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Zelensky leaves Kyiv to visit troops in Kharkiv; European stalemate on Russian oil embargo

Zelensky leaves Kyiv to visit troops in Kharkiv; European stalemate on Russian oil embargo
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky congratulates a Ukrainian serviceman during his visit to the Kharkiv region, Ukraine, on 29 May 2022. The Ukrainian presidential office said Zelensky visited frontline positions in the east of the country and presented state awards to soldiers. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Ukrainian Presidential Press Service)

In his first foray outside Kyiv since the war began, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky visited troops in Kharkiv, while his forces faced ‘indescribably difficult’ conditions in the Donbas region.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky visited frontline troops in the Kharkiv region in his first trip away from Kyiv since Russia’s invasion. Zelensky earlier described conditions in the Donbas region to the east as “indescribably difficult” as Russia presses to take more ground in the approach to the invasion’s 100th day.

Moscow’s troops will have “rubble” if they capture Sievierodonetsk after a “bloody offensive,” US analysts said.

European Union nations failed to agree to a deal on Sunday on a revised package of sanctions over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine ahead of a leaders’ summit in Brussels, but talks will continue. Serbia received an assurance from Russia on uninterrupted gas supplies.

Key developments

EU yet to break stalemate over Russian oil

European Union nations failed to agree on a deal Sunday on a revised package of sanctions over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine ahead of a leaders’ summit in Brussels, but talks will continue during the week.

Hungary is so far refusing to back a compromise despite proposals aimed at ensuring its Russian oil supplies, according to people familiar with the talks. EU ambassadors are scheduled to meet again on Monday morning, but the lack of a deal means that sanctions could be a prime topic at the bloc’s two-day meeting starting on Monday. An EU official said a deal is still possible in the coming days.

Borrell, Kuleba speak before EU meeting

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell spoke to Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Sunday before a two-day European Union summit to begin on Monday in Brussels.

The EU’s next sanctions package, more weapons deliveries to Kyiv, and breaking a Russian blockade on Ukraine’s grain exports are expected to be on the agenda.

Borrell said in a tweet that he had called Kuleba to assure him of the EU’s continued delivery of military assistance. Borrell said he and Kuleba agreed on the urgency of advancing sanctions against Russia and that the issue of how to support the export of agricultural products from Ukraine and the “impact of Russian aggression on global food security” would be discussed with EU leaders. View the original tweet.




Zelensky visits troops near Kharkiv in rare foray outside capital

Volodymyr Zelensky travelled to the Kharkiv region to visit frontline positions of Ukraine’s military. He handed medals to service members and was briefed on the operational situation.

“I want to thank each of you for your service. You risk your life for all of us and our state. Thank you for defending Ukraine’s independence. Take care of yourself!” Zelensky said.

It was the first publicly known foray to troop positions outside the immediate Kyiv area for Ukraine’s president since before Russia’s invasion on 24 February. Clad in a bulletproof vest, he observed bombed-out Russian military vehicles and saw heavily damaged apartment blocks.

Russia will control ‘rubble’ if it takes Sievierodonetsk, US analysts say

In attempting to hold Sievierodonetsk, Kyiv’s forces face the most serious challenge since the isolation of the Azovstal plant in Mariupol, according to the Institute for the Study of War, which called Moscow’s efforts to seize control of the Luhansk city “a desperate and bloody offensive”.

Ukraine “may well suffer a significant tactical defeat in the coming days if Sievierodonetsk falls, although such an outcome is by no means certain,” the US-based military analysts said in a daily update.

Russia, meanwhile, is paying a price for its current tactical success out of proportion to any strategic advantage it hopes to receive, the analysts said. The town would give Moscow no particular military or economic benefit. “This is especially true because Russian forces are destroying the city as they assault it and will control its rubble if they capture it,” the institute said.

Son of UK MP to be investigated by Russia, Tass reports

The son of a UK member of parliament will be investigated by Russia for his role in combat operations there, the Russian news agency Tass reported. Ben Grant’s mother is Helen Grant, a former minister for sport and tourism.

The former British Royal Marine will be probed for alleged mercenary activity, Tass reported, citing the Russian Investigative Committee. The Guardian reported that Grant helped in the rescue of fellow volunteers after a Russian ambush north of Kharkiv this month.

Race against food inflation starts on rusty Soviet rail tracks

European leaders are desperately trying to figure out how to get grain out of Ukraine, whose exports are normally bigger than the entire European Union’s.

Russia, accused by the United Nations of waging war on global food security, last week said it would open maritime corridors to unblock ports such as Odesa on the Black Sea if sanctions against the country were lifted.

Ukraine, though, said it was sceptical because of security concerns should it remove the defensive mines it has placed in places like Odesa. De-mining its ports would leave Ukraine vulnerable to amphibious assaults.

Zelensky says defences holding in Donbas campaign

Volodymyr Zelensky repeated his assertion that Russia “is trying to squeeze at least some result for themselves” as the 100th day of its invasion on 3 June approaches. Ukraine’s president plans to address the European Council meeting set to start on Monday.

The key areas of fighting remain around Sievierodonetsk, Lysychansk, Bakhmut and Popasna, where it’s “indescribably difficult”, but Ukraine’s defence holds, Zelensky said on Saturday in his nightly video address. The region’s governor reported street fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces in Sievierodonetsk.

Zelensky said Russian forces had launched an “openly barbaric blow” with missiles and mortars on the Sumy region in northern Ukraine, far from the main Donbas front. He also said “good news” was likely from Ukraine’s allies on new military aid.




Russian corridor offer shows sanctions are biting — UK says

The bid by Moscow to allow humanitarian corridors for Ukrainian grain shipments in exchange for a lifting of Western economic sanctions “highlights the stresses sanctions are placing on the regime,” the UK defence ministry said on Twitter.

“Russia has demonstrated it is prepared to leverage global food security for its own political aim and then present itself as the reasonable actor and blame the West for any failure.” the tweet said.

Lithuanians raise $5.4m to buy combat drone for Ukraine

Lithuanians donated more than €5-million over three-and-a-half days to buy a Bayraktar unmanned aerial combat drone for Ukraine.

The private crowdfunding initiative, which received a green light from both the Lithuanian and Turkish defence ministries, aimed to raise the amount within three weeks to buy the Turkish-made drone and ammunition. Lithuanian defence ministry officials plan to head to Turkey next week to complete the deal.

EU embargo plan exempts Russian pipeline oil

The European Union proposed banning seaborne oil from Russia while delaying restrictions on imports from a key pipeline, seeking to satisfy Hungarian objections and unlock its next set of sanctions on Russia.

The European Commission sent a revised proposal to the EU’s national governments on Saturday that would spare shipments of oil through the Druzhba pipeline, Hungary’s main source of crude imports, according to people familiar with the matter.

Even as Europe is looking to end its purchases of Russian oil, Asia is stepping up.

Read more: More Russian Oil Than Ever Before Is Heading for China and India

Macron, Scholz urge Putin to lift grain blockade

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to lift the blockade of Odesa to allow Ukrainian grain to be exported via the Black Sea and avoid a global food crisis, according to a statement by the French presidency. The three leaders spoke by phone for 80 minutes, according to a German government statement earlier on Saturday.

Russia’s whipsaw week ends with default clock ticking

Russia is back in default countdown, with another bond payment in question and the Kremlin fighting to find an escape route. As of Friday evening, coupon payments in euros and dollars worth about $100-million hadn’t landed in investors’ accounts, kicking off a 30-day grace period.

But late in the day, the main central securities depository in Moscow said that its account was debited in favour of depositor’s accounts for the funds. Russia’s government last week said payments to the NSD mean it’s made good on its obligations. DM


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