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Ukraine rejects winning back all territory by force

May 29, 2022

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said not all lost territory to Russia since 2014, such as Crimea, could be retaken militarily due to the high human cost.

Ukrainian service members ride on top of a military vehicle in the Donetsk region
Ukrainian troops fighting in the east of the country are "holding up" despite a Russian push, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy saidImage: Carlos Barria/REUTERS
  • Zelenskyy says "indescribably difficult" fighting continues in eastern Ukraine
  • Official says Germany's reserves "not filled enough" if Russia pulls gas supply
  • Ukrainian church say worshipers drove break with Russian Orthodoxy
  • Scholz, Macron urge Putin to accept cease-fire and negotiate

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

Kalush Orchestra raises money for military by auctioning Eurovision trophy

Eurovision Song Contest winners Ukraine's Kalush Orchestra raised $900,000 (€838,491) for the country's military by auctioning their trophy. 

They sold the crystal microphone they were awarded in a Facebook auction led by Ukrainian TV presenter Serhiy Prytula.

The money will be used to buy a PD-2 unmanned aerial system or drone for the Ukrainian armed forces. 

"Friends, you are incredible! We are grateful to each of you who donated money to this auction," the band wrote in a Facebook post.

The band also performed their Eurovision-winning song Stefania live at the #StopWar benefit concert in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Germany's capital Berlin. 

Lavrov: Russia's 'top priority' is victory in Ukraine's Donbas

The Kremlin'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."

He spoke as Russian forces stepped up their offensive in Donbas over the weekend.

Lavrov said that the path for a return to peace talks had not been cut, but that Moscow's objective was still to "demilitarize Ukraine" so that there are "no longer any weapons on its territory that pose a threat to the Russian Federation."

Speaking about Western sanctions on Russia, Lavrov said he thought they were "prepared a long time ago″ and were "unlikely to be lifted in the future."

"The speed with which they were imposed and their magnitude certainly show that they were not written overnight," he said.

The foreign minister also denied that Russian President Vladimir Putin is ill, saying, "I don't think sane people can distinguish any symptoms of disease in this man."

Zelenskyy visits troops in Kharkiv: Mathias Bölinger reports from Kramatorsk

Zelenskyy fires Kharkiv security chief

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Sunday he had dismissed the security chief for the city of Kharkiv during his first visit to the country's war-torn east since the start of Russia's invasion.

"I came, figured out and fired the head of the Security Service of Ukraine of the [Kharkiv] region for the fact that he did not work on the defense of the city from the first days of the full-scale war, but thought only about himself," Zelenskyy said in his daily national address.

Zelenskyy's office posted a video on Telegram of him wearing a bullet-proof vest and being shown destroyed buildings in Kharkiv and its surroundings, from where Russian forces have retreated in recent weeks.

The president also said Russian shelling has destroyed all of the critical infrastructure in Sievierodonetsk, some 200 kilometers (124 miles) from Kharkiv. He added that taking the city is now ″the principal aim of the occupying contingents."

Russian forces have tightened their grip around key cities in the Donbas region after capturing the city of Lyman on Saturday.

EU deal on Russian oil embargo still elusive, more talks next week

The European Union is still trying to reach a consensus on a potential boycott of Russian oil, a proposal first floated on May 4. 

The bloc has been trying to clinch a deal acceptable to all its members for weeks, with resistance from eastern European countries that are particularly reliant on Russian oil imports. 

The current proposal, for which there is still no consensus approval, would ban all Russian oil deliveries by sea, but would exempt deliveries through the Russian Druzhba pipeline, which supplies Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. 

German Energy and Economy Minister Robert Habeck on Sunday voiced fears that the EU unity apparent early in the conflict was "starting to crumble." 

The first packages of EU sanctions against Russia were all concluded within a week, the oil embargo has been under discussion for more than three.

"After Russia's attack on Ukraine, we saw what can happen when Europe stands united," Habeck said at the opening of the Hannover Messe trade fair. "With a view to the summit tomorrow, let's hope it continues like this. But it is already starting to crack and crumble."

Zelenskyy makes first official trip outside of Kyiv since beginning of invasion

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited frontline positions in the Kharkiv region on Sunday, his first official visit outside of the capital 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.

"You risk your life for all of us and our state. Thank you for defending Ukraine's independence."

Zelenskyy's office also posted a video on Telegram, showing him wearing a bullet-proof vest as he inspected buildings that were heavily damaged by Russian bombardments.

The president said that "2,229 buildings have been destroyed in Kharkiv and the region. We will restore, rebuild and bring back life. In Kharkiv and all other towns and villages where evil came."

His chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, also wrote on Telegram that Russia had occupied around 31% of the Kharkiv region, but that Ukrainian troops had taken back some 5% of the territory.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy weaing a bullet-proof vest and standing in front of a Ukrainian flag in Kharkiv
Kharkiv was one of the cities that managed to hold off the Russian offensive at the beginning of the warImage: The Presidential Office of Ukraine

Turkey continues to block Finnish and Swedish entry to NATO

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.

NATO leaders have expressed confidence that they can overcome Turkey's objections, but Erdogan said that talks with Swedish and Finnish representatives last week did not proceed as expected.

Turkey is the only NATO member blocking access. Ankara has claimed that the two applicants support groups such as the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) which it calls a terrorist organization. Turkey also demands the extradition of alleged "terrorists," which according to Turkish media includes a publisher critical of Erdogan who lives in Sweden.

Serbia agrees new gas deal with Russia, says Vucic

Serbia will continue to be supplied with Russian gas for the next three years, President Aleksandar Vucic announced on Sunday.

The deal was reached after Vucic spoke on the phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Serbia's 10-year gas supply contract with Russian energy giant Gazprom is set to expire on May 31.

"I can not speak about the price now, all details will be agreed with Gazprom," Vucic told reporters.

While Vucic is one of Putin's closest allies in Europe, Serbia is also looking to join the European Union, which has imposed several rounds of sanctions on Russia over the war in Ukraine.

The EU has so far levied an embargo on Russian coal imports. A ban on Russian oil has hit diplomatic snags, however, among member states that are heavily reliant on oil deliveries from Moscow.

Serbia put its oil and gas sectors in the hands of Russian energy firms in 2008, making it deeply reliant on Russia for its energy supplies.

Germany's gas reserves 'not filled enough' in event of sudden Russian energy halt

The head of Germany's official agency in charge of energy, the Bundesnetzagentur, voiced concerns about the country's supplies if Russian gas flows were to be suddenly cut.

Klaus Müller, the president of the Bundesnetzagentur, said while Germany's reserves are being filled "better than in previous years" and have improved since early May, the current amount isn't enough to secure a smooth supply for the upcoming winter.

The reserves "aren't yet filled enough, should we suddenly receive less Russian gas," Müller said in an interview with public radio Deutschlandfunk.

If Germany's reserves are filled to up to 90%, then that would be enough to provide "a buffer for at least two-and-a-half months — under stable conditions, with a normal winter," he said.

The situation would be relatively comfortable for industry and consumers. "Nevertheless, none of this is really good, of course," Müller said, adding that the costs of the energy crisis are "immense" for consumers..

In order to avoid significant shortages, private households and businesses will need to significantly curb their gas use in order to get through the next winter, he said.

Ultimately, he said Germany would need to switch soon to another natural gas provider to reduce the impact of Germany's reliance on Russian energy.

Europe and the hunt for gas

Dozens of houses still under water in village flooded to hamper Russian troops

Months after Ukrainian forces intentionally flooded the village of Demydiv to hamper the advance of Russian troops, dozens of homes remain underwater.

"At this time, about 50 houses in the village of Demydiv remain flooded," regional governor Oleksiy 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," he added.

Houses are seen at a flooded area in Demydiv after Ukrainian military forces opened a dam to flood an residential area in order to stop advance of Russian forces
Water can still be seen in fields and homes in Demydiv, weeks after it was intentionally flooded to stop the advance of Russian tanksImage: CARLOS BARRIA/REUTERS

Shortly after Russia launched its invasion in February, the Ukrainian military destroyed key bridges and roads leading to the capital Kyiv in an effort to thwart Russian troops.

The tactics also included opening a dam on the Irpin River, purposefully flooding Demydiv.

A house in Demydiv is seen flooded at an area after Ukrainian military forces opened a dam to flood an residencial area in order to stop advance of Russian forces
Some residents have now returned after being evacuated in the early days and weeks of Russia's invasionImage: CARLOS BARRIA/REUTERS

Water surged into the centuries-old village, flooding thousands of acres of fields as well. The move has been credited with preventing Russian tanks from reaching Ukraine's capital. 

Although the village was partially evacuated, some residents have now returned after Russia turned its military operations away from the capital and to eastern Ukraine.


Fighting still ongoing in Severodonetsk: Ukraine's military 

After Russian media reported troops have "surrounded" the eastern city of Severodonetsk, Ukraine's Armed Forces said that fighting is ongoing.

"With the use of artillery, Russian forces carried out assault operations in the area of the city of Sievierodonetsk," the General Staff of Ukraine's Armed Forces said in a statement on its Facebook page.

"The fighting continues," the statement added.

Regional governor Sergiy Gaiday denied reports in Russian media that the embattled city has been encircled by Russian troops.

"Severodonetsk has not been cut off... there is still the possibility to deliver humanitarian aid," he told Ukrainian television.

Located in the eastern Donbas region, Severodonetsk is a key industrial hub that has been the focus of weeks of intense fighting as Russia shifted its military focus east.


Lithuanians fundraise to buy drone for Ukraine

A Lithuanian crowdfunding campaign has raised more than €5 million ($4.7 million) to buy a Turkish Bayraktar TB2 drone for Ukrainian forces. 

"Lithuanians just did it! Thank you all who helped us," the country's Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas posted on Twitter.

"This is the first case in history when ordinary people raise money to buy something like a Bayraktar. It is unprecedented, it is unbelievable," Ukrainian Ambassador to Lithuania Beshta Petro told Laisves TV, the news outlet which helped launched the campaign.  

Lithuania's Ministry of Defense told Reuters it planned to sign a letter of intent to buy the Bayraktar TB2 armed drone from Turkey next week.

Ukraine already owns Bayraktar TB2 drones and has used them successfully in its campaign against Russia.

Not all lost territory will be retaken by military means, Zelenskyy says

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the situation was "indescribably difficult" in the country's east, where Russian forces are making gains.

"The situation is very complicated, especially in those areas in the Donbas and Kharkiv region, where the Russian army is trying to squeeze at least some result for themselves," Zelenskyy said in his Saturday video address. 

Russian forces stepped up their assault on Severodonetsk on Saturday after claiming to have captured the nearby rail hub of Lyman.

"But our defenses are holding up. It's indescribably difficult there," Zelenskyy said

The Ukrainian leader also said he didn't believe all the land seized by Russia since 2014, which includes Crimea, could be recaptured by force.

"I do not believe that we can restore all of our territory by military means. If we decide to go that way, we will lose hundreds of thousands of people," he said.

He was, however, adamant that "Ukraine will get everything back. Everything."

Worshipers drove Ukrainian Orthodox Church's break with Moscow

Ordinary members of Ukraine's Orthodox church branch, until now loyal to Moscow, drove the decision to break ranks with the Russian leadership, its spokesman told the French news agency AFP.

"There was a need for this, a demand in church society," Archbishop Kliment said.

The Council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church disagreed with the position that Patriarch Kirill I, the leader of the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church, had taken on the war and has made a formal break with the hierarchy in Moscow.

Kirill is a staunch supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin and has spoken out in support of Russia's invasion of Ukraine several times.

Kliment said the situation was clear: "The commandment 'thou shall not kill' has no other interpretations."

"It is difficult for me to (understand) the explanation or silence of the representatives of the Moscow patriarchate on the tragedy that is happening today," he added.

Summary of Saturday's events in the war in Ukraine

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron called for an immediate ceasefire in a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The two Western leaders also urged Putin to hold "direct, serious negotiations" with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, German officials said.

The Russian military confirmed on Saturday the capture of the town of Lyman in the eastern Donbas region. The confirmation comes a day after pro-Russian separatists had on Friday claimed full control of the strategically important town.

Petro Poroshenko, the former president of Ukraine and the leader of the country's second-biggest party, said on Saturday that he had been blocked from leaving the country while on his way to take part in a NATO parliamentary assembly meeting. He was en route to Lithuania to meet President Gitanas Nauseda ahead of the NATO meeting, for which he had been given official permission to travel.

Officials controlling the Russian-occupied city of Kherson and the surrounding area closed off access to Ukrainian-controlled territory for refugees.

"The border crossing in the direction of the Mykolaiv and Dnipropetrovsk regions is extremely dangerous on account of systematic bombardment by Ukrainian fighters," the deputy head of the pro-Russian military administration, Kirill Stremoussov, said.

You can revisit our live updates from May 28 here.

mm, ab, lo/wd, jsi (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)