Russia-Ukraine latest updates: Biden announces military aid

Ukraine news from June 1: Joe Biden reveals weapons package for Ukraine that will include longer range rocket systems.

A Ukrainian serviceman stands next to a BM-21 Grad multiple rocket launch system,
A Ukrainian serviceman stands next to a BM-21 Grad multiple rocket launch system, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Kharkiv region, Ukraine April 20, 2022 [Serhii Nuzhnenko/Reuters]
  • Germany’s foreign minister accuses Russia of attempting to “extinguish civilisation” in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region.
  • US President Joe Biden announces a new $700m military aid package for Ukraine that includes the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), a move the Kremlin warns will add “fuel to the fire” and increase the risk of a direct confrontation with Washington.
  • Russian forces have seized control of most of the eastern Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk, according to a local official.
  • Pope Francis appeals to Russia to lift the blockade on Ukrainian wheat exports via the country’s ports, saying the food cannot be used as a “weapon of war”.

INTERACTIVE_UKRAINE_CONTROL MAP DAY98_June1_INTERACTIVE Russia Ukraine War Who controls what in Ukraine Day 98

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These were the updates on June 1:

Zelenskyy: Ukraine losing up to 100 soldiers a day

Between 60 and 100 Ukrainian soldiers are dying on the battlefield every day, and another 500 wounded, Zelenskyy told United States newsgroup Newsmax in an interview.

“The situation in the east is very difficult,” Zelenskyy told Newsmax.

“We are losing 60 to 100 soldiers per day, killed in action, and around 500 people wounded in action,” said the 44-year-old leader, speaking through an interpreter.

Interpol fears weapons delivery to Ukraine will end up on black market

Interpol has expressed serious concern about the delivery of small and heavy weapons to Ukraine that can end up in the hands of criminals in Europe.

Agency head Jurgen Stock urged countries supplying military equipment to Kyiv to focus on tracing mechanisms.

“The wide availability of weapons during the current conflict will lead to the proliferation of illicit weapons in the post-conflict phase,” he told the Anglo-American Press Association in Paris, as reported by Le Figaro news.

Stock feared the pilferage of arms and armaments by criminals in the EU’s black market as prices of guns are higher there. Several European countries, including France and Germany, along with the US, have delivered high-end defence equipment, artillery munitions, and guns to help Ukraine defend its territory and fight Russian forces.

US plans to sell armed drones to Ukraine in coming days

The Biden administration plans to sell Ukraine four MQ-1C Gray Eagle drones that can be armed with Hellfire missiles for battlefield use against Russia, three people familiar with the situation said.

The sale of the General Atomics-made drones could still be blocked by Congress, the sources said, adding that there is also a risk of a last-minute policy reversal that could scuttle the plan, which has been under review at the Pentagon for several weeks.

Ukraine has been using several types of smaller shorter range unmanned aerial systems against Russian forces that invaded the country in late February. They include the AeroVironment RQ-20 Puma AE, and the Turkish Bayraktar-TB2.

But the Gray Eagle represents a leap in technology because it can fly up to 30 or more hours depending on its mission. It can also gather huge amounts of data for intelligence purposes. Gray Eagles, the Army’s version of the more widely known Predator drone, can also carry up to eight powerful Hellfire missiles.

Abramovich among three oligarchs to challenge EU sanctions

Three Russian oligarchs, including Roman Abramovich, are seeking to overturn EU sanctions they have been slapped with, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) told Agence France-Presse.

“These cases fall within the jurisdiction of the General Court,” a lower-ranked tribunal in the CJEU tasked with hearing such matters, a CJEU spokeswoman said.

The two-judge court will rule on the challenge to the “restrictive measures with regard to Russia’s actions destabilising the situation in Ukraine,” she said.

The other two oligarchs alongside Abramovich trying to get the sanctions against them scrapped are Mikhail Fridman and Petr Aven.

Roman Abramovich sits in his box at Chelsea
Former Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich is seeking to overturn EU sanctions along with two other Russian oligarchs [File: Matt Dunham/AP Photo]

Civilians sheltering under chemical plant in Severodonetsk: governor

A number of civilians are sheltering from Russian shelling under a chemical plant in the Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk and it is possible there are still stocks of dangerous chemicals at the facility, the regional governor told the Reuters news agency.

“There are civilians there in bomb shelters, there are quite a few of them, but it will not be a second Azovstal as that [plant] had a huge underground city … which isn’t there at Azot,” Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Gaidai said, referring to the prolonged siege of a steel plant in Mariupol.

Hungary holds up EU sanctions package over Patriarch Kirill

Hungary is holding up the finalisation of the European Union’s sanctions package against Russia, insisting on the removal of the head of the Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill from the list of sanctioned individuals, three diplomats said.

European Union leaders agreed in principle earlier this week on a sixth sanctions package against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine and EU government envoys were to turn that political agreement into a legal text on Wednesday so that it can enter into force.

“Agreement is held up because Hungary is objecting to sanctions on Patriarch Kirill,” one EU diplomat said.

Biden announces $700m military aid package

United States President Joe Biden has announced a new $700m weapons package for Ukraine, which will include longer-range rocket systems.

“The United States will stand with our Ukrainian partners and continue to provide Ukraine with weapons and equipment to defend itself,” Biden said in a statement.

The US says it has received assurances from Kyiv that it would not use the precision HIMARS rocket systems to hit targets inside of Russian territory.

Russia seeks to ‘minimise’ effects of EU oil ban, gas exports down

Russia said it was moving to limit the damage from a European Union oil ban as its other key energy export, gas, has fallen after Putin sent troops to Ukraine.

“Sanctions will have a negative effect for Europe, us, and the whole global energy market,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

“These are purposeful, systematic actions that will allow us to minimise the negative consequences,” he said, adding that a “reorientation” was under way to find alternatives for the oil that will no longer be sold to Europe.

Poland boosting its infrastructure to help Ukrainian exports

Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said his country is improving its transport infrastructure to ease the export of grain and other key products from neighbouring Ukraine, which has been severely restricted by Russia’s war.

Morawiecki spoke in the Ukrainian town of Borodyanka, near Kyiv, which was heavily damaged by Russian shelling. He was there to inaugurate container houses, provided by Poland, for people left homeless by the fighting.

Morawiecki said Poland, a European Union member, is working on expanding its transport infrastructure and the flow capacity to facilitate the export of millions of tons of Ukrainian grain and other agricultural products to the world. Poland is receiving EU funds for the purpose, Morawiecki said.

Volunteers risking their lives to help drug users in Ukraine

For volunteers working at the forefront of efforts to help drug users in Ukraine, the mission has become far more dangerous and difficult since Russia launched its invasion.

It is harder to reach people due to relentless shelling. Opioid substitution therapy medicine like methadone is harder to find. And those living in Russian-occupied territories face severe stigma and persecution.

Read more here.

A photo of two people sitting on opposite ends of a small table, the woman is looking at a piece of paper at a desk.
Despite the risks, Ukrainian volunteers are pressing on with their efforts to assist drug users and prevent them coming to harm [Courtesy: APH]

NATO to gather officials from Sweden, Finland and Turkey

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says he will convene a meeting in Brussels in the coming days with senior officials from Sweden, Finland and Turkey to discuss Ankara’s opposition to the two Nordic countries joining the transatlantic security alliance.

“I’m in close contact with President Erdogan of Turkey and with the leaders of Finland and Sweden,” Stoltenberg said at a news conference in Washington, DC, following talks with Blinken.

Ukraine won’t use weapon systems against targets in Russia: Blinken

Blinken says Ukraine has assured that it will not use long-range weapon systems provided by Washington against targets within Russia’s borders.

“There is a strong trust bond between Ukraine and the United States, as well as with our allies and partners,” he said at a news conference in Washington, DC, alongside Stoltenberg.

Addressing remarks from Moscow that Washington’s move amounted to adding “fuel to the fire” of the conflict, Blinken said the “best way to avoid escalation is for Russia to stop the aggression and the war that it started”.

“It’s fully within its power to do so,” he added, before cautioning the US still expects the conflict to go on for “many months” yet.

Germany cannot afford protracted planning for renewables: Scholz

Germany cannot afford to take too long on planning and permissions processes for its renewable energy rollout to rid itself of imported fossil fuel from Russia and other countries, Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said.

“We will have to clear out of the way the many obstacles that have amassed,” Scholz told the annual conference of utility group BDEW.

Ballet legend Baryshnikov slams Putin’s ‘world of fear’

Legendary ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov has decried Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “world of fear” and said true Russian values will live on “despite all your bans”.

Along with detective fiction writer Boris Akunin and prominent economist Sergei Guriev, Baryshnikov in March launched a fundraising charity in support of Ukraine called True Russia.

“People like us brought more honour to the Russian world than all your not-very-precise precision-guided munitions,” the iconic dancer, who was born in Latvia to Russian parents and famously defected from the Soviet Union to Canada in 1974, said in an open letter to Putin.

“Your Russian world, the world of fear, the world in which they burn Ukrainian textbooks, will not live on as long as there are people like us – the true Russians immunised against this plague in our childhood,” he added.

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council involving the Eurasian Economic Union's (EAEU) heads of states via a video link in Moscow, Russia May 27, 2022.
Putin launched Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24 [File: Sputnik/Kremlin via Reuters]

Russia’s Lavrov warns US weapons supplies could widen conflict

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says Washington’s move to supply Ukraine with advanced rocket launchers raises the risks of a “third country” being dragged into the conflict.

Lavrov was responding to a question at a news conference in Saudi Arabia about the White House’s weapons plans.

Switzerland vetoes Danish request to send armoured vehicles to Ukraine

The Swiss government has vetoed Denmark’s request to send Swiss-made armoured personnel carriers to Ukraine, citing its neutrality policy of not supplying arms to conflict zones.

The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) said it had rejected Denmark’s bid to provide Piranha III infantry fighting vehicles to Ukraine.

Neutral Switzerland requires foreign countries that buy Swiss arms to seek permission to re-export them.

In April, it vetoed the re-export of Swiss-made ammunition used in anti-aircraft tanks that Germany is sending to Ukraine. It has also rejected Poland’s request for arms to help neighbouring Ukraine.

HIMARS, the advanced rocket system US is sending to Ukraine

HIMARS are a high-tech, lightweight rocket launcher that is wheel mounted, giving it more agility and manoeuvrability on the battlefield.

Each unit can carry six GPS-guided rockets, which can be reloaded in about a minute with only a small crew.

Analysts say the system is considerably more reliable than other rocket systems Ukrainian forces currently use.

Read more here.

Russia trying to ‘extinguish civilisation’ in Donbas: Germany

Germany’s foreign minister says Russia has adopted a strategy of flattening settlements from a safe distance in the Donbas.

In a speech to the German parliament, Annalena Baerbock said Russia was fighting a war to “depopulate and extinguish civilisation” in the eastern Ukrainian region.

“City by city, village by village, Russian troops are destroying them from a safe distance,” she said. “First the missiles, then the warplanes with artillery, and then, when everything is flattened, the tanks roll in.”

Baerbock added that Berlin needed to supply Kyiv with more artillery, drones and air defence weapons as it attempts to hold off the Russian onslaught.

UN chief hopeful on deal to ease food supplies crisis

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said he is hopeful of a solution to alleviate the effect of the war in Ukraine on global food supplies, but cautioned any agreement was still some way off.

“I think that there is progress, but we are not yet there. These are complex things and the fact that everything is interlinked, makes the negotiation particularly complex,” he told a news conference with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson in Stockholm.

With Russia controlling or effectively blockading all Ukrainian Black Sea ports, grain shipments from Ukraine have stalled since the invasion began while Moscow has blamed Western sanctions for disrupting exports of both grain and fertiliser.

Poland to serve as an ‘economic hub’ for Ukraine: PM

Poland’s prime minister says his country will serve as an “economic hub” for neighbouring Ukraine, helping it export grain and other products while Russia blocks Ukraine’s export routes, chiefly its ports.

Speaking on Wednesday in the Ukrainian town of Borodianka, near the capital, Kyiv, Mateusz Morawiecki said Poland is working on expanding its infrastructure and capacity to facilitate the export of millions of tonnes of Ukrainian grain and other agriculture products.

He added that Warsaw was receiving European Union funds for the purpose and warned that North African countries which rely heavily on Ukrainian grain could face problems feeding their populations without the food.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki is seen attending the opening ceremony of a temporary shelter built with the help of Polish government for those who lost their apartments in the war, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Borodianka
Morawiecki (middle) was in Borodianka to inaugurate temporary shelters for civilians left homeless by the war that were funded by Poland [Viacheslav Ratynskyi/Reuters]

West has ‘irrational fear’ of Russia: Ukrainian negotiator

A Ukrainian presidential adviser has accused Europe and the US of having an “irrational fear” of Russia that is affecting their response to the conflict.

Mykhailo Podolyak, a key negotiator for Ukraine during previous rounds of talks with Russia over ending the war, told the Interfax Ukraine news agency the political elites of the West “want to return to the pre-war period and do not want to solve problems”.

He added that their financial priorities took precedence in decision-making.

Kremlin blames West, Ukraine for potential global food crisis

The Kremlin has warned the world could be on the verge of a major food crisis because of “illegal restrictions” imposed on Russia by Western countries and decisions made by Ukrainian authorities.

More than three months since invading Ukraine, Russia has seized large parts of its neighbour’s coast and is blockading its ports, but is trying to pin the blame for the lack of grain shipments on Western sanctions and on Kyiv itself.

“We are potentially on the verge of a very deep food crisis linked to the introduction of illegal restrictions against us and the actions of Ukrainian authorities who have mined the path to the Black Sea and are not shipping grain from there despite Russia not impeding in any way,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call.

Portugal deploys marines to join NATO force in Lithuania

Portugal has sent 146 Marines to join a NATO force stationed in Lithuania as part of efforts to bolster the alliance’s eastern flank in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The deployment includes divers specialising in deactivating mines and other explosive devices.

Portugal’s defence ministry said the aim of the mission is to “support high levels of readiness and discourage direct or indirect threats” against NATO members, especially in the Baltic Sea region.

The detachment, which departed on Wednesday, is to remain in Lithuania for three months.

Russia accuses US of ‘adding fuel to the fire’ with weapons supplies

Russia has accused the US of deliberately “adding fuel to the fire” by supplying advanced rocket systems to Ukraine.

“The US is obviously holding the line that it will fight Russia to the last Ukrainian,” Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, told reporters.

He added that Moscow did not trust Kyiv not to use the weapons to fire into Russian territory. When asked how Russia would respond if Ukraine used US-supplied rockets to strike Russian territory, Peskov said: “Let’s not talk about worst-case scenarios.”

Lloyd’s of London working with governments, regulators to implement Russia sanctions

Lloyd’s of London, the world’s oldest insurance market, says that it is working closely with the British government and other foreign powers and regulators to implement global sanctions against Russia.

“Lloyd’s supports and remains focused on the delivery of a global sanctions regime against the Russian state,” Lloyd’s said.

Finland, Sweden yet to allay Turkey’s objections to NATO membership bids: Erdogan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Ankara has not yet received any concrete proposals to address its concerns over Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership bids.

Ankara has objected to the Nordic countries’ ascension to the alliance on the grounds that they support groups it deems to be “terrorists”.

Speaking in Turkey’s parliament, Erdogan said Ankara wanted to see a “sincere” approach from Sweden and Finland regarding its concerns, adding it would not change its view unless it saw concrete and binding steps.

He also said Turkey’s objection to Stockholm and Helsinki’s membership bids was not “opportunism” but rather a matter of national security.

INTERACTIVE- NATO in Europe with Sweden and Finland

In ‘golden age’ of margins, Indian private refiners profit

A split is emerging in India’s refining sector as private refiners tap cheap Russian crude and boost profits from exports just as domestically focused state refiners get squeezed by high oil costs and government-capped domestic fuel prices.

Read more here.

Russia cuts off natural gas supply to Denmark: Energy company

Denmark’s largest energy company says Russia has cut off its gas supply because it refused to pay for the fossil fuel in roubles.

Danish energy company Orsted said it still expected to be able to serve its customers. Russia’s move means that Denmark must purchase more gas on the European gas market, the company added.

“We stand firm in our refusal to pay in roubles, and we’ve been preparing for this scenario,” CEO Mads Nipper said. ”The situation underpins the need of the European Union becoming independent of Russian gas by accelerating the build-out of renewable energy.”

Russia had previously halted natural gas supplies to Finland, Poland and Bulgaria for refusing a demand to pay for its exports in roubles. On Tuesday, the tap was also turned off to the Netherlands.

Russian troops control 70 percent of Severodonetsk: Luhansk governor

Russian forces are now in control of about 70 percent of Severodonetsk, the governor of eastern Ukraine’s Luhansk region says.

“Some Ukrainian troops have retreated to more advantageous, pre-prepared positions,” Serhiy Haidai said in a Telegram post.

If Russia captures Severodonetsk, and nearby Lysychansk on the higher west bank of the Siverskyi Donets river, it will hold all of Luhansk – a key war aim for Moscow.

Germany to send Kyiv anti-aircraft missiles, radar systems

Germany’s chancellor says his country will supply Ukraine with modern anti-aircraft missiles and radar systems following pleas from Kyiv as well as German opposition parties to step up heavy weapons deliveries to the country.

Scholz told legislators in the Bundestag that the government had decided to provide Ukraine with IRIS-T missiles developed by Germany together with other NATO nations. He said Germany will also supply Ukraine with radar systems to help locate enemy artillery.

“We have been delivering continuously since the beginning of the war,” Scholz said, pointing to more than 15 million rounds of ammunition, 100,000 hand grenades and at least 5,000 anti-tank mines sent to Kyiv since Russia invaded in late February.

Read more here.

Wheat cannot be ‘weapon of war’, pope says

Pope Francis has appealed to Russia to lift its blockade on wheat exports from Ukraine’s ports, saying the foodstuff cannot be used as a “weapon of war”.

Speaking at his weekly general audience to thousands of people in Saint Peter’s Square, he said the blockade should be lifted because many millions of people depend on wheat from Ukraine, particularly in the world’s poorest countries.

The UN, which says a global food crisis is worsening, is trying to broker a deal to unblock Ukraine’s grain exports, though Western leaders have blamed Russia for holding the world to ransom by blockading Ukrainian ports.

Denmark seeks parliament’s support for Sweden, Finland NATO membership

Denmark’s Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod will on Thursday ask the country’s parliament to back Finland and Sweden’s bids to join the NATO military alliance, the country’s foreign ministry says.

All 30 NATO allies must unanimously approve any enlargement of the US-led security body.

INTERACTIVE- NATO history and expansions Fin

Russia warns US over Ukraine weapons supplies

Moscow has criticised Washington’s decision to supply advanced rocket systems and munitions to Ukraine, warning the move increases the risk of a direct confrontation between Russia and the US.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told state news agency RIA Novosti that Moscow views US military aid to Ukraine “extremely negatively”, in particular singling out Washington’s plans to supply Kyiv with the HIMARS.

China bars Russian airlines with foreign planes: Report

China has barred Russia’s airlines from flying foreign-owned jetliners into its airspace, Russian news outlet RBK reports.

The reported move came after Putin threw the aircraft’s ownership into doubt by allowing them to be re-registered in Russia to avoid seizure under sanctions over Moscow’s attack on Ukraine.

The EU, home to major aircraft leasing companies, banned the sale or lease of aircraft to Russian carriers in February. Putin responded by approving the re-registration measure in March, which prompted suggestions foreign owners may never recover planes worth billions of dollars.

China’s air regulator asked all foreign carriers last month to update ownership information and other details, RBK reported, citing two unidentified sources. It said Russian airlines that could not provide documents showing their aircraft were “de-registered abroad” were barred from Chinese airspace.

Denmark to vote on closer EU defence ties due to Russia concerns

Danes vote on Wednesday to decide whether to join the EU’s defence policy, potentially becoming the final hold-out in the bloc to sign up as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine forces countries to radically reassess their security.

Denmark is the only member of the 27 nation bloc not in the Common Security and Defence Policy, having secured exemptions from it and the euro currency in a 1993 referendum on the Maastricht Treaty, which laid the groundwork for the modern EU.

If the notoriously EU-critical Danes vote to abolish the opt-out, as polls suggest will be the case, it would mark another significant shift in policy for Europe after Russia launched the invasion in February.

Participating in the Common Security and Defence Policy would enable Denmark to take part in joint EU military operations, such as those in Somalia, Mali and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Russia continues long-range missile attacks on infrastructure across Ukraine: UK

Russia continues to conduct long-range missile attacks on Ukraine’s infrastructure across the country, the United Kingdom’s defence ministry has said.

In its latest intelligence briefing, the ministry confirmed previous reports that Russian forces are pushing closer to the centre of Severodonetsk.

“Over half of the town is likely now occupied by Russian forces, including Chechen fighters,” the ministry said.

Russian manufacturing activity returns to growth in May: Survey

Russian manufacturing activity expanded in May after three months of contraction and price pressures eased notably, but sanctions continued to dent client demand, a survey has shown.

The S&P Global Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) rose to 50.8 from 48.2 in the previous month, climbing above the 50.0 mark that separates expansion from contraction for the first time since January.

“Slower declines in output, new orders, employment and stocks of purchases all helped to boost the seasonally adjusted PMI,” S&P Global, which compiles the index, said. Actual manufacturing output continued to fall in May, S&P Global said.

Exports remained in steep decline, as Russian firms have been severed from the global economy and face significant disruption to their supply chains.

Russia will not suffer from EU oil embargo: Official

Russia’s economy will not suffer from the EU’s embargo on its oil due to new markets and rising fuel prices, the chairwoman of Russia’s Federation Council has said.

“We can easily reorient this oil, the demand for which is huge, to other markets,” Valentina Matviyenko told reporters on Wednesday after a meeting with Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi.

“There is only a certain amount of production on the world market, a certain volume of oil for sale, any more, nobody will be able to get from the moon,” Matviyenko said, adding that the sanctions were encouraging Russia to build more oil refinery plants rather than relying on crude exports.

Matviyenko also said that “the price of oil will rise significantly,” which would balance out whatever profits Russia might lose from lower exports.

Russian troops storming Severodonetsk, destroying infrastructure: Governor

Russian forces are storming Severodonetsk and consolidating their positions in the centre of the city, while continuing to destroy the region’s infrastructure, the governor of eastern Ukraine’s Luhansk region says.

Haidai said that at about 6:55pm local time (03:55 GMT) on Tuesday, Russian forces hit Severodonetsk’s giant Azot chemical plant, which produces nitrogen-based fertilisers, “releasing toxic substances”.

“During the day, the enemy fired artillery at the Proletary factory in Lysychansk,” he added in Telegram post.

Haidai said that at least six houses and a local art school were destroyed in the settlement of Vrubivka, five houses destroyed in the village of Novoivanivka, four in Severodonetsk, three in Lysychansk and two in the village of Mykolaivka.

Moscow risking its hold on Kherson in the battle for Severodonetsk: ISW

Moscow’s focus on seizing the eastern city of Severodonetsk, and the Donbas region more generally, puts its vital position in the Kherson region at risk, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) says.

“If Russia is able to retain a strong lodgement in Kherson when fighting stops it will be in a very strong position from which to launch a future invasion,” the ISW said in its latest assessment of the conflict, adding that if Ukraine were to regain the region, it would be in a much stronger position to defend itself against a future attack.

The institute said that this strategic situation should lead Russia to concentrate its combat power on holding Kherson, but Russia’s president has instead chosen to “concentrate all the forces and resources that can be scraped together in a desperate and bloody push to seize areas of eastern Ukraine that will give him largely symbolic gains”.

“Continuing successful Ukrainian counter-offensives in Kherson indicate that Ukraine’s commanders recognise these realities and are taking advantage of the vulnerabilities that Putin’s decisions have created,” the ISW said. It added that Ukrainian forces were now withdrawing from Severodonetsk, allowing Russian forces to move in “relatively quickly”.

UN confirms 9,029 civilian casualties in Ukraine

The UN human rights body (OHCHR) has confirmed 9,029 civilian casualties in Ukraine from February 24 until midnight local time on May 30.

The OHCHR’s latest civilian casualty update confirmed that 4,113 people have been killed and 4,916 injured.

But the organisation noted that the actual figures were considerably higher as information was still pending from areas of “intense hostilities”, such as Mariupol, Izyum and Popasna.

“Most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multiple launch rocket systems, and missile and air strikes,” the OHCHR said.

Ukraine’s Lyudmyla Denisova dismissed as human rights commissioner

Ukraine’s parliament has dismissed Lyudmyla Denisova from her post as human rights commissioner, the Ukrinform news agency has reported.

The reasons for Denisova’s dismissal are in relation to inadequate performance, including establishing humanitarian corridors, arranging prisoner swaps, and ensuring against the deportation of Ukrainians from occupied territory, Ukrinform cited a member of parliament saying.

Ukrinform also said the member of parliament noted Denisova’s dismissal related to “focusing the ombudsman’s media activity on the numerous details of ‘unnatural sexual offences’ and child sexual abuses in the occupied territories, which were unsupported by evidence and only harmed Ukraine”.

Al Jazeera could not independently verify the report.

Russia’s nuclear forces holding drills: Interfax

Russia’s nuclear forces are holding drills in Ivanovo province, northeast of Moscow, the country’s Interfax news agency has cited the Russian defence ministry as saying.

Some 1,000 servicemen are exercising in intense manoeuvres using more than 100 vehicles, including Yars intercontinental ballistic missile launchers, the ministry said.

Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia to become part of Russia: RIA

The Russian-occupied Kherson region in southern Ukraine as well as the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) and Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) in its east will become part of Russia, Russian state news agency RIA reports, citing the secretary-general of the United Russia Party’s general council.

“The decision should be made by the residents themselves, and I am sure that they will accept it. Therefore, I have no doubts that this region will be part of the Russian Federation,” Andrey Turchak said of Kherson, adding he had no doubt the same would happen with the DNR and LNR, and likely the Zaporizhzhia region.

“People want protection, stability so that after eight years of the Bandera terror legalised by the West a long-awaited and lasting peace has come,” he added, saying that plans for a referendum were underway in each region.

Western analysts have previously warned that Russia may stage sham referendums in these territories. The US State Department’s spokesperson earlier said Washington was concerned about “steps Russia is taking to attempt to institutionalise control over sovereign Ukrainian territory, particularly in Ukraine’s Kherson region”.

Ukraine loses 60 to 100 soldiers daily: Zelenskyy

Some 60 to 100 Ukrainian soldiers are killed per day in the war with Russia, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said, adding that around 500 are wounded daily.

In an interview with Newsmax in Kyiv, Zelenskyy also said that Ukraine’s requests for longer-range weapons from its allies were for Ukraine to defend its territory, not to attack Russia on theirs.

“We’re not interested in what’s happening in Russia. We’re only interested in our own territory in Ukraine,” he said.

‘We do not seek a war between NATO and Russia’: Biden

US President Joe Biden has said that although Washington is continuing to “reinforce NATO’s eastern flank with forces and US capabilities”, it does not seek a war between NATO and Russia.

“As much as I disagree with Mr. Putin, and find his actions an outrage, the United States will not try to bring about his ouster in Moscow,” Biden wrote in a guest essay in the New York Times newspaper.

“So long as the United States or our allies are not attacked, we will not be directly engaged in this conflict, either by sending American troops to fight in Ukraine or by attacking Russian forces,” he said.

Biden added that the US was not “encouraging or enabling Ukraine to strike beyond its borders”, adding “we do not want to prolong the war just to inflict pain on Russia.”

US to provide longer-range rocket system to Ukraine: Official

The US will provide Ukraine with the M142 HIMARS, which be equipped with munitions that will allow Ukraine to launch rockets about 80 kilometres, a senior Biden administration official has said.

“These systems will be used by the Ukrainians to repel Russian advances on Ukrainian territory, but they will not be used on targets in Russian territory,” the official told reporters.

Biden wrote in a guest essay for the New York Times that the US “will provide the Ukrainians with more advanced rocket systems and munitions that will enable them to more precisely strike key targets on the battlefield in Ukraine.”

“We will continue providing Ukraine with advanced weaponry, including Javelin anti-tank missiles, Stinger antiaircraft missiles, powerful artillery and precision rocket systems, radars, unmanned aerial vehicles, Mi-17 helicopters and ammunition,” the US leader added.

A launch truck fires the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) at its intended target during the African Lion military exercise in Grier Labouihi complex, southern Morocco, Wednesday, June 9, 202
A launch truck fires the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) at its intended target during the African Lion military exercise in Grier Labouihi complex, southern Morocco, Wednesday, June 9, 2021 [Mosa’ab Elshamy/AP]

Russia’s bombing of Severodonetsk ‘just madness’: Zelenskyy

Zelenskyy has called Russia’s bombing of Severodonetsk “madness” due to the number of chemical plants in the city.

“Given the presence of large-scale chemical production in Severodonetsk, the Russian army’s strikes there, including blind air bombing, are just madness,” he said in his daily nighttime address to the nation.

Zelenskyy added that the situation in the Donbas remained “very difficult”.

“Severodonetsk, Lysychansk, Kurakhove are now at the epicentre of the confrontation,” he said.

US to announce medium-range rockets for Ukraine

Washington’s new aid package for Ukraine is expected to include what the US considers medium-range rockets, which generally can travel about 70 kilometres (43 miles).

That is a critical weapon Ukrainian leaders have been begging for as they struggle to stall Russian progress in the Donbas region, US officials said Tuesday.

The US plan tries to strike a balance between the desire to help Ukraine battle ferocious Russian artillery barrages while not providing arms that could allow Ukraine to hit targets deep inside Russia and trigger an escalation in the war.

The expectation is that the medium-range rockets could both intercept Russian artillery and take out Russian positions in towns where fighting is intense, such as Severodonetsk.

A child standing next to a damaged car looks up at a building destroyed during attacks in Irpin, on the outskirts Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, May 30, 2022
A child standing next to a damaged car looks up at a building destroyed during attacks in Irpin, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, May 30, 2022 [Natacha Pisarenko/AP]

European centre-right’s new leader backs Ukraine EU membership

German politician Manfred Weber has said EU membership for war-torn Ukraine was a priority as he was elected leader of Europe’s struggling main group of conservative parties.

The Bavarian lawmaker, 49, was the sole candidate to be the new president of the European People’s Party (EPP) at a group meeting in Rotterdam.

“The first message we have to give in this moment is that we as EPP family, we say, ‘Yes you are welcomed, yes it’s worth to fight, yes you can become a member of the European Union,'” Weber said in a speech after he was elected. “The EPP supports the candidate status for our Ukraine friends.”

Ukraine football star Zinchenko in tears ahead of World Cup playoff

Ukrainian football star Oleksandr Zinchenko couldn’t hold back tears as he tried to explain what it means to represent his country’s national team at this moment, with a spot at the World Cup within reach.

Ukraine is two games away from qualifying for the World Cup in Qatar, starting with a match against Scotland in Glasgow on Wednesday– which was postponed in March following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The winner at Hampden Park will play against Wales on Sunday in the decisive playoff.

“We want to give incredible emotions to the Ukrainian people because Ukrainians deserve it so much at this very moment,” Zinchenko said at a news conference. “Our mood, I would describe as a fighting mood, because everyone understands what is going on in Ukraine these days.”

Oleksandr Zinchenko
Ukraine’s Oleksandr Zinchenko reacts during the press conference [Lee Smith/Action Images via Reuters]

Zelenskyy thanks EU for Russian oil ban

Zelenskyy has thanked the EU for banning most oil from Russia and urged Ukraine’s allies to give the country more weapons.

Speaking in a video address, Zelenskyy said the bloc’s decision to cut the bulk of Russian oil imports means Moscow “won’t be able to spend tens of billions of euros to finance terror”.

He added that Ukraine will be pressing for more sanctions, saying that “there should be no significant economic ties left between the free world and the terrorist state”.

Zelenskyy also urged Ukraine’s Western allies to provide more heavy weapons, saying that the situation in eastern Ukraine where Russia has been pressing its offensive remains “very difficult”.

US warns against formalising Russian control in Kherson

Washington has warned against attempts by Russia to “institutionalise” its control over “sovereign Ukrainian territory”, particularly in the Kherson region.

Price, the State Department spokesman, said Russia could announce an independent region in the area in an effort to eventually annex it.

“It’s a predictable part of the Russian playbook, which is why we are continuing to sound the alarm now, particularly following Russian President Putin’s unilateral decree that would fast-track the issuance of Russian passports to Ukrainian citizens,” he said.

Ukrainian reports ‘shutdown of all communications’ in Kherson region

Ukrainian officials have reported a “shutdown of all communications” in the Russian-occupied southern region of Kherson.

Ukraine’s State Service for Special Communication and Information Protection said in a statement that an unspecified intrusion “by the occupation regime” had taken place and that equipment had been powered down and cables disconnected.

“The residents of the region are currently left without Ukrainian mobile communication and Internet access, as well as with no means to make national and international phone calls using landline phone devices,” the agency said.

On Tuesday, the Russian-backed occupation regime of the Kherson region said that the region had switched over to Russia’s mobile and Internet networks.

US to announce new Ukraine aid package ‘before too long’

The US State Department has suggested that Washington is readying another aid package for Kyiv, after Congress approved an additional $40bn in military and humanitarian assistance earlier this month.

“Now that we have significant additional financial resources for security assistance, I imagine you’ll be hearing from us before too long about additional security assistance as those conversations with senior levels of the Ukrainian government have been ongoing,” spokesperson Ned Price said.

Russia captures most of Severodonetsk city in eastern Ukraine: Governor

Russia has taken control of most of Ukraine’s eastern city of Severodonetsk, the governor of the Luhansk region has said.

Russia’s all-out assault on the city has been met by tough resistance from Ukrainian forces. Russian-backed separatists in Luhansk acknowledged that capturing the city was taking longer than hoped, despite one of the biggest ground attacks of the three-month-long war.

Haidai, Luhansk’s governor, said nearly all critical infrastructure in Severodonetsk had been destroyed and 60 percent of residential property has been damaged beyond repair.

“Most of Severodonetsk is under the control of the Russians. The town is not surrounded and the prerequisites for it to be are not in place,” Haidai said, adding that Russian shelling had made it impossible to deliver aid or evacuate people.

People line up outside a Church to get food and clothing in Borodyanka, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 31, 2022
People line up outside a Church to get food and clothing in Borodyanka, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 31, 2022 [Natacha Pisarenko/AP]

Ukrainian forces having some success near Kherson, Zelenskyy says

Ukrainian forces have had some success near the southern city of Kherson and are advancing in parts of the Kharkiv region to the east of Kyiv, Zelenskyy has said.

“Our defenders are showing the utmost courage and remain masters of the situation at the front despite the fact the Russian army has a significant advantage in terms of equipment and numbers,” he said in a late-night address.

Ukraine FM calls for French president to visit before end of June

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has called on French President Emmanuel Macron to visit the country before the end of France’s EU presidency on June 30.

“It would be good that Macron came during the French EU presidency, and the best thing would be that he comes with more weapons deliveries for Ukraine,” Kuleba told French news channel LCI.

“That’s the most precious aid we can receive from France.”

US hails EU decision to scale back Russian oil imports

The US has hailed an EU decision to scale back Russian oil imports and called for long-term efforts to further reduce dependence on Moscow.

“We applaud the steps by our European allies and partners to reduce their reliance on Russian oil and natural gas,” said State Department spokesperson Ned Price. He added that there was “broad support” among US allies for “cutting off the strength of Russia’s war machine, and that is Russia’s energy market”.

“The EU took an important step on that near-term path, but then there’s also a longer-term path that has less to do with the day to day and more to do with trends over time and the broader need to lessen our reliance on Russian energy,” Price told reporters.

US will not send long-range rockets for use beyond Ukraine: White House

The Biden administration is still considering sending rocket systems to Kyiv, the White House press secretary has said, but Washington will not send long-range rockets for use beyond the battlefield in Ukraine.

Karine Jean-Pierre’s comments echoed those of Biden himself, who said earlier this week that his administration would not send Ukraine any rockets capable of reaching Russia.

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

Read all the updates from Tuesday, May 31 here.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies