Situation in Luhansk has ‘extremely escalated’, says governorA dispatch here from Reuters reporters in Ukraine, as Russia continues its assaults to try to capture the Donbas region.
Ukrainian forces were on Sunday resisting a Russian assault on Sievierodonetsk, the largest city they still hold in the eastern Donbas region, but were weathering heavy artillery barrages, Ukrainian officials said.
The shelling was so intense it was not possible to assess casualties and damage, the governor of Luhansk region, Serhiy Gaidai, said. Dozens of buildings have been destroyed in the past few days.
“The situation has extremely escalated,” Gaidai said.
The Ukrainian government meanwhile urged the west to provide it with more longer-range weapons in order to turn the tide in the war, now in its fourth month.
The battle for Sievierodonetsk, which lies on the eastern side of the Siverskyi Donets River, has become the focus of attention as Russia ekes out slow but solid gains in the Donbas, comprising of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions.
Russia’s fixation on Sievierodonetsk had drawn resources from other battlefronts and as result they had made little progress elsewhere, according to the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the military situation in the Donbas – parts of which are controlled by Moscow-backed separatists – was very complicated but defences were holding up in a number of places, including Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk.
“It’s indescribably difficult there. And I am grateful to all those who withstood this onslaught,” he said in his nightly video address.
The situation in Lysychansk, a city of 103,000 in the Luhansk oblast in eastern Ukraine, has become “significantly worse”, Serhiy Haidai, regional governor of the Luhansk oblast, said Sunday.
“A Russian shell fell on a residential building, a girl died and four people were hospitalized,” he said on Telegram.
According to AFP, Haidai said that fighting in the city of Severodonetsk was advancing street by street. An estimated 15,000 civilians remained in Severodonetsk, but a local official said the “constant shelling” was making it increasingly difficult to get in or out.
“Evacuation is very unsafe, it’s isolated cases when we manage to get people out. Now the priority is for the wounded and people who need serious medical assistance,” Oleksandr Stryuk, head of the city’s military and civil administration, told AFP.
Residents have also gone more than two weeks without a mobile phone connection, Stryuk said, and the water supply was becoming increasingly unstable.
Russian troops heavily shelled the Sumy oblast and Chernihiv oblast today:
⚡️ Russians heavily shell Sumy Oblast, Chernihiv Oblast.
Russia shelled the northern Ukrainian regions 10 times on May 29, the State Border Guard Service reported.
— The Kyiv Independent (@KyivIndependent) May 29, 2022 The German economy minister, Robert Habeck, has raised concerns that European Union unity on new sanctions against Russia is “starting to crumble”, reports Reuters.
It comes ahead of a summit this week to discuss a further package of sanctions against Moscow, including an unprecedented halt to Russian oil imports.
“After Russia’s attack on Ukraine, we saw what can happen when Europe stands united. With a view to the summit tomorrow, let’s hope it continues like this. But it is already starting to crumble,” he told a news conference earlier today.
The latest proposed sanctions have been blocked by landlocked Hungary. The country has no access to oil cargo ships, while 65% of its oil needs are supplied by Russia via the Druzhba pipeline.
Having rejected a proposal to allow it two years longer than the other 26 states to wean itself off Russian oil, Budapest wants at least four years and EU funds to adapt its refineries to process non-Russian crude and boost pipeline capacity to Croatia.
German economy and climate minister Robert Habeck made the comments ahead of a summit to discuss an oil embargo against Russia, Photograph: Bernd von Jutrczenka/APA compromise tabled by France would exclude the Druzhba pipeline from a future oil embargo and only impose sanctions on oil shipped to the EU by tanker vessel.
Habeck called for Germany to speak with one voice at the summit instead of abstaining from votes due to differences of opinion within the country’s ruling coalition. He called for similar unity from other EU states. “Europe is still a huge economic area with incredible economic power. And when it stands united, it can use that power,” he said.
You can read more about the debate over whether to water down a ban on Russian oil imports here:
Allowing Russia to win would “push humanity back into the dark ages”, Mykhaylo Podolyak, a Ukrainian presidential adviser, has said.
“‘Why does the world pay more attention to Ukraine than to Africa or the east?’ – such a narrative is promoted by [Russian] influence agents,” he tweeted.
“The war in [Ukraine] is not a local conflict – it is the question of what the world will be like tomorrow.”
Mykhailo Podolyak, a political adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy Photograph: Kemal Aslan/ReutersArguing that if Russia were to win the war, “any autocrat” would be able to provoke territorial conflicts and seize countries, he added that stopping Russia was the mission of all civilised countries.
“Allowing [Russia] to win is to open Pandora’s box & push humanity back into the dark ages,” said Podolyak.
SummaryHere’s a roundup of today’s news, as Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy has visited troops outside Kyiv for the first time since Russia’s invasion, and Vladimir Putin’s forces continue their assault on the Donbas region.
Ukrainian forces are resisting Russian attacks in Sievierodonetsk in Donbas, where fighting is taking place in the streets. Shelling is so intense in Luhansk that its governor, Serhiy Haidai, said it was impossible to determine casualties. Ukraine’s President Zelenskiy has visited troops in Kharkiv and toured the city to see damage by Russian forces for himself. Mariupol city council deputy Oleksandr Lashin said that the now-occupied city had no water, electricity and was “unsanitary”.
Russia has given up on capturing Kyiv but the country’s ambassador to the UK, Andrei Kelin, insists it was never a target. In a broadcast interview with the BBC’s Clive Myrie, Kelin said that claims of war crimes in Bucha, near Kyiv, were a “fabrication”. He also disputed footage of civilians being shot. Ukrainian politician Kira Rudik said she would ask UK MPs for more long-range missiles, help getting exports moving out of the country and for visa requirements in the UK to be relaxed. The EU is debating whether to water down a ban on Russian oil imports to placate Hungary’s leader, Viktor Orbán, who is blocking the latest European sanctions. Poland has agreed to send artillery to Ukraine, Polish state media has reported. Russia will continue to supply gas to Serbia, after a phone call between the Russian president and his Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vučić. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy visits an area damaged by Russian military strikes on 29 May, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Kharkiv, Ukraine May 29, 2022. Photograph: Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/ReutersMore on president Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s visit to Kharkiv.
Zelenskiy’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, wrote on the Telegram app that the president had also visited Ukraine’s second-largest city of Kharkiv.
Yermak said Zelenskiy toured destroyed residential buildings, noting that their replacements had to be built with bomb shelters in place.
The president’s chief of staff added that 31% of Kharkiv region’s territory was currently occupied by Russia, and a further 5% had been taken back by Ukraine having been occupied earlier.
Ukrainian TV station Espreso has reported comments by Mariupol city council deputy Oleksandr Lashin about the current state of the now-Russian occupied city in south-eastern Ukraine.
He said the city was unsanitary and lacked water and electricity.
“There is a collapse in Mariupol. There is light in some places and the occupiers tried to give water, but the streets are flooded, streams run down the roads, the sewage stinks everywhere. There are also corpse odours. There is a lot of unsanitary conditions in the city,” he said.
“The Russian occupiers cannot bring order to their country. Especially in Ukraine, it does not work out, people are not capable of anything and they will not be able to establish communication. Poor people who cannot leave, they are simply captives of the occupiers.”
The EU is debating whether to water down a ban on Russian oil imports to placate Hungary’s leader, Viktor Orbán, who is blocking the latest European sanctions against Vladimir Putin’s war machine.
Under a compromise, the EU could ban Russian oil arriving on tankers but allow pipeline imports, a proposal that would allow Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic to continue being supplied via the Soviet-era Druzhba pipeline that runs through Ukraine.
More than three weeks after the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, proposed a complete ban on Russian oil imports to the EU by the end of the year, the bloc is stalled on the plans. Hungary, which is heavily dependent on Russian oil, has said it needs five years and billions of euros to upgrade its refineries.
Zelenskiy visits frontlines outside Kyiv for first time since FebruaryUkraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, gives an award to a Ukrainian soldier as Russia’s attack on Ukraine in the east continues. Photograph: Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/ReutersUkraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has visited troops in Kharkiv, the first time he has made an official appearance outside Kyiv since the Russian invasion in February.
“You risk your lives for us all and for our country,” the president’s office website cited him as saying to the soldiers, adding that he handed out commendations and gifts.
A crowdfunder set up to raise cash Tymofiy Seidov, eight, who was the only child left in his bombed out village near the city of Kharkiv, in north east Ukraine until his evacuation last Sunday has surpassed its £10,000 target after two anonymous donors pledged £3,000 and £2,000 respectively for travel and accommodation for Tymofiy and his family.
The Guardian’s Brussels bureau chief wrote about how Tymofiy spent much of his time drawing monsters and tanks and remembered sunny days while sheltering for three months in a dark basement below the ruins of a kindergarten with 23 others including his mum, aunt and grandmother.
A volunteer offered to resettle Tymofiy and his family but they needed funds for travel and accommodation on the way.
Rita Sotnikova, Mykola Sotnikova, Tymofiy Seidov, Lyudmyla Sotnikova, Yana Sotnikova (left to right) Photograph: Ukrainian militaryPoland has agreed to send artillery to Ukraine, Polish state media has reported. A plan for Poland to transfer 28 MiG-29 jets familiar to Ukrainian pilots in March via the US collapsed after White House objection. Last month, the UK said it was looking at sending British Challenger 2 tanks to Poland so that Warsaw could in turn send Ukraine more T-72 tanks, the Russian design used by its armed forces.
Poland has donated 18 155mm ‘AHS Krab’ modern self propelled howitzers to Ukraine, according to Polish state media. 🇵🇱🤝🇺🇦
These extremely effective weapons have a maximum range of 40km and a standard range of 30km.t.co/ImCcvbxnG3
— Jimmy (@JimmySecUK) May 29, 2022