1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Separatists claim to have control of key Donbas town

May 27, 2022

Russian-backed separatists claim control of key Donbas town; UN records over 4,000 civilian deaths since invasion.

A Ukrainian territory defence soldier walks past the ruins of a building in Donbas
While pro-Russian separatists claim to have taken control of a key eastern town, Ukrainian defense officials say the fight is on to retain itImage: Alex Chan Tsz Yuk/SOPA Images/ZUMA Press/picture alliance

Russia tightens grip on Donbas

  • Zelenskyy expresses frustration with EU on sixth sanctions package 
  • Ukraine's ambassador to Germany says Chancellor Scholz lacks leadership
  • US rejects Russia's latest call to lift sanctions
  • Ukraine's Zelenskyy says there are 'things to discuss' with Putin
  • Pro-Russian separatists claim to have captured key eastern town of Lyman

This live updates article is now closed. For the latest on Ukraine, please click here.  

S&P cuts Ukraine's debt rating

The global ratings agency S&P cut Ukraine's debt rating and said the outlook is negative, a result of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Ukraine's long and short-term foreign currency debt was downgraded due to the "expectation of a prolonged period of macroeconomic instability in the country."

In a statement, S&P said, "The Ukraine government's capacity to meet its foreign-currency commercial debt payments is contingent on the flow of donor support."

Scholz: 'Can violence be fought with violence?'

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz tweeted from the German Catholic Convention that: "The war raises many questions. Can violence be fought with violence? Can peace only be established without weapons? We should discuss both questions with respect."

Scholz has come under pressure for the caliber of Germany's support for Ukraine despite his statement at the World Economic Forum earlier this week that, "Putin cannot win this war."

Pacifism has broad support in Germany where the long shadow of the last world war looms large as does the peace and denuclearization movements of the 1980s.

German chancellor: Building good relations key

Moscow branch of Kyiv's Orthodox Church severs ties

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church's Moscow branch said Friday it was severing ties with Russia following its invasion of Ukraine.

The church said in a statement, "We disagree with the position of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow," who has supported the war.

Instead, the church opted to declare the "full independence and autonomy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church."

The head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Onufriy, has not spoken out.

He has however expressed support for Ukrainian forces, giving sermons memorializing the fallen and suggested an Easter procession to the besieged city of Mariupol to rescue forces trapped inside the Azovstal steel plant.

Luhansk governor says Ukrainian forces may need to retreat from cities

Serhiy Haidai, the regional governor of Luhansk, said Ukrainian forces may be forced to make a strategic retreat from the nearly captured cities of Sieverodonetsk and Lysychansk.

"We will have enough strength and resources to defend ourselves," Haidai said. "However," he added, "it is possible that in order not to be surrounded we will have to retreat."

Biden addresses Ukraine war in Naval Academy speech

US President Joe Biden told Naval Academy graduates in Annapolis, Maryland that Putin has "NATO-ized all of Europe."

His speech emphasized global partnerships and the "direct assault on the fundamental tenets of the rules-based international order," noting, "that's the world you're graduating into." 

Austrian Chancellor speaks with Putin about gas, prisoners of war

Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer and Russian leader Vladimir Putin spoke by phone to discuss Moscow's deliveries of natural gas and prisoners of war. Nehammer visited Russia last month where he met with Putin.

Nehammer told reporters the call lasted 45 minutes and Putin reassured him "all deliveries would be completed in full." Austria receives 80% of its gas supplies from Russia.

He also said Putin was ready to discuss a prisoner swap. 

"If he is really ready to negotiate is a complex question," Nehammer said.

Italian Prime Minister and Zelenskyy speak on exporting wheat

Mario Draghi, the prime minister of Italy, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke by phone to discuss how to unblock wheat exports from Ukraine. The result is a food crisis that is threatening the world's poorest.

Russia's blockade has prevented the export of grain from both Russia and Ukraine. Russia alleges Ukraine mined the ports and Ukraine has described Russia's position as "blackmail."

Draghi also reiterated that Italy and the EU support Ukraine.

Russian forces trying to surround key eastern cities — British intelligence

The United Kingdom's Ministry of Defence (MOD) said in its latest intelligence briefing that Russian forces were continuing their push to surround the cities of Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk.

This attempt was taking place as Ukrainian forces held "multiple defended sectors, denying Russia full control of Donbas," the MOD reported.

According to the MOD, Moscow's Southern Grouping of Forces (SGF) would "likely remain tasked with occupying southern Ukrainian territory," and made mention of the movement of 50 year old T-62 tanks into the SGF area of responsibility.

It was noted that the T-62s were vulnerable to anti-tank weapons and that their use "highlights Russia's shortage of modern, combat-ready equipment."

Calls for Germany to cut gas flow on Nord Stream 1 pipeline

Naftogaz, Ukraine's state gas firm has called on Germany to halt or cut back gas flow being channeled through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline.

"With Naftogaz we sent an appeal to the German economy ministry and the German regulator... on the suspension of Nord Stream 1," the company's system operator Serhiy Makogon said on national TV.

Makogon argued that Russia had created an artificial gas deficit in 2021, had insisted on payment in rubles and had also cut supply to Poland, Finland and Bulgaria, along with invading Ukraine.

Makogon said Ukraine could provide an alternate transport route to the pipeline in the Baltic Sea.

Germany has halted the completed Nord Stream 2 pipeline project which would have doubled the supply of gas to the country.

Swiss federal council opposes oligarch money task force

Swiss public broadcaster SRF reports the Swiss federal council has written a negative response to the Social Democrats request to create a task force to freeze Russian assets located in the country. 

The Swiss federal council said that the high number of reports and significant number of frozen assets in Switzerland shows that Swiss processes involving both federal authorities and private companies have been effective.

Swiss sanctions and Putin's oligarchs

The Social Democrats proposal involved the freezing and possible confiscation of assets in line with sanctions decided by the EU. Additionally, the commodities trading sector, which has been of vital importance to Russia dating back to late Soviet times, would have been scrutinized.

German Minister slams Putin for looming food crisis on Kyiv trip

Germany's Development Minister Svenja Schulze pledged increased civilian support for reconstruction efforts during a trip to Kyiv, also using the trip to call out Russian President Vladimir Putin for blocking the delivery tens of thousands of tons of Ukrainian grain.

"It is Putin's fault that many countries are now on the brink of widespread hunger," Schulze said, referring to the silos of wheat and other foods in territories now occupied by Russian forces, deliveries from which are vital to much of the developing world.

Schulze was due to speak with several top officials in the capital, including Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, and Minister for the Reintegration of Occupied Territories Iryna Vereshchuk. 

The minister toured a farm outside of the city, as well as a shelter for the internally displaced

"Everywhere in Ukraine, the terrible consequences of Putin's war of aggression are visible, " she said.

During the trip, Schulze also highlighted a recovery fund set up by her ministry that has seen its budget increase to €185 million ($198 million) in recent weeks.

'Worry and fear' over situation in Donbas — DW correspondent

Speaking from Ukraine, DW correspondent Rebecca Ritters said there are concerns that the country could lose more ground if it is not supplied with more foreign weapons.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba have both pleaded with Western nations to provide the country with more arms.

Ritters said that ordinary Ukrainians were concerned about the situation in the east, where Ukraine appears to have lost a significant portion of territory to the Russians.

"There's a feeling of worry and fear. I've spoken to some people who've said we can't even think about the worst-case scenario. They're trying to remain positive. They still hope that they will come out victorious at the end of this, but people are watching on what's happening in the east with great trepidation."

"This really could be a decisive moment, what happens in the Donbas. If they are successful, it would be a fantastic morale boost for the Russians and really tough to come to terms with for the Ukrainians."

"It is a very tense moment and people are feeling that. They're definitely looking on closely and hoping with all hope and might that things are going to pick up, but it certainly isn't looking very good for Ukraine."

Pro-Russian separatists claim to have taken strategic eastern town

Moscow-backed separatists on Friday claimed on Telegram to have captured the strategic eastern Ukrainian town of Lyman.

The town is a transport hub which links up with the cities of Slovyansk and Kramatorsk.

An adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Oleksiy Arestovych seemed to confirm the fall of the town but said the information still needed verification.

"According to unverified data, we lost the town of Lyman. The Russian army — this must be verified — captured it," Arestovych said on a social media video post.

The president's adviser also appeared suggest that the performance of Russian forces was beginning to improve.

"Moreover, the way they captured it.... correctly organising the operation. This shows, in principle, the increased level of operational management and tactical skills of the Russian army. It has grown. It has not grown everywhere of course, but it has unquestionably grown."

However, the Ukrainian defense ministry said at a later briefing that its forces were still holding out in northeastern and southwestern districts, blocking the Russians from launching an advance towards Sloviansk, a major city a half-hour drive further southwest.

Meanwhile, the Luhansk regional governor has acknowledged that two-thirds of the city of Sievierodonetsk are surrounded. Shelling, which is "very strong", has damaged 90% of the housing in the city, Serhiy Haidai said.

Fierce fighting in Donbas

German Minister slams Putin for looming food crisis on Kyiv trip

Germany's Development Minister Svenja Schulze pledged increased civilian support for reconstruction efforts during a trip to Kyiv, also using the trip to call out Russian President Vladimir Putin for blocking the delivery tens of thousands of tons of Ukrainian grain.

"It is Putin's fault that many countries are now on the brink of widespread hunger," Schulze said, referring to the silos of wheat and other foods in territories now occupied by Russian forces, deliveries from which are vital to much of the developing world.

Schulze was due to speak with several top officials in the capital, including Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, and Minister for the Reintegration of Occupied Territories Iryna Vereshchuk. 

The minister toured a farm outside of the city, as well as a shelter for the internally displaced

"Everywhere in Ukraine, the terrible consequences of Putin's war of aggression are visible, " she said.

During the trip, Schulze also highlighted a recovery fund set up by her ministry that has seen its budget increase to €185 million ($198 million) in recent weeks.

UN: 2.9 million Ukrainian refugees have moved on to European states

The UN says almost 3 million Ukrainian refugees out of more than 6.6 million, have made their way to other European states after having fled the country.

"According to the latest data we have available... 2.9 million refugees have moved beyond countries neighbouring Ukraine," UNHCR spokeswoman Shabia Mantoo said at a briefing in Geneva.

According to UNHCR figures most have made their way to Germany, Czech Republic and Italy.

Of the 6.5 million who have fled, 3.5 million traveled west to Poland.

The UN human rights human rights office has recorded a total of 4031 civilian deaths since Russia's invasion began. Nearly 200 of that number are children, and most have been killed in artillery bombardments or in air strikes.

We must 'stand by the victim' says Germany's Scholz

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz again reemphasized Germany's commitment to Ukraine on Friday as he addressed the German Catholic Conference in Stuttgart

"We have decided to stand by the victim of this war of aggression," Scholz said during an address.

Scholz said that the war was not only aimed at Ukraine but also targeted Western democratic values.

The German leader said [Russian President Vladimir] Putin could not be allowed to get away with his "cynical, inhuman war."

"Putin's war is directed against a peace order that arose from the commitment 'never again' after two devastating world wars. He wants to return to the law of the strongest," Scholz said.

'There are things to discuss' with Putin — Zelenskyy

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Friday that while Ukraine was not particularly keen on speaking to Russian President Vladimir Putin, talks would be necessary to end the war.

"There are things to discuss with the Russian leader. I'm not telling you that to me our people are eager to talk to him, but we have to face the realities of what we are living through," Zelenskyy told an Indonesian think tank in a video address.

"What do we want from this meeting... We want our lives back... We want to reclaim the life of a sovereign country within its own territory," he said, but added that Moscow did not seem to be ready for serious peace talks.

Zelenskyy: Victory will be 'in battle,' but wars end 'in diplomacy'

Satellite imagery 'essential in war crimes investigations' — military analyst

Ukrainian authorities have begun the process of holding the Russian military to account for  actions in Ukraine. A Russian soldier has already received life imprisonment while two other soldiers face sentencing early next week.

Military analyst Frank Ledwidge highlighted the importance of satellite imagery in documenting potential war crimes and told DW that it can help validate eyewitness accounts so that there can be no mistaking whether or not a war crime has taken place.

"Recent history has shown this to be absolutely crucial, even going back into the 90s with Srebrenica where the Serbs were claiming that nothing had happened, satellite images quite primitive by today's standards demonstrated that mass graves had been dug and that preparations had been made far in advance."

Ledwidge said that today's technology offers a lot more information, with the ability to identify specific units who may or may not have been operating in a particular area.

"These instruments are now absolutely essential in war crimes investigations, especially for corroboration," he said, noting that the images can help back up statements from eye witnesses, missing persons reports and other evidence.

"They can tell you from looking at the military vehicles, what units were there. They can tell you date and time of the images to a really close degree of precision, and as we've seen in Bucha, that's been really really important," he said.

Satellite images as evidence of Ukraine war crimes

At least 1,500 killed in embattled city of Severodonetsk — mayor

The mayor of the eastern Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk, now the scene of fierce fighting, says at least 1,500 people have been killed since the Russian invasion.

Civilian and military deaths are included in that number.

Oleksandr Stryuk who heads up the local administration said that out of 130,000 people who lived in the city, only around one tenth remain, and 60% of residential buildings have been destroyed.

The city is one of the last parts of Luhansk still controlled by the Ukrainian army.

Russian tanks highlight 'shortage' of modern equipment — UK intelligence

Russia's use of 50-year-old tanks on the battlefield shows significant shortages in Moscow's military equipment, the British Defense Ministry said in an intelligence update on Friday.

According to the update, Russia has "likely" moved T-62 tanks from deep storage and taken them into areas occupied by Russia in southern Ukraine.

These types of tanks "will almost certainly be particularly vulnerable to anti-tank weapons," the ministry said.

"Their presence on the battlefield highlights Russia's shortage of modern, combat-ready equipment," the update added.

Russian forces are continuing to surround the city of Severodonetsk amid its offensive in eastern Ukraine. While the area is under increasing military assault, Ukrainian forces retain "control of multiple defended sectors, denying Russia full control of the Donbas," the British ministry added.

Injured South Korean fighter back from Ukraine faces investigation

A former South Korean naval special forces soldier has returned home after fighting for Ukraine as a member of an "international legion" of volunteers.

Rhee Keun, also known as Ken Rhee, was being investigated for defying a government ban on travel to Ukraine.

Rhee posted pictures and video footage of his experience in Ukraine on social media, and his return was broadcast live on television.

"I haven't left the battlefield completely but came to recover from injuries. I want to go back ... because the war has not ended, there's still a lot to do," Rhee said at the airport.

Rhee said he was suffering from a cruciate ligament injury in both legs. However, he was able to walk.

He said he would cooperate in the investigation.

Russia's debt default dilemma

Russia may have escaped defaulting on its debt on Friday after making a $71 million (€66 million) payment before US authorities ended a waiver that allowed bondholders to accept payments.

That waiver has allowed Russia to keep up government debt payments, but its expiry now appears to make a default inevitable on at least some of its $40 billion of international bonds.

Earlier in the week, the US Treasury Department refused to renew a license that allowed Moscow to keep paying its debtholders through American banks.

Western sanctions imposed after the invasion of Ukraine have complicated the movement of money across borders.

The White House expected "minimal" impact on the US and global economy if Russia defaults.

US says Russia's war caused food crisis not sanctions

The United States has rejected Russian President Vladimir Putin's call for the West to lift its economic sanctions so that grain exports from Ukraine would resume.

"This is Russia, who is actively blocking the export of food from Ukrainian ports, and is increasing world hunger. This is on them," White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said.

Russia should "immediately cease its war on Ukraine," which impacted global food security, Jean-Pierre added.

Putin told Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi in a phone call that Russia was prepared to make a "significant contribution" to avoid a looming food crisis if the West lifted tough economic measures imposed on it since the invasion of Ukraine.

The West imposed unprecedented sanctions on Russia after Putin ordered troops into neighboring Ukraine on February 24.

Ukraine envoy to Berlin disappointed by Scholz

Ukraine's ambassador to Germany Andriy Melnyk, accused Chancellor Olaf Scholz of lacking leadership and disregarding Ukrainian interests.

"Militarily, Ukraine is simply being let down by Berlin," Melnyk told German tabloid Bild.

He was disappointed that Scholz did not make further announcements about heavy weapon deliveries to Ukraine during his speech at the World Economic Forum.

"Unfortunately, it was a miss, especially regarding the immediate delivery of heavy weapons from Germany to stifle the enormous Russian offensive in the Donbas," Melnyk said.

His statement comes despite Germany's undertaking to send dozens of anti-aircraft tanks in July. Earlier this month, Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht said Germany would also send seven self-propelled howitzers to Ukraine.

US and Ukraine reportedly discuss danger of escalation

The United States has held discussions with Kyiv about the danger of escalation if Ukrainian forces strike deep into Russia, Reuters news agency reported.

Those involved in the discussions have not explicitly placed geographic restrictions on Ukrainian forces but have sought to reach a shared understanding of the risk of escalation, three US officials and diplomatic sources told Reuters.

"We have concerns about escalation and yet still do not want to put geographic limits or tie their hands too much with the stuff we're giving them," said one of the three US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity.

A second official said Washington and Kyiv had a shared "understanding" about the use of certain Western-provided weapon systems. "So far, we've been on the same page about the thresholds," the official said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned the West that supplying Ukraine with weapons capable of hitting Russian territory would be "a serious step towards unacceptable escalation," according to remarks published on the Russian Foreign Ministry website on Thursday.

'A decisive moment in the battle': Rebecca Ritters reports from Ukraine

Zelenskyy complains about EU divisions over new Russia sanctions

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is frustrated that the European Union has struggled to reach a consensus on its latest sanctions against Russia.

"How many more weeks will the European Union try to agree on a sixth package?" Zelenskyy said during a late-night address.

"Of course, I am grateful to those friends who are advocating new sanctions. But where do the people blocking this sixth package get their power from? Why are they allowed to hold such power?" he asked.

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.

Meanwhile, Zelenskyy accused Moscow of carrying out a "genocide" in the Donbas region, where the city of Severodonetsk is suffering an onslaught of Russian shelling, adding that its bombardment could leave the area in the east of Ukraine "uninhabitable."

"All this, including the deportation of our people and the mass killings of civilians, is an obvious policy of genocide pursued by Russia," he said.

Heavy attacks on dozens of towns in Donbas

Summary of Thursday's events in the war in Ukraine

Fighting in the Donbas area of eastern Ukraine is now at its most intense, Kyiv said, while urging Western allies to match the ferocity of the Russian attack with support for Ukraine.

"The enemy is storming the position of our troops simultaneously in several directions,'' said Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar. "We have an extremely difficult and long stage of fighting ahead of us."

The military situation in eastern Ukraine is even worse than people say it is, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said. During a question and answer session with Twitter users, Kuleba said his country needs heavy weapons now to fight Russia effectively.

Russian President Vladimir Putin told Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi that Moscow "is ready to make a significant contribution to overcoming the food crisis through the export of grain and fertilizer on the condition that politically motivated restrictions imposed by the West are lifted," according to a Kremlin readout of the call.

Olaf Scholz: Putin will not win this war

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told the World Economic Forum in Davos that he was convinced that Russia would not win the war in Ukraine.

"Putin must not win his war in Ukraine, and I am convinced that he will not," Scholz told delegates on Thursday. The German chancellor said: "We must make Putin realize that there will not be a dictated peace, Ukraine won't accept it, and we neither."

Ukrainian prosecutors are seeking 12-year prison terms for two Russian soldiers who are on trial for war crimes. The two were accused of bombing civilian infrastructure in the Kharkiv region and have pleaded guilty. Their defense lawyer has asked for leniency.

You can revisit our live updates from May 26 here

kb, jsi, lo/wd, rs (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)