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Ukraine live news: Russia seeks world food crisis, Zelenskyy says

  • Russian troops pushed deeper into the key eastern city of Severodonetsk, fighting street by street with Kyiv’s forces on Monday as Moscow steps up its efforts to capture the Luhansk region’s stronghold.
  • A Russian separatist leader says Moscow’s forces now control a third of Severodonetsk.
  • The mayor of Mariupol says city staff have discovered 25 new grave trenches where bodies were being placed in “layers” and that Russian occupiers have buried at least 16,000 residents in mass graves near the city since the middle of April.
  • The Kremlin says Russia’s Vladimir Putin told Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan that Moscow is ready to facilitate the unhindered export of grain from Ukrainian ports in coordination with Turkey.
  • Charles Michel, president of the European Council, announces an agreement among European Union countries to ban most Russian oil imports.
INTERACTIVE Russia-Ukraine War Who controls what in Donbas DAY 96
[Al Jazeera]

Here are all the latest updates:

Kherson and Zaporizhzhia switch to Russia’s internet and mobile networks: RIA

The Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions, now under Russian control, have switched over to Russia’s mobile and internet network, state news agency RIA reports citing an advisor to the Moscow-installed head of information policy in the annexed territory of Crimea.

“In the liberated territories, it is now exclusively Russian Internet and communications. In fact, this is the end of Ukrainian propaganda. Zelenskyy’s towers of lies have fallen,” Oleg Kryuchkov said.

RIA reports that the occupying military-civilian administration in Kherson asked Moscow whether it could use the capabilities of Russian telecommunications companies to restore cellular communications in the region. The request reportedly came after shelling by Ukrainian forces caused a network blackout.


Blinken and Saudi Arabia’s FM discuss Ukraine

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken held talks with Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, on Tuesday, which included discussions on international support for Ukraine, according to a statement from the state department.

“The Secretary underscored the importance of international support for Ukraine as it defends its sovereignty and territorial integrity and emphasised the need for a global response to the food security crisis resulting from President Putin’s brutal war,”  the statement said.

The two ministers reportedly also discussed the truce in Yemen, the consequences of the Safer oil tanker in the Red Sea region and Iran’s nuclear program.

Spoke with Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister @FaisalbinFarhan today on efforts to strengthen and extend the truce in Yemen, the importance of international support for Ukraine, and opportunities for greater cooperation on regional issues.

— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) May 31, 2022


Russian forces control one third of Severodonetsk: Moscow-backed separatist

Russian forces have seized control of about a third of Severodonetsk, but their assault is taking longer than they had hoped, according to a Moscow-backed separatist leader quoted in a TASS news agency report.

“We can say already that a third of Severodonetsk is already under our control,” TASS quoted Leonid Pasechnik, the leader of the so-called Luhansk People’s Republic, as saying in a report on Tuesday morning.

Pasechnik told the Russian state news agency that fighting was raging in the city, but Russian forces were not advancing as rapidly as might have been hoped. “But we want, above all, to maintain the city’s infrastructure,” he said.

The advance of Russian troops was complicated by the presence of several large chemical plants in the Severodonetsk area, TASS reported.


Russian forces gaining ground in Severodonetsk: ISW

Russian forces reportedly control the northeast and southeast outskirts of the city of Severodonetsk and are continuing to gain ground within the city, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) has said.

“Ukrainian and Russian sources reported ongoing fighting to the south of Severodonetsk in Toshkivka, Ustynivka, Voronove, Borivske, and Metolkine, as Russian forces continue efforts to complete the encirclement of Severodonetsk from the south,” the ISW said in its latest campaign assessment.

It added that there had been reports Russian forces were transferring large quantities of personnel and equipment to the area to strengthen operations against Severodonetsk.

“A Russian Telegram channel claimed that Russian forces control the entire southern bank of the Siverskyi Donets River, except for the part of the river that runs through Severodonetsk. ISW cannot independently confirm this claim, though it is consistent with previous reporting on persistent, incremental Russian advances in and around the Severodonetsk-Lysychansk area,” the institute said.

Eastern #Ukraine Update:#Russian forces continued ground assaults in and around #Severodonetsk on May 30. Russian forces reportedly control the northeast and southeast outskirts of the city and are continuing to gain ground within the city.https://t.co/32Qoh6eqAF pic.twitter.com/n8LtQqvsSh

— ISW (@TheStudyofWar) May 30, 2022


Russians buried 16,000 Mariupol residents in mass graves since April: Mayor

The Ukrainian mayor of the now Russian-controlled city of Mariupol has said that since mid-April, Russian occupiers have buried at least 16,000 city residents in mass graves near the villages of Staryi Krym, Manhush and Vynohradne.

Vadym Boychenko also said on Telegram that 25 new trench areas had appeared at the Staryi Krym cemetery in the past month. He said the bodies had been placed in the trenches in layers, and then “masked” with plates as individual burial sites.

“We estimated the death toll at 22,000 people in Mariupol. But more and more facts show that the consequences of the Rashist crime are much worse. This and the dire state of the local population under occupation need special attention of the global community,” Boychenko said.

He said thousands of bodies still remained under rubble, in natural cemeteries and in temporary mortuaries.

Children walk among buildings destroyed during fighting in Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, May 25, 2022
Children walk among buildings destroyed during fighting in Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, May 25, 2022 [AP Photo]

EU backs 9 billion euros of loans for Ukraine

EU members have backed a package of loans worth 9 billion euros ($9.7 billion), with a small component of grants to cover part of the interest, for Ukraine to keep its government going and pay wages for about two months.

Leaders also backed the creation of an international fund to rebuild Ukraine after the war, with details to be decided later.

The European Council President Charles Michel said in a tweet that the council “will continue helping #Ukraine with its immediate liquidity needs, together with @G7.”

#EUCO will continue helping #Ukraine with its immediate liquidity needs, together with @G7

EUCO is ready to grant #Ukraine EUR 9 billion.

Strong and concrete support to #Ukraine’s reconstruction.

— Charles Michel (@CharlesMichel) May 30, 2022


Russia’s FM denies rumours of Putin’s ill-health

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has denied rumours that President Putin is ill, Russia’s TASS news agency has reported.

“You can watch him on screens, read and listen to his speeches,” Lavrov said in an interview on French TV, according to TASS

“I don’t think that sane people can see in this person signs of some kind of illness or ailment,” he added.

British intelligence sources were quoted telling media outlets that Putin was seriously ill in the last week.


Relatives of Ukraine’s surrendered Azovstal fighters seek news

Relatives of Ukrainian fighters who remained for weeks under the besieged Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol have said that they had received no news of the whereabouts of their loved ones since they were evacuated to Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine.

The relatives, all women, said they had formed a Council of Wives and Mothers, to ensure the fighters were treated in accordance with the Geneva Convention on prisoners of war.

Natalia Zarytska, wife of an Azov regiment soldier, said she had been contacted by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which helped oversee the mass evacuations.

“I was informed that it has been registered that he left the Azovstal plant but none of my questions – whether he is still alive, what condition he is in, where they have been taken – have been answered,” Zarytska said.


Russian troops pushed further into Severodonetsk Monday

Russian troops pushed farther into the key city of Severodonetsk, in the Luhansk region, on Monday and fought street by street with Kyiv’s forces.

The mayor said the battle has left the city in ruins and driven tens of thousands from their homes.

Military analysts have painted the fight for Severodonetsk as part of a race against time for the Kremlin.

The city is key to Russian efforts to complete the capture of the eastern industrial region of the Donbas quickly — before more Western arms arrive to bolster Ukraine’s defence.

Ukrainian tanks move in Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Monday, May 30, 2022
Ukrainian tanks move in Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Monday, May 30, 2022 [Francisco Seco/AP]

Russia stole half a million tonnes of grain: Zelenskyy

Zelenskyy has said that Russian occupiers have stolen “at least half a million tonnes of grain” from Ukraine.

They “are now looking for ways to illegally sell it somewhere. To sell it in a way to make money on what was stolen and to keep the deficit in the legal market,” he said in his nighttime address.

On Monday, CNN reported that satellite imagery showed a Russian merchant ship loaded with stolen Ukrainian grain had arrived in the Syrian port of Latakia. It was carrying nearly 30,000 tonnes of Ukrainian wheat, according to Ukrainian officials.


Zelenskyy says 32 media workers killed since invasion began

The killing of French journalist Frederic Leclerc-Imhoff brings the number of media workers killed in Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion to 32, Zelenskyy has said.

Zelenskyy said: “A little more than a month ago I gave an interview to this very TV channel. It was my first interview to the French media during the full-fledged war. My sincere condolences to colleagues and family of Frederic.”


Belarus to conduct military mobilisation exercises near Ukraine border

Belarus will conduct military mobilisation exercises in June and July in the Gomel region, which borders Ukraine to the south and Russia to the east, state news agency BelTA has reported.

“Events of this kind are traditionally held to increase the combat and mobilisation readiness of military commissariats, and improve military knowledge and practical skills of those liable for military service,” BelTA quoted Andrey Krivonosov, military commissar of the Gomel region, as saying.


EU agrees to ban most Russian oil imports: Official

The president of the European Council has announced an agreement among EU countries to ban most Russian oil imports to the 27-nation bloc.

“This immediately covers more than 2/3 of oil imports from Russia, cutting a huge source of financing for its war machine,” Charles Michel wrote on Twitter.

It remains unclear when the ban will go into effect or whether countries heavily dependent on Russian energy exports, which previously opposed the embargo, will be exempt from the measure.

The ban would be part of a sixth EU sanction package against Moscow that Kyiv had been seeking. Michel said the measures also include blocking Russia’s largest bank Sberbank from the SWIFT financial messaging service, banning three Russian state-owned broadcasters and sanctions against individuals responsible for war crimes.

#Unity

Agreement to ban export of Russian oil to the EU. 

This immediately covers more than 2/3 of oil imports from Russia, cutting a huge source of financing for its war machine. 

Maximum pressure on Russia to end the war. 

#EUCO

— Charles Michel (@eucopresident) May 30, 2022


Russia ‘clearly’ seeking global food crisis, Zelenskyy says

Zelenskyy has said the Russian blockade of Ukrainian seaports prevents Kyiv from exporting 22 million tonnes of grain.

In his nightly address, Zelenskyy said the result is the threat of famine in countries dependent on the grain and could create a new migration crisis. “This is something the Russian leadership clearly seeks,” he said.

Zelenskyy accused Moscow of “deliberately creating this problem so that the whole of Europe struggles and so that Ukraine doesn’t earn billions of dollars from its exports.”

Moscow has blamed Western sanctions for the crisis – a claim Zelenskyy dismissed as “cynical”.


WNBA star calls for bringing Brittney Griner ‘home’

Basketball star Breanna Stewart has called on Washington to bring home her fellow Women’s NBA player Brittney Griner who has been detained in Russia since February.

“We are paying attention and we are counting on you,” Stewart said in a tweet addressing the White House.

It has been 102 days since our friend, Brittney Griner, has been wrongfully detained in Russia. It is time for her to come home. @WhiteHouse, we are paying attention and we are counting on you. #WeAreBG pic.twitter.com/JrmxiPD4Kw

— Breanna Stewart (@breannastewart) May 30, 2022


France opens war crimes probe into killing of journalist: Reports

France has announced the opening of a war crimes probe into the killing of journalist Frederic Leclerc-Imhoff and the wounding of his colleague Maxime Brandstaetter during Russian shelling in eastern Ukraine, French media outlets have reported.

The French journalist was working for the BFM television news channel, which said he was 32 years old and on his second Ukraine reporting trip since the war began on February 24.

France’s national anti-terrorism prosecutor’s office said it was also investigating five other incidents involving French citizens, AFP reported.

Frederic Leclerc-Imhoff
Frederic Leclerc-Imhoff, 32, was killed in shelling in eastern Ukraine [BFM TV via Reuters]

Zelenskyy warns against succumbing to Russian ‘blackmail’ on food supplies

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has asked France not to succumb to Russian “blackmail” over food supplies at a meeting with French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna, his office has said.

In its summary of the talks, the Ukrainian presidency accused Russia of using food security issues in an attempt to have international sanctions eased. Kyiv has said Moscow is looting grain and farm equipment from regions its troops hold in Ukraine and of obstructing Ukraine’s exports of grain.

Zelenskyy’s office said he and Colonna discussed sanctions, weapons supplies and Ukrainian aspirations to join the European Union.

The war in Ukraine has contributed to a global rise in food prices, raising fear of worsening the hunger crises in many places around the world.


German politicians agree to $107bn deal to boost military

Germany’s government and conservative opposition have agreed on a deal that will release 100bn euros ($107bn) to modernise the country’s army in response to Russia.

An agreement was reached to create a special fund for military procurement that will also allow Berlin to achieve NATO’s target spending of two percent of gross domestic product (GDP) on defence.

The deal, which involves amending budgetary rules in the national constitution, was struck after weeks of difficult negotiations between the parties in the governing coalition and the conservatives of former chancellor Angela Merkel, representatives of these groups told the AFP news agency.


Erdogan holds separate talks with Putin, Zelenskyy

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has held talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Russia’s Vladimir Putin, offering to facilitate the reopening of Ukrainian ports.

“During the discussion of the situation in Ukraine, emphasis was placed on ensuring safe navigation in the Black and Azov seas and eliminating the mine threat in their waters,” the Kremlin said of Putin’s call with Erdogan.

For its part, Ankara said Erdogan told Putin that peace needed to be established as soon as possible and that Turkey was ready to take on a role in an “observation mechanism” between Moscow, Kyiv and the United Nations, if an agreement is reached.

Erdogan later said that he “especially valued the project to create a secure sea route for exporting Ukrainian agricultural products”, according to his office, adding the Turkish leader welcomed, in principle, the idea of making Istanbul a headquarters for the “observation mechanism”.

Continued dialogue with 🇹🇷 President @RTErdogan. Discussed threats to food security posed by the aggressor & ways to unblock 🇺🇦 ports. Held discussions on cooperation in the security sphere. Unanimously agree on the need to restore peace. We appreciate 🇹🇷’s help in this process.

— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) May 30, 2022


No EU agreement on Russian oil embargo

European Union countries meeting in Brussels to discuss more sanctions on Moscow have failed to agree on a ban on Russian oil imports, despite last-minute haggling before the two-day summit.

The EU has rolled out five packages of sanctions against Russia since its troops invaded Ukraine, but an agreement on an oil embargo has proved elusive because so many countries depend on Russian crude.

“There is no compromise for this moment at all,” said Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, whose country has been the main holdout for a deal.


Welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the Russia-Ukraine war.

Read all the updates from Monday, May 30 here.

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