- Ukraine's president says an "inflection point" that could turn the war is possible
- UK says Russia has taken most of the city of Sievierodonetsk
- Germany's vice-chancellor says time is working against Russia
- 200,000 children among those forcibly taken to Russia, according to Zelenskyy
- Slovakia says it will now send self-propelled howitzers to Ukraine
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'Peace isn't free' — Germany's Baerbock
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock reaffirmed Berlin's support for Ukraine and its commitment to continue weapon deliveries in a guest article for the Friday edition of the Bild newspaper.
"We will continue to support Ukraine until there are no more Buchas," Baerbock wrote, referring to the Kyiv suburb that Ukraine alleges was the site of Russian war crimes against the civilian population.
Baerbock said that Germany will maintain its support for Kyiv "so that what we take for granted is normal again for the people of Ukraine: a life in freedom."
Baerbock wrote that this support will include continued weapon deliveries. "Putin is counting on [Russiam] endurance — and on us getting exhausted."
"This is why we need to continue to support Ukraine." According to Baerbock, this must be done "with weapons as well, because Putin cannot be stopped with words."
"Peace isn't free. But every cent of our spending is an investment in security and freedom, in Europe's freedom."
Civilians urged to evacuate city, water and electricity cut — Sloviansk mayor
The mayor of Sloviansk in Ukraine's eastern Donetsk region has urged residents to evacuate as Russian bombing has intensified.
Sloviansk mayor Vadym Liakh said that Russian bombardment on Thursday had damaged electricity lines in the city.
"There is no electricity, the water supply is down," Liakh posted on Telegram. "The best solution in this situation is to evacuate."
The AFP news agency cited witnesses as saying that one Russian strike killed three people and wounded six on Tuesday in Sloviansk. AFP reported that residents were on Thursday boarding five minibuses earmarked for evacuation out of the city.
Ukraine's Zelenskyy says military situation in Donbas unchanged, some success in Sievierodonetsk
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Ukrainian forces have had some success fighting Russian troops in the city of Sievierodonetsk, but that the overall military situation in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region has not changed in the last 24 hours.
Zelenskyy also thanked US President Joe Biden for weapons deliveries and said he expected good news about weapons supplies from other partners.
The eastern city of Sievierodonetsk has become the epicenter of the war for Donbas and is now mostly under Russian control. Russian forces say they are on the verge of taking power in the city, which would solidify Moscow's control over the already mostly occupied Luhansk region.
"The situation is difficult, but it is better than yesterday. And it is under control," Ukraine's deputy chief of general staff Oleksiy Hromov said.
Hromov added that there was very bloody street fighting in Sievierodonetsk.
"Our resistance is unbroken after all these months. The enemy has not achieved the goals it set itself," Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said.
"We are ready for a long-term war. We have prepared for a long war."
Malyar welcomed the fact that the pace of arms deliveries from the West was accelerating. When asked on whether the new weapons could be used to hit Russian territory, she said "it's about us defending ourselves."
US adds 71 Russian, Belarusian companies to blacklist
The US has added 71 Russian and Belarusian entities to its trade blacklist.
The export restrictions come alongside new sanctions imposed by the US on Thursday, which included prohibitions on additional Russian oligarchs and members of the country's elite.
Some of the newly blacklisted entities include aircraft plants and shipbuilding and research institutes. In total, the US Commerce Department has now added 322 entities to its economic blacklist since the start of Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February.
Report: Russia to join talks on Ukrainian grain exports 'corridor'
Officials from Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the United Nations will meet in Istanbul for talks on the establishment of a "corridor'' to allow the export of Ukrainian agricultural products, Turkey's state news agency reported.
According to the Anadolu Agency, officials are set to discuss insurance issues and security for the corridor, as well as the need to clear such route of mines.
Ukraine has accused Russia of blocking agricultural exports in the Black Sea ports, preventing the supply of tons of grain around the world.
Russia and Ukraine are some of the world's largest wheat suppliers. Russia is also a major fertilizer exporter, and Ukraine is a key supplier of corn and sunflower oil.
Earlier on Thursday, the Interfax news agency quoted Russia's Defense Ministry as saying that ships carrying grain could leave Ukraine's Black Sea ports via "humanitarian corridors." It added that Moscow was ready to guarantee their safety.
A Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesperson has said Kyiv was working on a UN-backed solution to restore Black Sea shipping routes.
Governor says 800 people in shelters in Sievierodonetsk
Serhiy Haidai, the governor of the Luhansk region in eastern Ukraine, told broadcaster CNN that an estimated 800 people are holed up in bomb shelters at a chemical factory under attack in Sievierodonetsk.
Haidai said children are among those taking shelter at the Azot factory, the largest chemical plant in Sievierodonetsk.
As Russia seeks full control of the Donbas region, Sievierodonetsk has become the latest epicenter of Russia's war on Ukraine, with Russian forces having taken control of much of the city.
Haidai said the city's industrial zone remains in Ukrainian hands.
The governor dismissed comparisons between the situation in Sievierodonetsk and a steel plant at the southern port city of Mariupol, where civilians and Ukrainian troops had been trapped for weeks before surrendering.
NATO chief says West must brace for 'long haul' in Ukraine war
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the West must prepare for a long-term war in Ukraine.
"We have to be prepared for the long haul. Because what we see is that this war has now become a war of attrition," Stoltenberg told reporters in Washington, D.C., after meeting US President Joe Biden.
The war in Ukraine "could end tomorrow, if Russia stops its aggression," the NATO chief said in a press conference with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
But "we see no sign in that direction at this stage," he added.
Stoltenberg also offered conciliatory words to Turkey before a planned meeting on Sweden and Finland's NATO membership, which Ankara has threatened to stall.
Turkey has claimed that Finland and Sweden supported Kurdish militants deemed terrorists, which both nations have denied.
"I think we need to also recognize that Turkey is an important ally. Turkey contributes to our security in many different ways," said Stoltenberg, noting Turkey's efforts at countering so-called "Islamic State" militants.
Zaporizhzhia's pro-Russia administration to 'nationalize' state property
The Moscow-installed administration in the Zaporizhzhia region in southeastern Ukraine plans to take control of properties belonging to the Ukrainian state, one of its members, Vladimir Rogov, wrote on Telegram.
Zaporizhzhia is largely occupied by Russian forces, although Ukraine reportedly controls the region's capital.
"Today, the head of the military-civilian administration of the Zaporizhzhia region Yevgeny Balitsky signed a decree on the nationalization of property belonging to Ukraine on February 24, 2022," Russian media quoted Andrey Trofimov, deputy head of the administration, as saying.
Trofimov said the measure covers "land, natural resources [and] infrastructure of strategic sectors of the economy."
They did not specify whether the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, the largest in Europe, would be affected. Russian troops have taken over the plant, but Ukrainian specialists are still running it.
The Interfax news agency quoted a Ukrainian presidential aide as saying the plant could be shut down if Kyiv lost all control over it. But Ukraine's state-run nuclear power operator, Energoatom, denied the claim.
The plant "cannot be turned off from a technical, security, economic or political point of view," Energoatom said in a statement.
Ukraine seeks German Marder, Leopard tanks
Ruslan Stefantschuk, Ukraine's parliament speaker, called on Germany to deliver Leopard tanks and Marder infantry fighting vehicles to his country, according to the dpa news agency.
Stefantschuk was meeting with members of the German parliament, the Bundestag.
"Of course we need modern weapons above all. We can also fight with with old weapons from old stocks, but the newer weapons are more efficient," he said after the meeting, according to dpa.
German media had reported in May that arms manufacturer Rheinmetall said it could deliver the first shipment of Marder tanks in three weeks.
The German government has planned to send those tanks and vehicles to the Czech Republic and Greece as part of an exchange agreement, through which they deliver older, Soviet-designed tanks to Ukraine. Berlin argues that Ukrainian soldiers are better trained to handle the older weapon systems and can therefore use them immediately.
US issues more Russia sanctions
The US Department of Treasury has announced a new round of sanctions targeting 17 Russian individuals linked to President Vladimir Putin.
The department said in a notice on its website that the move intended to "degrade the key networks used by Russia's elites, including President Vladimir Putin, to attempt to hide and move money and anonymously make use of luxury assets around the globe."
"Russia's elites, up to and including President Putin, rely on complex support networks to hide, move, and maintain their wealth and luxury assets," said Brian Nelson, the under secretary of the treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence.
Among the individuals targeted is Sergei Roldugin, a close associate of Putin that the US described as his "middle-man."
The Treasury Department also identified multiple oligarchs' yachts as blocked property.
Russian lobbyists banned from European Parliament
European Parliament President Roberta Metsola said "Russian company representatives" are not allowed on the legislature's premises.
"We must not allow them any space to spread their propaganda & false, toxic narratives about the invasion of Ukraine," Metsola wrote on Twitter.
Renew, the parliament's liberal group, praised the decision as "a blow to the Russian state propaganda machine," saying it would "reduce the capacity of Russia's warmongering lobbyists to influence EU politicians and policies."
OPEC+ agrees to boost oil output in summer
The OPEC+ oil alliance announced it would increase its output by 648,000 barrels a day in July and August.
The group had already been adding a steady 432,000 barrels daily each month to gradually restore production cuts from 2020 during the COVID pandemic recession.
"The meeting highlighted the importance of stable and balanced markets for both crude oil and refined products," the 23-member group said in a statement.
Since Western countries began imposing sanctions on Russia over the war in Ukraine, output from OPEC+ has fallen by about 1 million barrels per day.
EU formally approves 6th package of Russia sanctions
Diplomats of the 27 European Union member states have formally approved the sixth round of sanctions against Moscow.
The new sanctions include a partial ban on Russian oil imports and will remove Russia's top lender Sberbank from the international platform SWIFT.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen hailed the move, saying it 'will reduce Russia's capacity to finance its war."
According to sources cited by Reuters and the dpa news agency, the agreement came after Hungary reached a deal with the 26 other members to remove from the proposed blacklist Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox church and a close Kremlin ally.
Budapest had repeatedly blocked the unanimity of a ban on Russian oil imports, but it seems to have reached a compromise by excluding Kirill from the sanctions.
Swiss parliament passes military spending increase
Despite its traditionally neutral stance, Switzerland is raising its defense spending to at least 1% of GDP, an increase from the current level of 0.71%, as the war in Ukraine changes Europe's security situation.
The Swiss Parliament approved the expenditure raise, increasing annual defense spending from around 5.5 billion Swiss francs (€5.7 billion, $6.1 billion) to at least 7 billion Swiss francs by 2030.
Defense Minister Viola Amherd said the government is already implementing the plan.
"In view of the security situation, it is appropriate to close existing capability gaps in the army more quickly than has been planned so far," Amherd said.
Russia says hundreds of 'mercenaries' killed in Ukraine
Russia's Defense Ministry said Russian forces killed "hundreds" of foreign "mercenaries" fighting for Ukraine.
According to the ministry, the deployment of foreign fighters on Ukraine's side has stopped gradually since the beginning of May. It claimed the numbers of foreign fighters almost halved from 6,600 then to 3,300 now.
Foreign fighters have joined both Ukrainian and Russian sides in the war.
Thousands of mercenaries from the Russian Wagner group and from Syria had been reportedly deployed by Moscow.
Sweden promises more economic, military aid to Ukraine
Swedish Finance Minister Mikael Damberg and Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist said the government would provide further military and economic aid to Ukraine.
The Finance Ministry said it proposed a budget increase to parliament to help Ukraine.
"The proposals that are submitted mean that allocated funds for the central government budget will increase by SEK 1.0 billion ($102 million) in 2022," Sweden's Finance Ministry said in a statement.
"In solidarity with Ukraine, and as part of the international response to Russia's actions, the government sees a continuing need to support Ukraine," the ministry said.
In February, Stockholm had announced it would send military materiel, including 5,000 anti-tank weapons, helmets and body armor, to Ukraine. It also announced it would send another 5,000 anti-tank weapons in March.
New US ambassador to Kyiv set for formal installation
US Ambassador Bridget Brink is set to hand her credentials to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Thursday to be officially installed as Washington's new envoy.
The US has not had an ambassador in Kyiv since former President Donald Trump forced out Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch in 2019.
Brink had told US Senators ahead of her confirmation that she would work to make Russia's invasion of Ukraine a "strategic failure."
UK pledges M270 rocket systems to Ukraine
British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said the UK would send M270 missile launchers to Ukraine. The Multiple Rocket Launch Systems can fire precision-guided rockets up to 80 kilometers (50 miles).
Wallace did not specify the number of launchers Britain would send to Ukraine but said Ukrainian troops would be trained in the UK to use the US-built rocket systems.
London said the decision was closely coordinated with Washington, which pledged a day earlier to supply Ukraine with High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems.
Zelenskyy says potential for turning point in war
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told a strategic conference in the Slovak capital, Bratislava, that his country was grateful for all the weapons it received but that more were needed.
He said more supplies of modern arms could bring the war towards an "inflection point" that would allow Kyiv to win.
Zelenskyy was addressing the GLOBSEC 2022 Bratislava Forum by video link.
In, the same speech, he said divisions in Europe created opportunities for Russia to exploit.
Separately, in an address to the national parliament of Luxembourg, Zelenskyy said Russia was currently occupying about 20% of Ukraine's territory.
He said the front lines of the war stretched across more than 1,000 kilometers (620 miles), and that Ukraine was defending itself against nearly all of Russia’s military might.
"We have to defend ourselves against almost the entire Russian army. All combat-ready Russian military formations are involved in this aggression."
Germany's Habeck says time working against Russia
Germany's vice-chancellor says Germany must work harder to reduce its energy dependence on Russia but that Western sanctions are taking a heavy toll on the Russian war machine
Robert Habeck, who is also Germany's economy minister and responsible for energy, told the German parliament that "the income that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin has obtained in recent months because of high prices hurts, and we can only be ashamed that we haven't yet managed to reduce this dependence more significantly.''
However, Habeck argued that Russia’s gas income was only part of the story. "Putin is still getting money, but he can hardly spend it anymore," the Green Party politician said.
"Time is not working for Russia. It is working against Russia, it is working against the Russian economy," said Habeck, adding that "no one wants to invest in Russia anymore."
Zelenskyy says Ukraine already de facto EU member
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says his country already considers itself part of the European Union.
"Ukraine has already become a de facto member of the EU," Zelensky said in a video address to the Luxembourg parliament on Thursday. "I believe that Ukraine is already showing by its actions that it meets the European criteria."
Zelenskyy did not mention Russian President Vladimir Putin by name but appeared to refer to him obliquely.
"You have to stop this individual from destroying European values. If we do not manage together to stop this man, then these are dark hours — dark hours that we have already experienced in the Second World War."
Zelensky said there should be further EU sanctions against Russia and he called for the delivery of "more weapons, modern weapons."
Russia says EU oil ban will destabilize markets
Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs says the European Union decision to phase out Russian oil, at least partially, would likely lead to a destabilization of the global energy market.
The ministry said the Brussels and the US were responsible for risking an exacerbation in global food and energy issues.
It described the EU's actions as illegitimate and said that Russia would withstand the consequences of the bloc's action.
Slovakia to send howitzers to Ukraine
Slovakia has said it will deliver eight self-propelled howitzers to Ukraine under a commercial contract signed with a state-controlled producer.
The ministry said the weapons were Zusana 2 howitzers, a modernized version of an older model that has an effective range of 40 kilometers (25 miles) to 50 kilometers.
As well as its long range, the system is known for high accuracy and rate of fire.
UK says Russia faces tough river crossing
The UK's Ministry of Defence says Russia has taken control of most of the Ukrainian city of Sievierodonetsk, although Moscow's forces have sustained heavy losses.
The ministry's latest report says the Russians continue to make steady gains supported by heavy artillery.
However, it says the main road into the city is likely to remain under Ukrainian control.
The report says Russia faces challenges when it comes to crossing the Siverskyy Donets River — a vital objective as it prepares to shift focus from consolidating in the Luhansk region to pushing ahead in Donetsk. Although there are various possible crossing sites, the UK assessment is that the river line "likely still remains controlled by Ukrainian forces, who have destroyed existing bridges."
The ministry predicts that Russia will need a short, tactical pause ahead of making "opposed crossings [of the river] and subsequent further attacks further into the Donetsk Oblast, where Ukrainian armed forces have prepared defensive positions."
The report speculates that such a hiatus for Moscow's troops "risks losing some of the momentum they have built over the last week."
Ukraine's Berlin ambassador praises Scholz over weapons pledge
Ukraine's ambassador to Germany, Andriy Melnyk, has welcomed Chancellor Olaf Scholz's announcements on new arms deliveries.
It’s a notable change of tone from Kyiv’s top diplomat in Berlin, who has been one of the German government's harshest critics, accusing it of being too hesitant in delivering weapons to Kyiv.
Scholz on Wednesday announced in the Bundestag that the modern IRIS-T-SLM air defense system from the Diehl defense company would be supplied to Ukraine.
The IRIS-T, developed in collaboration by Germany with other NATO partners, has the ability to target and shoot down other air-to-air and surface-to-air missiles. The chancellor also said Germany would supply Ukraine with radar systems to help locate enemy artillery.
"Finally, we can say from the bottom of our hearts to Chancellor Scholz: thank you!" said Melnyk. "Now we can really speak of a turning point for Ukraine. We hope for more modern weapons systems from Germany."
Melnyk said he hoped production could begin soon, followed by training and eventual deployment by October.
OPEC+ output deal could sideline Russia — report
The world’s major oil producers are holding talks on Thursday to decide whether to increase their output — possibly significantly.
Discussions come after an EU ban on most Russian oil imports in a new round of sanctions over Moscow’s war in Ukraine.
The producers, which include Russia, had been expected to only increase their output modestly. That would follow a pattern set since May last year by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its partners — including Russia — that make up OPEC+.
However, a Wall Street Journal report says OPEC is considering suspending Russia from the supply deal. That's fueled expectations that there could be an unrestricted increase in output.
The 13 members of OPEC and their 10 partners had been increasing output modestly after demand slumped because of the coronavirus pandemic. The talks, chaired by Saudi Arabia, are to be held at OPEC headquarters in Vienna.
As the top producer, Saudi Arabia had previously rebuffed calls by the US for a notable increase in output.
'200,000 children' taken from Ukraine to Russia — Ukraine's Zelenskyy
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that 200,000 children are among the Ukrainians who have been forcibly taken to Russia.
They include children taken from orphanages, children taken with their parents and children separated from their families, according to Zelenskyy.
Zelenskyy said Ukraine would punish those responsible. He said that Ukraine would also show Russia that it "cannot be conquered, that our people will not surrender and our children will not become the property of the occupiers."
Ukraine's president said that 243 children have been killed so far in the war, 446 have been wounded and 139 are missing.
Germany's Baerbock: 'Ukraine must win'
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told the ZDF public broadcaster that "Ukraine must win" the war against Russia when asked whether she agreed with earlier statements made by Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
"Of course, Russia must not win this war, it must lose it strategically," she said.
"They want to destroy the peace in Ukraine. That's why Ukraine cannot lose under any circumstances — that is to say, Ukraine must win," Germany's top diplomat added.
Earlier, Scholz said Russia must not win the war. But the opposition Christian Democrats criticized his statement, arguing that it is better to say that Ukraine must win.
Russia has failed to pay $1.9 million in debt — investor panel
The Credit Derivatives Determinations Committee (CDDC) said that Russia had failed to pay $1.9 million (€1.8 million) in accrued interest on a dollar bond.
Russia's failure to pay will trigger payouts potentially worth billions of dollars.
Sanctions imposed by Western countries and allies have largely excluded Russia from the global financial system.
Twelve out of 13 banks and asset managers on the committee voted "yes" to the question of whether a "failure to pay credit event" occurred with respect to Russia. Citibank cast the only "no" vote.
Summary of events in Ukraine-Russia crisis on Wednesday
The Dutch government said Germany and the Netherlands will jointly drill for a new gas field in the North Sea after Russian energy giant Gazprom said it had cut gas supplies to the Netherlands.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Washington expects the war in Ukraine to continue for "many months" ahead despite pushbacks on the battlefield.
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.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Poland and Ukraine will both benefit from several new economic agreements. One agreement concerns the export of Ukrainian grain through Poland to the Baltic Sea.
Luhansk region governor Serhiy Haidai said on Telegram that Russian forces now control 70% of the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk.
Major Danish energy firm Orsted said Russia was cutting off natural gas to the Scandinavian country after Copenhagen declined to pay in rubles.
US President Joe Biden said that Washington would send Ukraine "advanced rocket systems" to hit "key targets."
You can revisit our live updates from June 1 here.
fb, sdi/sri (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)