europe & Central Asia division at Human Rights Watch, Hugh Williamson, told DW it was important that these investigations move foward swiftly.

"The Ukrainian prosecutor's office is busy with this issue. The International Criminal Court has sent experts to Ukraine as well. It's important that these teams are well coordinated, sharing resources, supporting the prosecutor's office in the work they're doing," Williamson said.

He stressed that the work needs to be thorough and independent, but also needs to move forward as fast as possible.

War crimes investigations in Ukraine must 'move forward as fast as possible': HRW

Up to 12,000 civilians caught in Sievierodonetsk crossfire, group says 

Jan Egeland, the secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, said thousands of civilians caught in the fighting in Sievierodonetsk are in dire need of aid. 

"I am horrified to see Sievierodonetsk, the thriving city where we had our operational headquarters, become the epicenter of yet another chapter of the brutal war in Ukraine," Egeland said in a statement.

"We fear that up to 12,000 civilians remain caught in crossfire in the city, without sufficient access to water, food, medicine or electricity," he added. "The near-constant bombardment is forcing civilians to seek refuge in bomb shelters and basements, with only few precious opportunities for those trying to escape."

Egeland said intensified fighting in the city makes aid delivery "impossible." He called for allowing humanitarian organizations to be granted access to the city along with safe evacuations of civlians.     

Ukraine war exacerbating humanitarian crises in Africa, UN official says

Raouf Mazou, assistant high commissioner at the UNHCR refugee agency, told AFP news agency about how Russia's invasion is negatively impacting Africa.

"Across Africa, rising prices and reduced food aid caused by the war in Ukraine will increase the vulnerability of refugees and other forcibly displaced populations and increase the risk of inter-communal tensions," Mazou said.

"Food, fuel and fertilizer costs have skyrocketed and decline in purchasing power is hitting the most vulnerable households the hardest, including refugees and displaced people," Mazou added.

The UN official said climate change-related disasters are already having serious consequences for the continent.       

"Floods and droughts are becoming more frequent and intense, seriously affecting countries such as Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and South Sudan," Mazou said. 

Russia claims to have found over 150 bodies at Azovstal steel plant   

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.

Russia asserts that the bodies were stored inside a cooling unit and "four mines" were found underneath them.

"The Russian side plans to hand over the bodies of Ukrainian militants and servicemen found on the territory of the Azovstal plant to representatives in Ukraine," the ministry said.

in late April, remaining Ukranian forces were stuck inside the city's giant Azovstal steelworks and its tunnels during a weekslong siege. Hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers at the plant later surrendered to Russia. 

Russia declares complete victory in Mariupol

Two more Russian soldiers sentenced to jail for war crimes

Two Russian soldiers have been sentenced to 11 years and six months in jail for shelling Ukrainian villages, a court in central Ukraine has ruled. 

Russians Alexander Bobykin and Alexander Ivanov pleaded guilty to the war crimes last week.

The two men acknowledged that they had fired at positions in the Kharkiv region from Russia. According to prosecutors, the shelling destroyed an educational facility in Derhachi, but left no casualties.

"The guilt of Bobykin and Ivanov has been proven in full," Judge Evhen Bolybok said. 

Bobykin and Ivanov were described as an artillery driver and gunner respectively. They were detained after crossing the Russian-Ukrainian border.

Documenting war crimes in Ukraine

Russian forces control 'around half' of Sievierodonetsk, Ukrainian official says

Russian troops now control "around half" of the critical city of Sievierodonetsk, according to Oleksander Stryuk, the head of the city's military administration. 

"Half of the city has been captured by the Russians and fierce street fighting is under way," Stryuk told the AP news agency. "The situation is very serious and the city is essentially being destroyed ruthlessly block by block."  

Stryuk said Ukrainian forces are still defending the city, which is key for Russia's ambitions in the eastern Donbas region.

"The Ukrainian military continues to resist this frenzied push and aggression by Russian forces," he said. 

Ukrainian official says latest round of EU sanctions 'not enough'  

Ihor Zhovkha, the deputy head of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's office, said the latest round of EU sanctions on Russia is "not enough."

"If you ask me, I would say far too slow, far too late and definitely not enough," Zhovkha said of the package, which includes a partial ban on Russian oil imports.  

Russia's Lavrov to visit Turkey to discuss grain exports from Ukraine

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is expected to visit Turkey on June 8 to discuss a sea corridor for Ukrainian exports, according to Turkey's top diplomat. 

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Lavrov will visit Turkey "for talks on the issue of opening a security corridor that also includes (shipping) of wheat in the Black Sea."  

"This is the most important question. We are focusing on this. We are planning to establish a center in Istanbul to observe the corridor," Cavusoglu said in a televised interview. 

Both Ukraine and Russia are major global wheat suppliers. Ukrainian ports have been surrounded by Russian forces, choking off exports of wheat and other foodstuffs. 

Russia claims Ukraine has mined its territorial waters, preventing the safe passage of ships through the Black and Azov seas. 

"If the problem of de-mining is resolved... Russia's naval forces will ensure the unhindered passage of these ships into the Mediterranean and onwards to (their) destinations," Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told journalists during a trip to Bahrain.  

EU's top diplomat says oil ban would hurt Russia's war funding

High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell said the bloc's partial ban on Russian oil imports would disrupt Moscow's war operations in Ukraine.

Borrell said the embargo would force the Kremlin to offer crude at a lower price to others than it normally would, hurting profits. Oil and gas is the main engine of the Russian economy. 

"We are the most important client for Russia," Borrell said ahead of the second day of EU talks in Brussels. "The purpose is to make Russia have less financial resources to feed its war machine." 

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said the bloc should impose a seventh round of sanctions on Russia, with the punitive measures including steps against gas imports. 

"I think that gas has to be in the seventh package but I am realistic as well," Kallas told journalists in Brussels. "I don't think it will be there."

Several EU countries, such as Germany, are reliant on Russian gas imports for their energy needs.

"The gas embargo will not be a topic, (German Chancellor) Olaf Scholz has made this clear as well," Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer said ahead of the talks.        

UK intelligence: Further challenges lie ahead for Russia in Donbas

The UK Ministry of Defense, in its latest intelligence update, described Russia's goals in the eastern Donbas region, along with the challenges that lie ahead for its military campaign. 

"Russia's capture of Lyman supports its operational main effort, which likely remains the encirclement of Sievierodonetsk and the closure of the pocket around Luhansk Oblast," the assessment said. 

"Heavy shelling continues, while street fighting is likely taking place on the outskirts of Sievierodonetsk town," it added. 

"Progress has been slow but gains have been held," the UK said regarding Russia's advances in the region. 

"Routes into the pocket likely remain under Ukrainian control. Russia has achieved greater local successes than earlier in the campaign by massing forces and fires in a relatively small area. This forces Russia to accept risk elsewhere in occupied territory," London said regarding the future outlook of Russia's military campaign. 

The UK believes that in order for Russia to achieve its political goal of occupying the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions, "its military will need to secure further challenging objectives beyond Sievierodonetsk, including the key city of Kramatorsk and the M04 Dnipro-Donetsk main road."

Ukraine's displaced fear second upheaval

Russia's Gazprom suspends gas supplies to the Netherlands

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

Russia had already suspended gas supplies to Poland, Bulgaria and Finland after they refused to pay in line with the gas-for-rubles scheme ordered by President Vladimir Putin.

The new payment requirements were introduced after the West imposed sweeping sanctions against Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.

GasTerra buys and trades gas on behalf of the Dutch government. It said on Monday that it had decided not to adopt the new payment system, which involved setting up accounts to convert euro payments to rubles.

It also said it had made alternative arrangements to cover the 2 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas it had expected to receive from Gazprom through October.

EU looks to biogas to decrease dependence

Ship leaves Mariupol carrying steel to Russia 

A ship has left the Ukrainian port of Mariupol headed to Russia with a cargo of metal, the leader of the self-pronounced separatist region of Donetsk says. 

Some 2,500 metric tons of metal left Mariupol bound for the Russian port of Rostov-on-Don. 

Ukraine has said the shipping of the metal amounts to looting, having already accused Russia of stealing grain from occupied areas. 

Ukraine's largest steelmaker Metinvest on Friday voiced concern that Russia would use ships stranded in Mariupol to "steal and smuggle metallurgical products" belonging to the group. Metinvest accused Russia of piracy. 

Russia took full control Mariupol last week when some 2,400 Ukrainian fighters surrendered at the besieged Azovstal steel plant. 

Steel plant CEO stays resililent for staff

Russia inching towards center of Sievierodonetsk: governor

The governor of Luhansk has told Ukrainian state television that Russian troops are slowly advancing towards the center of Sievierodonetsk.

Governor Serhiy Gaidai said there were some 15,000 civilians left in the city in the eastern Luhansk region, as most of the 120,000 inhabitants had already fled the Russian shelling. 

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

Sievierodonetsk is seen as important to Moscow's efforts to swiftly capture the industrial Donbas region before more Western arms arrive to boost Ukraine's defense.

Military analyst: 'We mustn't get fixated on one battle'

Separatist says a third of Sievierdonetsk in Russian hands

Russian forces have taken control of roughly a third of the Ukrainian city of Sievierdonetsk but their operation is taking longer than they had hoped, according to a separatist leader.

Russian troops have the southeastern and northeastern parts of the city but have met with resistance. Most of the city is in ruins after sustained Russian shelling.

"We can say already that a third of Sievierodonetsk is already under our control," the Russian state news agency TASS quoted Leonid Pasechnik, the leader of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic, as saying in a report.

Pasechnik said Russian forces were not advancing as rapidly as might have been hoped as fighting raged in the city.

The Russian advance has apparently been complicated by the presence of several large chemical plants in the area, TASS reported.

Russia recognized Luhansk as independent when it launched its invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

Ukraine's Zelenskyy says Russia enjoys 'maximum combat power' in Donbas

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that Russian forces now enjoy "maximum combat power" in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region.

Zelenskyy said that Sievierodonetsk, Lysychansk, Bakhmut, Avdiivka, Kurakhove and Slovyansk were key Russian targets in the region.

Russian forces move into Sievierodonetsk

He added that there had also been shelling in Ukraine's second-largest city, Kharkiv, and in the northeastern Sumy region.

Meanwhile, Ukraine's general staff warned of fresh Russian offensives in the region. The general staff's daily situation report said that a Russian attack on the eastern city of Slovyansk was being readied.

European Council to commit €9 billion in aid to Ukraine

European Council President Charles Michel has announced the EU is ready to give Ukraine €9 billion ($9.7 billion).

He added that the European Council will help Kyiv with its "immediate liquidity needs" alongside the G7 countries.

Michel tweeted that this constituted "strong and concrete support to Ukraine's reconstruction."

Summary of events in Ukraine-Russia crisis on Sunday

Russian forces launched an assault on the strategic city of Sievierodonetsk after trying unsuccessfully to surround it, Ukrainian officials said.

Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia announced it had scrapped plans to hold a referendum on joining the Russian Federation.

EU Council president Charles Michel said that the bloc had agreed to removing Sberbank from the SWIFT international payment system. It also agreed on a partial embargo on Russian oil equivalent to more than two thirds of all imports.

Partially state-owned Dutch gas company GasTerra said it would no longer be receiving gas from Russian state energy company Gazprom.

US President Joe Biden said that Washington will not send Ukraine rocket systems capable of hitting targets in Russian territory.

Russia started importing grain from the occupied Kherson region of Ukraine.

The German government agreed to new simplified rules to allow Russians into the country who are considered particularly endangered in their own country.

At least two people were injured in a bomb attack in the Russian-held city of Melitopol in southern Ukraine.

You can revisit our live updates from May 30 here.

Russia makes gains in Donbas offensive

wd, sdi/jsi (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)