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Ukraine reports fierce fighting in Sievierodonetsk

May 30, 2022

Russian troops are reported to have entered the city of Sievierodonetsk amid heavy resistance. Meanwhile, Ukraine's president is set to address European leaders at a special EU summit.

A view of an apartment building damaged by shelling in the embattled city of Sievierodonetsk
Russian forces have reportedly entered the outskirts of the Ukrainian city of SievierodonetskImage: Alexander Reka/picture alliance/dpa/TASS
  • Zelenskyy is to address a special summit of EU leaders
  • Fierce fighting reported in Luhansk city of Sievierodonetsk
  • Russia says its 'top priority' is victory in Ukraine's Donbas
  • Bomb attack hits Russian-controlled Melitopol

This live updates article has been closed. For the latest developments in Ukraine, please click here

South Ossetia scraps Russia annexation referendum

Georgia’s breakaway region of South Ossetia has scrapped plans to hold a referendum on joining the Russian Federation.

The referendum had been scheduled for July 17.

Russia recognized South Ossetia as independent during the Russo-Georgian War of 2008.

South Ossetian leader Alan Gagloev invoked the "uncertainty of the legal consequences of the issue submitted to a referendum."

Ossetian flag visible over the city of Tskhinvali
South Ossetia declared its independence in 1991 and was recognized by Moscow in 2008Image: Sergei Bobylev/TASS/dpa/picture alliance

Gagloev has ordered "to hold, without delay, consultations with the Russian side on the entire range of issues related to the further integration of South Ossetia and the Russian Federation."

Gagloev’s predecessor, Anatoly Bibilov, signed a decree on holding the referendum on May 13. Bibilov lost his bid for re-election earlier this month.

EU agrees to remove Sberbank from SWIFT, partial embargo on Russian oil

EU Council president Charles Michel said that the bloc has agreed to removing Sberbank from the SWIFT international payment system.

Sberbank is Russia's largest bank and is majority state-owned.

The EU will also ban 3 additional Russian state-owned broadcasters and sanction individuals responsible for war crimes in Ukraine.

Michel added that the EU leaders had also agreed to ban the export of Russian oil to the bloc.

Zelenskyy presses EU to agree on sanctions

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Monday urged EU leaders to reach a consensus on the next package of sanctions targeting Russia.

"Internal disputes only lead to Russia increasing pressure on Europe," Zelenskyy said in a video message at the beginning of an EU special summit in Brussels.

"It is time for you to act not individually, but together," Zelenskyy said. "Why do you depend on Russia and on Russian pressure, and why is it not the other way around?"

Zelenskyy: 'The quarrels in Europe must end'

The sixth sanctions package includes an embargo on Russian oil and has proven to be a sticking point among EU member states.

Hungary is leading a group of EU countries along with Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria that have a heavy reliance on Russian oil.

All major EU decisions such as sanctions require unanimous approval from members in order to be adopted.

Dutch gas firm says no more Russian gas from May 31

Partially state-owned Dutch gas company GasTerra said it will no longer be receiving gas from Russian state energy company Gazprom as of May 31.

The company refused demands from Moscow to pay for deliveries of gas in rubles.

GasTerra was concerned it could be in violation of European Union sanctions had it yielded to Gazprom's conditions of payment.

"We understand GasTerra's decision not to agree to Gazprom's unilaterally imposed payment conditions," Dutch Minister for Climate and Energy, Rob Jetten posted on Twitter.

Gazprom said that the suspension of gas supply would continue until it was paid in accordance with its settlement plan.

Chelsea FC announces sale of team

English Premier League soccer team Chelsea FC on Monday officially confirmed that Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich had completed the sale of the team and all related companies to a consortium led by US businessman Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital. 

Abramovich, whose assets were frozen by the EU in March, announced he would sell the team shortly after his native Russia invaded neighboring Ukraine on February 24. The club has been operating under a special UK government license set to expire on May 31. 

The club had already confirmed on Saturday that the sale was finalized and would proceed on Monday. 

US will not send Ukraine missile systems capable of reaching Russia

The US will not send Ukraine rocket systems capable of hitting targets in Russian territory, said President Joe Biden on Monday.

"We are not going to send to Ukraine rocket systems that can strike into Russia," Biden told reporters.

The comments followed reports that the Biden administration was preparing to send advanced long-range rocket systems to Kyiv for its fight against Russia.

It was not clear which system Biden was referring to in his remarks.

Ukrainian officials have sought delivery of the US' longer-range Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS), which is capable of firing a barrage of rockets that can hit targets hundreds of kilometers away.

Former Russian president and current Security Council Deputy Chairman Dmitry Medvedev called Washington's decision not to supply such systems "rational."

Luhansk governor: French journalist killed in the region

The Ukrainian governor of the contested Luhansk region on Monday said that a French journalist, Frederic Leclerc-Imhoff, was killed in the area.

According to Serhiy Gaidai, the reporter was riding in an armored vehicle on route to evacuate of a small group of civilians from the region.

The vehicle was hit by shrapnel from a Russian shell, Gaidai said, fatally wounding the journalist in the neck.

Efforts to evacuate civilians in eastern Ukraine's Luhansk region were suspended as a result, he said.

French President Emmanuel Macron has confirmed the death of the journalist.

"Frederic Leclerc-Imhoff was in Ukraine to show the reality of war. Onboard a humanitarian bus with civilians forced to flee to escape Russian bombings, he was mortally wounded," Macron wrote on Twitter. 

Leclerc-Imhoff's employer French TV channel BFM-TV also confirmed he had been killed.

Russia imports grain from occupied Ukrainian territories

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

"The export of last year's harvest to Russia has started," Kirill Stremoussov, deputy head of the Russian military administration in Kherson, told the Russian state news agency TASS on Monday.

According to Stremoussov, the aim is to make room in the shops for the new harvest. Because of this, part of the grain stocks were sold to Russia.

He did not provide any information on the conditions under which the farmers had given their harvest to the occupiers.

On Monday, Kyiv again accused Moscow of stealing grain supplies from the occupied territories. Almost 500,000 tons of grain were illegally exported by Russian troops from Kharkiv, Kherson, Zaporizzhhia, Luhansk and Donetsk, said Ukraine's Deputy Agriculture Minister Taras Vysotskyi.

Ukraine is one of the largest grain exporters in the world. Food prices have risen sharply around the world since Russia began invading the neighboring country on February 24 and then blockaded Ukraine's Black Sea ports.

France’s foreign minister visits scene of atrocities  

French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna has said atrocities such as the killing of civilians in the Ukrainian town of Bucha must never be allowed to happen again. 

The town, near the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, came to the world’s attention as the bodies of hundreds of Ukrainians killed there during Russia’s occupation were discovered. 

Colonna, who became foreign minister last week, was in the town on Monday in a show of support for Ukraine. 

"This should never have happened. It must never happen again," Colonna told reporters after visiting an Orthodox church in the town. 

Colonna said during the visit that France had been "the first one to respond", referring to the sending of French police to Bucha to investigate potential war crimes alongside Ukrainian investigators. 

Colonna is the highest-ranking French official to visit Ukraine since the beginning of the Russian invasion on February 24. 

She was expected to meet President Volodymyr Zelensky and her counterpart Dmytro Kuleba to discuss Russia's blockage of ports and the impact on global food security. 

Ex-president Poroshenko leaves Ukraine for a political meeting

Ukrainian ex-president Petro Poroshenko, who is under investigation for possible treason, was allowed on Monday to leave Ukraine to attend a political meeting in the Netherlands.

Poroshenko is under investigation in connection with the financing of Russian-backed separatists in the east of the country through illegal coal sales in 2014-15. He denies any wrongdoing.

Poroshenko, previously prevented from leaving the country twice, is to attend a meeting of the European People's Party in Rotterdam.

Germany freezes €143 million in Russian assets

As of May 23, Germany had frozen nearly €143 million ($154 million) in money from Russian oligarchs and others on the EU sanctions list.

Shortly after the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine at the end of February, the value of frozen assets was only €342,000 ($368,000), according to information from Germany's Ministry of Finance.

The assets were frozen under a regime created by the EU back in 2014 following Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula.

Germany to grant residence to at-risk Russians 

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

Russia’s invasion of its neighbor Ukraine has also seen a wave of repression within Russia’s borders against the political opposition, activists, and the media. 

"Russia's increasingly brutal aggression against Ukraine is accompanied by ever stronger internal repression, especially against the press, human rights activists and opposition figures," Interior Minister Nancy Faeser told the DPA news agency. 

"We will offer protection in Germany to Russians who are persecuted and threatened," she said. "And we will give Russian journalists, in particular, the opportunity to report freely and independently from Germany." 

Many of the normal rules will still apply but opposition members or others deemed to be at risk, such as journalists, could be allowed into the country under a clause of the Residence Act.  

The clause safeguards "the political interests of the Federal Republic of Germany." 

Spain's PM says NATO support for Ukraine 'unbreakable'

Spain's prime minister says NATO's support for Ukraine is unbreakable and Russian President Vladimir Putin will not achieve his aims in the country. 

The comments from Pedro Sanchez came at an event marking the 40th anniversary of Spain's accession to NATO.   

"Supporting Ukraine with determination is the only way to ensure that the Europe and the world we have built has a certain future," said Sanchez, whose country is set to host an alliance summit at the end of June. 

Last week, Ukraine's top diplomat Dmytro Kuleba accused NATO of inaction in the face of Russia's invasion. 

The Ukrainian foreign minister praised the EU for its "revolutionary" decisions to back Kyiv, but said that NATO was "doing literally nothing."

Bomb attack reported in Russian-controlled Melitopol

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

"Today at 7.40 a.m. there was a huge explosion in the middle of the city," wrote the head of the local Russian military administration Vladimir Rogov on his Telegram channel.

According to media reports, the bomb exploded under a parked vehicle near the administration building in the central square.

Melitopol is part of the Zaporizhzhia region of southern Ukraine and serves as an administrative center for the Russian occupiers, as the region's capital is itself under Ukrainian control. In recent weeks there have been reports of increased partisan activities by Ukrainian resistance in the region.

Ukraine says Russia preparing attack on major hub 

Russia's military is preparing a large-scale attack around Slovyansk, the base for Ukraine's forces in eastern Donbas, the Ukrainian General Staff says. 

In its daily report, the General Staff claims Russia is moving new units to prepare an attack on Slovyansk from both Moscow-controlled Izyum, some 50 kilometers to the north, and the recently taken small but strategic town of Lyman. 

Ukraine says Russia has repaired a damaged railway bridge on the Izyum side and moved some 250 vehicles to the area, in apparent preparation. The General Staff says a squadron of Ka-52 attack helicopters had also been moved just to the north. ​

The cities of Slovyansk and neighboring Kramatorsk make up the largest urban area in the Donbas that are still under Ukrainian control. Seizing the two cities would represent a turning point in Russia’s efforts to take over the entire region

UK says Russian losses threaten future effectiveness 

The UK's Defense Ministry says Russia appears to have suffered heavy losses among its junior and mid-ranking officers. 

The depth of losses could pose a threat to Russia's military effectiveness in future, the ministry says. 

In their latest defense intelligence update, officials say brigade and battalion commanders are probably deployed to the most dangerous positions.  

Meanwhile, the report adds, junior officers had ended up leading some of the lower-level tactical actions. It says Russia lacks the more trained non-commissioned officers who would normally fulfill those roles in Western armies. 

Losing younger officers also means Russia was likely to struggle more in modernizing its military command and control, according to the assessment. 

Meanwhile, the ministry also reports upset within the ranks. 

"With multiple credible reports of localized mutinies amongst Russia's forces in Ukraine, a lack of experienced and credible platoon and company commanders is likely to result [in] a further decrease in morale and continued poor discipline," it said. 

Luhansk governor says fighting 'very fierce' in Sievierodonetsk 

Russian troops have entered the outskirts of the Ukrainian city of Sievierodonetsk, Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Haidai says. 

Haidai, who described the fighting as "very fierce," said shelling had killed two civilians and wounded five others. 

"Unfortunately we have disappointing news, the enemy is moving into the city," Haidai told national television. While they were in the city, the governor said, they were not in the center. 

Russian forces enter Sievierodonetsk

Haidai said, however, that the neighboring city of Lysychansk remained under Ukrainian control, and that daily evacuations were being carried out from there. 

He said a road linking the two cities had not been blocked but remained subject to shelling. Haidai said it was still possible to deliver humanitarian aid to both cities on a daily basis. 

Haidai also blamed Germany and Hungary for a lack of weapons on the Ukrainian side, claiming that both countries were holding back the supply of arms.

French foreign minister heads to Kyiv 

French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna is set to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in a visit to express support to Kyiv. 

Colonna’s trip comes amid some criticism that France is not doing enough to help Ukraine in its efforts to fend off Russia.  

She will also meet her Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, "to discuss in particular the blocking of grain and oilseed exports from Ukraine, which raises real risks of food insecurity," a statement from the French Foreign Ministry said.  

Colonna is also expected to visit Bucha, a town where massacres of civilians blamed on Russian troops have taken place.  

Russia faces resistance in Sievierodonetsk, Kherson

Russian forces have tried to storm the strategic city of Sievierodonetsk after trying unsuccessfully to surround it, Ukrainian officials say.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has described the situation in the city as "indescribably difficult,'' as Russia shells the city relentlessly.

Some 90% of the city’s buildings have been damaged and there are fears Sievierodonetsk could become the next Mariupol, the city on the Sea of Azov that held out for three months under siege by Russian troops.

Zelenskyy has said that capturing the city is the main priority at present for Russian forces.

Meanwhile, there are signs that Ukrainian forces are staging an operation to take back some villages near the southern city of Kherson, which was taken by the Russians in March.

Ukraine’s military leadership says it has forced Russian troops into "unfavorable positions" around the villages of Andriyivka, Lozovo and Bilohorka.

"Kherson, hold on. We're close!" Ukraine's general staff tweeted.

Kherson, which borders the occupied Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, is under the control of a new pro-Russian administration. Moscow-backed officials there have been pushing for annexation by Russia.

Zelenskyy to speak to EU leaders amid divisions over Russia sanctions

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is expected to push European leaders on Monday to sanction Russia further and ask for more sophisticated and powerful weapons.

On Sunday, he told CNN that Russia was "prevailing" in terms of weaponry, "they outnumber us, they outgun us."

In a separate televised address, he said Ukraine was doing everything it could to contain the Russian offensive in the east. "There was not a day that we did not try to find more weapons, more modern weapons to defend our land, to defend our people," Zelenskyy said.

Zelenskyy was scheduled to address a summit of EU leaders on Monday. He said he would press the bloc to "kill Russian exports."

Diplomats in Brussels have failed to agree on a plan to phase out Russian oil. Talks have been going on for a month and would continue Monday.

Last week, Zelenskyy expressed frustration that the EU has struggled to reach a consensus.

Hungary, which is dependent on Russian oil, is holding up the sixth round of punitive sanctions against Russia. An EU-wide embargo requires unanimity from all 27 member states.

NATO claims the right to deploy in Eastern Europe

NATO is no longer bound by past commitments to hold back from deploying its forces in Eastern Europe, the alliance's deputy secretary-general has said.

Mircea Geoana told news agency AFP, that Moscow itself has "voided" the NATO-Russia Founding Act, by attacking Ukraine and halting dialogue with the alliance.

The 1997 Founding Act intended to reset the relationship between Russia and NATO.

"They took decisions, they made obligations there not to aggress neighbors, which they are doing, and to have regular consultations with NATO, which they don't," said Geoana.

"So I think that in fact this founding act is basically not functioning because of Russia," he added.

He anticipated "a robust, flexible and sustainable presence," of NATO forces in Eastern Europe.

Summary of Sunday's events in the war in Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited frontline positions in the Kharkiv region on Sunday, his first official visit outside of Kyiv since Russia invaded on February 24. He met with soldiers and gave awards. "I want to thank each of you for your service," he said according to a statement on the president's website.

Moscow's "top priority" is the "liberation" of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said. In an interview with France's TF1 Television, Lavrov said the war was not about the "annexation" of eastern regions of Ukraine but "restoring their territorial integrity."

Germany's coalition government and the conservative CDU/CSU alliance on Sunday agreed on the details of a €100 billion ($107 billion) boost to the country's military spending. The massive investment in the German armed forces was sparked by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that he still intends to block NATO accession for Finland and Sweden, once again accusing the two Baltic states of being soft on "terrorism."

"As long as Tayyip Erdogan is at the head of the Turkish state, we cannot say 'Yes' to NATO accession of countries that support terror," he said in remarks published in Turkish media, including Sunday's Hurriyet newspaper.

Eurovision Song Contest winners Ukraine's Kalush Orchestra raised $900,000 (€838,491) for the country's military by auctioning their trophy. The money will be used to buy a PD-2 unmanned aerial system or drone for the Ukrainian armed forces.

You can revisit our live updates from May 29 here.

lo/jsi (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)