Russia-Ukraine war latest: EU agrees ‘landmark’ Russian oil ban; half of Sievierodonetsk under Russian control – live | Ukraine


Russian troops control ‘around half’ of Sievierodonetsk

Russian forces now control “around half” of the east Ukrainian city of Sievierodonetsk, the head of the city’s administration told national television within the last hour, Reuters reports.

The BBC also reports quotes from the head of the city. It writes that Oleksandr Stryuk told Ukrainian TV: “Unfortunately, the front line has cut the city into two halves, but the city is still defending [itself], the city is still Ukrainian.”

“The evacuation is suspended. Unfortunately, it’s impossible [to evacuate civilians]… because street fighting is continuing,” he said.

Jennifer Rankin

Jennifer Rankin

Jennifer Rankin in Brussels has this explainer for us on what the EU’s partial oil ban means for Russia and rest of Europe:

What’s been agreed?

After nearly a month of wrangling, the European Union has agreed to a partial ban on Russian oil, with the aim of cutting off funding to the Kremlin’s war machine. According to the European Council president, Charles Michel, three-quarters of Russian oil imports will be immediately affected, rising to 90% by the end of the year.

Which countries have been exempted and why?

The EU is banning seaborne oil immediately, which covers about two-thirds of Russian imports to the EU. Oil transported through the critical Druzhba (“friendship”) pipeline will be exempt from the ban, a key concession to Hungary, which is heavily dependent on Russian oil.

How will the embargo affect Russia’s war machine?

The EU is paying Russia about €1bn a day for oil and gas, an invaluable source of hard currency for the Kremlin in funding its war against Ukraine. A sharp cut in those financial flows deepens Russia’s economic problems in the long term.

What will the impact be on consumers and businesses in Europe?

Motorists and businesses will see higher prices at the pumps, as the embargo feeds into higher oil prices.

Read more of Jennifer Rankin’s explainer here: What does EU’s partial oil ban mean for Russia and rest of Europe?

Today so far …

  • Ukraine is still in control of some parts of Sievierodonetsk city and its soldiers are fighting slowly advancing Russian troops, but evacuations of civilians are not currently possible, the head of the city’s administration has said. Russians now control “around half” according to reports on national television in Ukraine.
  • Serhiy Haidai, governor of Luhansk, said “The situation is extremely complicated – part of Sievierodonetsk is controlled by the Russians. They cannot move freely through the city – our fighters still remain in the settlement.”
  • EU leaders have backed a partial embargo on Russian oil after late-night talks at a summit in Brussels. The sanctions will immediately impact 75% of Russian oil imports with the aim to ban 90% of all Russian oil imported to Europe by the end of the year, officials said. The president of the European Council, Charles Michel, hailed the deal as a “remarkable achievement” that would place “maximum pressure on Russia to end the war”. The compromise excludes the Druzhba pipeline from the oil embargo and exempts deliveries arriving in Europe by pipeline, after Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán warned halting supplies would wreck his country’s economy. Russia has hit back at the EU’s latest round of sanctions on oil imports, saying Moscow will find other importers.
  • The latest sanctions package also includes removing access to Swift payments for Russia’s largest bank, Sberbank; banning three more Russian state-owned broadcasters; and further sanctions against “individuals responsible for war crimes in Ukraine”.
  • The sanctions on Russia, which ban most imports of its oil, are “not enough” and the pace of sanctions so far has been too slow, a senior official in the Ukrainian president’s office, Ihor Zhovkva, said. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy earlier lamented the delay in EU leaders imposing heavier sanctions against Vladimir Putin. “The pause in agreeing on new sanctions in Europe has been too long,” he said.
  • Zelenskiy claims that Russia is blocking the export of 22m tons of grain from Ukraine’s ports and warned it posed a threat of famine. Russia’s blockade of our exports is destabilising the situation on a global scale,” he said in his latest national address. Zelenskiy added that Russian forces “have already stolen at least half a million tons of grain” and “are now looking for ways to illegally sell it somewhere”.
  • A Ukrainian court sentenced two captured Russian soldiers to 11-and-a-half years in jail for shelling a town in eastern Ukraine, the second war crimes verdict since the start of Russia’s latest invasion in February.
  • The Russian ministry of defence claims to have shot down an Su-25 aircraft of the Ukrainian Air Force and destroyed the Ukrainian battery of the Uragan multiple launch rocket system, the battery of the Grad multiple launch rocket system, two ammunition depots, and a fuel depot in overnight operations.
  • The ministry also, without providing evidence, said that it had recovered 152 bodies of Ukrainian fighters from the Azovstal plant in Mariupol that had been booby-trapped with mines “on direct orders from Kyiv” to create a “provocation”.
  • Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov will visit Turkey with a military delegation next week on 8 June.
  • Oleg Kryuchkov, who is an advisor to the Russian-appointed government in annexed Crimea, has said that the occupied Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions have switched to using Russian mobile communications and internet networks.
  • A ship loaded with metal has left the Ukrainian port of Mariupol, becoming the first to do so since the besieged Ukrainian city was taken by Russian forces. Ukraine said the shipment amounted to looting.
  • The European Council has said it is ready to grant Ukraine €9bn to aid in its post-war reconstruction. The Council will “continue helping Ukraine with its immediate liquidity needs, together with G7” European Council President Charles Michel said late on Monday night.

That is it from me, Martin Belam, for now. I will be back later. Geneva Abdul will take you through the next few hours coverage.

Russian troops control ‘around half’ of Sievierodonetsk

Russian forces now control “around half” of the east Ukrainian city of Sievierodonetsk, the head of the city’s administration told national television within the last hour, Reuters reports.

The BBC also reports quotes from the head of the city. It writes that Oleksandr Stryuk told Ukrainian TV: “Unfortunately, the front line has cut the city into two halves, but the city is still defending [itself], the city is still Ukrainian.”

“The evacuation is suspended. Unfortunately, it’s impossible [to evacuate civilians]… because street fighting is continuing,” he said.

Ivan Philippov writes for us today, explaining that like others ashamed by the invasion of Ukraine, he has left Russia, asking “What does it mean to be Russian?”:

I loved my country, but I never waved a Russian flag at a demonstration or publicly expressed my patriotism – it was just not something that people like me did. We thought about patriotism in terms of politics – if you care for your country you try to make it better. So I tried. For over a decade I went to all the opposition rallies, I protested against injustice. Like-minded people and I tried our best to make our country a better place. But I never fell for the patriotic mantras about how great Russia is or how great it used to be and should be again.

Why should I be proud that the Soviet Union was the first country to launch a man into space? Yuri Gagarin or Sergei Korolev should be proud of that, it was their achievement, not mine. Why should I be proud that the Soviet Union won the great patriotic war? My grandfathers fought in it. The war broke them, but they won: they should be proud of that. I know they were. These achievements were certainly never part of my identity in the same way that they are for the “Putin majority”, my compatriots who build their sense of self on past victories to which they are associated only by an accident of birth.

Read more here: Ivan Philippov – What does it mean to be Russian? For many of us, it’s no longer a simple question

Two Russian soldiers sentenced to jail in Ukraine for war crimes

A Ukrainian court sentenced two captured Russian soldiers to 11-and-a-half years in jail on Tuesday for shelling a town in eastern Ukraine, the second war crimes verdict since the start of Russia’s latest invasion in February.

Alexander Bobikin and Alexander Ivanov, who listened to the verdict standing in a reinforced glass box at the Kotelevska district court in central Ukraine, both pleaded guilty last week, Reuters reports.

Russian soldiers Alexander Bobikin and Alexander Ivanov pictured at their trial in Kotelva, northeastern Ukraine, on Thursday 26 May.
Russian soldiers Alexander Bobikin and Alexander Ivanov pictured at their trial in Kotelva, northeastern Ukraine, on Thursday 26 May. Photograph: Bernat Armangué/AP

EU sanctions package ‘not enough’ – Ukrainian official

The latest European Union sanctions on Russia, which ban most imports of its oil, are “not enough” and the pace of sanctions so far has been too slow, a senior official in the Ukrainian president’s office said in Madrid.

An EU summit in Brussels on Monday agreed measures officials said would immediately cut more than two-thirds of oil imports from Russia, and 90% by the end of the year.

“If you ask me, I would say far too slow, far too late and definitely not enough,” Reuters reports Ihor Zhovkva, deputy head of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s office, said.

Ukraine is also not happy with the pace of weapons deliveries from the west, he said.

“We are definitely not satisfied,” Zhovkva said in response to a question after his speech. “Had we been satisfied, we would have begun the liberation of Mariupol immediately and thrown away Russian forces from Donbas.”

As well as the claims about the Azovstal plant in Mariupol, the daily Russian operations briefing also claims that in the last 24 hours:

  • “An Su-25 aircraft of the Ukrainian Air Force was shot down in the Mykolaiv region.”
  • “36 units of weapons and military equipment were destroyed, including the Ukrainian battery of the Uragan multiple launch rocket system, the battery of the Grad multiple launch rocket system, two ammunition depots, and a fuel depot.”
  • “Russian air defence systems shot down six Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicles.”

None of the claims have been independently verified.

Russia’s defence ministry claims bodies of fighters left in Azovstal were mined by Ukrainians

Russia’s ministry of defence has issued its daily operational briefing and has claimed that Ukrainian forces that had been besieged in the Azovstal plant in Mariupol deliberately mined the bodies of their colleagues in order to create an atrocity.

The ministry offered no evidence in the update to support the claims, which reads:

During a survey in Mariupol of the underground structures of the Azovstal metallurgical plant, where the Nazis of the Ukrainian Azov formation who surrendered were hiding, Russian military personnel discovered an isothermal van.️

In a van with a broken cooling system, 152 bodies of dead militants and servicemen of the Armed Forces of Ukraine were stored. Let me remind you that before being taken prisoner, the Azov command publicly appealed to Zelenskiy to take the bodies of the dead so that the families could bury them in the territory controlled by the Kyiv regime.

However, no requests from Kyiv to receive the bodies of the dead from the Azovstal plant have been received. Moreover, during the inspection of the van, Russian sappers found four mines placed under the bodies of the dead Ukrainian servicemen. The cumulative mass of the explosive in them was sufficient to destroy all the remains of the bodies remaining in the van.

Based on the results of interrogations of captured Azov militants, it is known that the mining of the bodies was carried out on direct orders from Kyiv.

The purpose of the provocation is to accuse Russia of deliberately destroying the remains of the bodies and preventing them from being taken out for transfer to relatives in order to save the political ‘reputation’ of the Kyiv regime and Zelenskiy personally.

In the near future, the Russian side plans to hand over the bodies of Ukrainian militants and servicemen found on the territory of the Azovstal plant to representatives of Ukraine.

A view of the damaged territory of Azovstal plant as seen in Mariupol on 27 May.
A view of the damaged territory of Azovstal plant as seen in Mariupol on 27 May. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

There are some additional quotes from Latvia’s prime minister Krišjānis Kariņš from Brussels this morning. He said keeping the EU united was the prime goal. “The important news is that the EU is still united in its purpose; the purpose is to stop Russia’s aggressive war in Ukraine,” Reuters quotes Kariņš saying.

We’ve been sent some pictures from yesterday, illustrating the conditions under which people where being evacuated from Kupiansk town on the outskirts of Kharkiv.

A child is seen travelling on an evacuation convoy on Monday.
A child is seen travelling on an evacuation convoy on Monday. Photograph: Iván Alvarado/Reuters
The buses have to pick their way along damaged roads.
The buses have to pick their way along damaged roads. Photograph: Iván Alvarado/Reuters
It isn’t just people being evacuated from the threat of occupation – family pets come too.
It isn’t just people being evacuated from the threat of occupation – family pets come too. Photograph: Iván Alvarado/Reuters
A woman comforts a child as they travel in the evacuation convoy.
A woman comforts a child as they travel in the evacuation convoy. Photograph: Iván Alvarado/Reuters
A woman carries a baby as she reacts after getting out of an evacuation convoy from Russian troops’ occupied Kupiansk town.
A woman carries a baby as she reacts after getting out of an evacuation convoy from Russian troops’ occupied Kupiansk town. Photograph: Iván Alvarado/Reuters

Estonia’s prime minister Kaja Kallas has spoken in Brussels, telling reporters that the European Union should push ahead with a seventh package of sanctions against Russia, that included gas. She said: “I think that gas has to be in the seventh package but I am realistic as well. I don’t think it will be there.”

She described the oil ban agreed yesterday as “a fair compromise”.

Reuters reports she added: “This was the best we could get. Yesterday I was very sceptical that we would reach an agreement so that’s a positive thing that we did.”

Austria’s chancellor, Karl Nehammer, has already ruled out a gas embargo being on the table. He told reporters: “The gas embargo will not be a topic, German chancellor Olaf Scholz has made this clear as well. Russian oil is much easier to compensate. Gas is completely different.”

Still with Turkey for a second, there is a quick snap on Reuters that Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov will visit Turkey with a military delegation next week on 8 June.

Turkish complaints about Kurdish activity in European countries have been the driving force behind its opposition to Sweden and Finland’s proposed entry into Nato. The tension has increased slightly today, with Reuters reporting that the German and French ambassadors to Ankara were summoned to the Turkish foreign ministry to protest about events organised by Kurds in those countries.

Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, told the state-run Anadolu news agency the ambassadors were informed of Turkey’s discomfort with the events organised by the Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK), which is considered a terrorist organisation by Turkey, as well as by the US and the EU.

There is more reaction coming in from EU leaders about the latest sanctions package proposals. Josep Borrell, the EU’s top diplomat, has said: “We are the most important client for Russia.”

Reuters reports he said the European Union deal to cut most of Russian oil imports would force Moscow to offer crude at a lower price to others. “The purpose is to make Russia have less financial resources to feed its war machine.”

Civilian evacuations ‘not possible’ in Sievierodonetsk due to fighting

Ukraine is still in control of Sievierodonetsk city and its soldiers are fighting slowly advancing Russian troops, but evacuations of civilians are not currently possible, the head of the city’s administration has said.

“The city is still in Ukrainian hands and it’s putting up a fight… (but) evacuations are not possible due to the fighting,” Reuters reports Oleksandr Stryuk told Ukrainian television.

Earlier, Serhiy Haidai, governor of Luhansk, posted some additional details on Telegram. He told his followers:

The situation is extremely complicated – part of Sievierodonetsk is controlled by the Russians. They cannot move freely through the city – our fighters still remain in the settlement. The enemy is planning an operation to clear the surrounding villages. Wounded volunteers were taken out of Sievierodonetsk.

The current situation in Sievierodonetsk has not been independently verified.

The UK’s ministry of defence has issued its daily assesement of the situation in Ukraine, saying that in order to pursue their likely objective of the complete occupoation of the Donbas, Russia has further challenging targets ahead of it. The assesment says:

Russia’s capture of Lyman supports its operational main effort, which likely remains the encirclement of Sieverodonetsk and the closure of the pocket around Ukrainian forces in Luhansk Oblast.

Heavy shelling continues, while street fighting is likely taking place on the outskirts of Sieverodonetsk town.

Routes into the pocket likely remain under Ukrainian control. Russia has achieved greater local successes than earlier in the campaign by massing forces and fires in a relatively small area. This forces Russia to accept risk elsewhere in occupied territory.

Russia will need to secure further challenging operational objectives beyond Sieverodonetsk, including the key city of Kramatorsk and the M04 Dnipro-Donetsk main road.





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