Kari Paul here. It is nearly 3am in Kyiv and I am logging off for the day as we close the blog for the evening. Here are the latest updates on the war in Ukraine you should know.

  • Austrian chancellor Karl Nehammer has stated that in talks with Vladimir Putin, the Russian president indicated he was “prepared to discuss a prisoner swap with Ukraine”.
  • Independent news source Meduza has reported that officials close to the Kremlin have said Russia is “planning full-scale victory in Ukraine by autumn” and may again try to take the capital city of Kyiv.
  • The governor of Ukraine’s eastern region of Luhansk stated that Ukrainian forces may be forced to retreat from the zone to avoid being captured.
  • A Nato defence ministry meeting to discuss the war will next take place on 15 and 16 June, reports Nexta.
  • New UN figures have revealed that 4,031 civilians have died since Russia first invaded Ukraine in February, including 261 children.
  • US president Joe Biden accused Vladimir Putin of attempting to “wipe out” Ukrainian culture and identity during a speech today, reports the Washington Post.
  • The US is expected to send long-range rocket systems to Ukraine that could be announced as early as next week, reports CNN.
  • Officials in Ukraine – including president Volodymyr Zelenskiy in his nightly address on Fridayhave appealed for additional assistance from the west as the Donbas region faces “an obvious policy of genocide” from Russian forces there.

Updated

Ukrainian officials sound alarm on Mariupol horrors elsewhere in Donbas

Officials in Ukraine are appealing for additional assistance from the west as the Donbas region risks a potential repeat of horrors seen in the city of Mariupol in recent months.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy also appealed for additional forces in his nightly address on Friday, as Moscow-backed separatists have pounded the country’s industrial region in recent days.

He said the attacks could leave communities in ashes, accusing Moscow of pursuing “an obvious policy of genocide” through mass deportations and killings of civilians.

He took a harsh tone when discussing the response from the European Union, which is locked in discussions on a deal to invoke a sixth round of sanctions – one currently being blocked by Hungary, one of Moscow’s closest allies in the EU.

Mariupol has been left in shambles after a sustained siege, with hundreds killed and survivors forcibly deported to Russia.

EU leaders have attempted to negotiate changes to ease the global food crisis in talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, but said Friday little progress has been made.

“If you are asking me if there are openings for peace, the answer is no,” Italian Premier Mario Draghi said told reporters of the talks.

Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer also stated that he has engaged with Putin on a prisoner exchange, stating the Russian president indicated efforts to arrange one would be “intensified”.

Updated

Zelenskiy: Russian forces heavily striking Donbas

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy speaking in a short video address said the situation in Donbas is “very difficult”. He said Russian forces are concentrated in the coastal region of Ukraine and using “maximum artillery” reserves.

President Zelensky says “the situation in Donbas, as expected, is very difficult. The occupiers are trying to achieve by day 100 of the war the goals they hoped to achieve in the first days after Feb 24. So they’ve concentrated in the Donbas maximum artillery, maximum reserves.” pic.twitter.com/XV0WaP4xr8

— Christopher Miller (@ChristopherJM) May 27, 2022

“We are protecting our land in the way that our current defensive resources allow,” he said. “And we are doing everything to strengthen them.”

Updated

Russia announced today that it expects to receive $14bn in additional energy revenue, reports AFP.

Russia’s finance minister announced today that the country is set to receive 1tn rubles in additional oil and gas revenues this year, noting that the additional income will be spent on Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

“We expect to receive up to a trillion rubles ($14.4 billion) in additional oil and gas revenues, according to the forecast that we have developed with the ministry of economic development,” said finance minister Anton Siluanov during remarks that were broadcasted on Russian state television.

Siluanov further clarified that the money will be spent on “additional payments” to pensioners and families with children as well as to continue conducting a “special operation” in Ukraine, referring to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Updated

Hello, Kari Paul here taking the helm of this blog for the next few hours. Stay tuned for updates.

The US is expected to send long-range rocket systems to Ukraine that could be announced as early as next week, reports CNN.

Following military challenges in eastern Ukraine, US officials have confirmed that the US is prepared to send advanced, long-range missile systems to aid with fighting.

The rocket systems, multiple launch rocket system or MLRS, have been a top request of Ukraine officials who say it is necessary to ward off Russia’s advancements.

The missile systems can fire a stream of rockets many miles further than current Ukraine weaponry, reports the Washington Post. The rocket system could be apart of a larger military package to Ukraine.

Read the full CNN article here.

Updated

Karim Khan, the prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC), has called on Russia to cooperate with investigations into alleged war crimes committed in Ukraine, reports AFP.

Khan said that Russian officials have refused to work with the ICC amid war crime investigations, but noted that his “door is open” if Russia wants to assist.

“The invitation is there. My door is open, and I will also keep knocking on the door of the Russian federation,” said Karim Khan in an AFP interview.

“If there are allegations that the Russian federation have, if there’s information that they have, if they are conducting their own investigations or prosecutions or have information that’s relevant – share it with us,” Khan added.

Russia and Ukraine are not members of the ICC, but Ukraine has cooperated with Khan’s office during their investigation and accepted the court’s jurisdiction.

While Khan noted that any war crime perpetrators would be brought to justice, the prosecutor refused to confirm if Vladimir Putin could be named a suspect given his involvement in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Updated

US president Joe Biden accused Vladimir Putin of attempting to “wipe out” Ukrainian culture and identity during a speech today, reports the Washington Post.

During a commencement speech to the US Naval academy’s graduating class today, Biden said that Putin was “trying to wipe out the culture and identity of the Ukrainian people”.

Biden further criticized Russia’s attack on Ukraine hospitals, schools and other civilian buildings.

Biden also said that Putin inadvertently “Nato-ized all of Europe” after Sweden and Finland sought out membership in the alliance following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Updated

The United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR) has released the latest figures on the Ukraine war’s human toll.

The latest UN figures show that from 24 February to 26 May, 4,031 civilians died during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine due to shelling and air strikes, including 261 children.

A total 4,735 civilians were injured. The OHCHR estimates that the actual toll of the invasion is much higher than provided estimates.

From Buzzfeed News’ Christopher Miller:

New UN figures: From Feb 24-May 26, @UNHumanRightsUA recorded 8,766 civilian casualties as result of Russia's all-out invasion of Ukraine: 4,031 killed, including 261 children; 4,735 injured, including 406 children, mostly caused by shelling & airstrikes. Actual toll much higher.

— Christopher Miller (@ChristopherJM) May 27, 2022

“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 in a statement, referring to the new figures.

“OHCHR believes that the actual figures are considerably higher, as the receipt of information from some locations where intense hostilities have been going on has been delayed and many reports are still pending corroboration,” it added.

Updated

Ukraine’s Moscow-backed Orthodox church said today that it was cutting ties with Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, reports AFP.

The church declared “full independence” from Russia in a move that defied Russia’s spiritual authorities.

“We disagree with the position of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow … on the war,” said the church, referring to the head of the Russian Orthodox church who is also a close ally of Vladimir Putin.

“The council condemns war as a violation of God’s commandment ‘You shall not kill’ and expresses condolences to all those who suffered in the war,” said the church following a council meeting focused on Russia’s “aggression” where the Ukraine Orthodox church declared full autonomy from Russia.

The Moscow branch of the Ukraine’s Orthodox church was previously fully aligned with Patriarch Kirill, who expressed his support of Putin and the invasion of Ukraine.

Updated

A Nato defence ministry meeting will take place on 15 and 16 June, reports Nexta.

‼️The meeting of #NATO defense ministers with the participation of #Ukraine, #Georgia, #Finland and #Sweden will be held on June 15-16 in #Brussels pic.twitter.com/L1tsodwfeJ

— NEXTA (@nexta_tv) May 27, 2022

The meeting, taking place in Brussels, will include participation from Ukraine, Georgia, Finland and Sweden.

Updated

Ukrainian forces may be forced to retreat from the final pocket of resistance in the eastern region of Luhansk to avoid being captured, the regional governor, Serhiy Gaidai, said.

In a post on Telegram, Gaidai referred to the near-surrounded cities of Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk, writing:

The Russians will not be able to capture Luhansk region in the coming days as analysts have predicted.

He added:

We will have enough strength and resources to defend ourselves. However it is possible that in order not to be surrounded we will have to retreat.

Updated

Russia ‘planning full-scale victory in Ukraine by autumn’ – report

The Kremlin is considering a second assault on Kyiv despite failing to capture the Ukrainian capital at the outset of the war, according to the independent news website, Meduza.

Sources close to the Kremlin and inside the Putin administration said confidence has spread to the leadership of United Russia, the country’s ruling political party, that a full-scale victory in Ukraine is possible before the end of the year.

One source said:

We’ll grind them [the Ukrainians] down in the end. The whole thing will probably be over by the fall.

Russia’s leadership has “minimum” and “maximum” thresholds for declaring a successful and completed “special military operation” in Ukraine, sources said.

The bare minimum needed to declare victory is the complete capture of the Donbas region, according to sources, while the maximum goal would be the capture of Kyiv.

The editor of the English-language edition of Meduza, Kevin Rothrock, said the report suggests that Ukraine is losing the “information war” for the first time since the invasion.

Many ways to interpret this: (1) the mood inside the Kremlin shifts faster than a temperamental teen’s, (2) Kyiv’s alarm-signaling is largely about expediting/sustaining Western aid, (3) Western fatigue is real (the energy crisis & U.S. midterms mean a whole new ballgame soon) https://t.co/x1BRqwos8A

— Kevin Rothrock (@KevinRothrock) May 27, 2022

Kremlin officials are also sceptical that western countries can sustain their massive financial and military support to Ukraine if the war drags on, the website reports.

Another source said:

Sooner or later, Europe will tire of helping. This is both money and arms production that they need for themselves. Closer to the fall, they’ll have to negotiate [with Russia] on gas and oil, before the cold season arrives.

It has not been possible to independently verify this information.

Updated

A kitchen interior of a heavily damaged house in Chernihiv, Ukraine.
A kitchen interior of a heavily damaged house in Chernihiv, Ukraine. Photograph: Alexey Furman/Getty Images
Chernihiv, northeast of Kyiv, was an early target of Russia’s offensive after its invasion.
Chernihiv, northeast of Kyiv, was an early target of Russia’s offensive after its invasion. Photograph: Alexey Furman/Getty Images
While they failed to capture the city, Russian forces battered large parts of Chernihiv and the surrounding region in their attempted advance toward the capital.
While they failed to capture the city, Russian forces battered large parts of Chernihiv and the surrounding region in their attempted advance towards Kyiv. Photograph: Alexey Furman/Getty Images

Updated

Putin ‘prepared to discuss prisoner swap with Ukraine', says Austria

Austria’s chancellor, Karl Nehammer, said Vladimir Putin told him that Moscow was ready to discuss a prisoner swap with Ukraine and “that there should be progress” on the matter.

During the 45-minute call between the two leaders, the Russian president had expressed readiness to discuss a prisoner swap with Ukraine, Nehammer told reporters.

Nehammer said:

The Russian president has assured us that the International Red Cross must and should have access to the prisoners of war. Of course, he is also demanding access to Russian prisoners of war in Ukraine.

He added:

If he is really ready to negotiate is a complex question.

In a separate statement, the Kremlin said Putin had accused Ukraine of “sabotaging” talks with Moscow during his call with the Austrian chancellor.

Putin also informed Nehammer that attempts to blame Russia for difficulties in shipping grain worldwide were “groundless”, pointing instead to western sanctions, the Kremlin said.

Nehammer said the Russian president had “given signals that he is quite willing to allow exports via the seaports”, adding:

The real willingness will only become apparent when it ... is actually implemented.

Updated

A video appears to show a series of explosions near Novomykhailivka in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine.

Russian forces are close to encircling Sievierodonetsk in the Luhansk region and have increased attacks in Donbas generally.

Updated

Today so far...

It’s 7pm in Kyiv. Here’s where we stand:

  • The besieged city of Sievierodonetsk in eastern Ukraine appears to be almost completely surrounded by attacking Russian forces. Russia has continued to make incremental gains in its offensive in the Donbas region, backed by withering shell fire. The regional governor of Luhansk, Serhiy Haidai, said Russian forces have surrounded two-thirds of Sievierodonetsk.
  • Ukrainian authorities have issued differing statements about their control over the strategic city of Lyman in the Donetsk region. A presidential adviser said he had unverified information that Ukraine had lost Lyman, while Ukraine’s armed forces said Russian troops were trying to strengthen their positions in the city. The governor of the Donetsk region, Pavlo Kyrylenko, said there was heavy fighting around the city after Ukrainian troops withdrew to a new line of defence. Russian media reported that pro-Russian separatists had seized the city.
  • Ten people were killed and at least 35 were wounded after Russian missile strikes hit the Dnipropetrovsk region in central-eastern Ukraine on Friday morning, according to reports. Regional governor Valentyn Reznichenko said rescuers were working in rubble to look for possible survivors in the aftermath of “an unquiet night and an unquiet morning”.
  • Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, accused the Kremlin of carrying out a “genocide” in the country’s east. He said Ukraine was not eager to talk to the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, but that it had to face the reality it would probably be necessary to end the war. Russia did not appear to be ready for serious peace talks, he added.
  • The Kremlin blamed Ukraine for frozen peace talks between the two countries , saying it was unclear what Kyiv wanted. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov accused the leadership in Kyiv of constantly making “contradictory statements” that do “not allow us to fully understand what the Ukrainian side wants”.
  • Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, has accused western countries of waging a “total war” on Russia and its people and culture. Western allies are “cancelling Russia and everything connected” with it, including banning Russian writers, composers and other cultural figures, he said at a ministry meeting.
  • The UK’s prime minister, Boris Johnson, said Russia was making slow but “palpable progress” in Donbas. He said Ukraine should be supplied with long-range multiple launch rocket systems to help Kyiv’s embattled forces but stopped short of committing the UK to sending the powerful M270 rocket system, which Kyiv has been pleading for from Britain, the US and other Nato members for several weeks.
  • Russia’s actions in Ukraine provide enough evidence to conclude that Moscow is inciting genocide and committing atrocities intended to destroy the Ukrainian people, experts say. The independent report warns there is a serious and imminent risk of genocide in Ukraine, and urged the international community to act quickly.
  • More than 100 Russian national guardsmen have been fired for refusing to fight in Ukraine, court documents show. The cases of the 115 national guardsmen, a force also known as Rosgvardia, appear to be the clearest indication yet of dissent among some parts of Russia’s security forces over the invasion of Ukraine.
  • Talks between Turkish officials and delegations from Sweden and Finland have reportedly made little progress in overcoming Ankara’s opposition to the countries’ Nato membership bids. A senior Turkish official said it was not clear when further discussions will take place. Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, said Ankara expects Sweden and Finland to stop what it says is their “support given to terrorism” in order for Ankara to lift its opposition.

Hello everyone. I’m Léonie Chao-Fong, here to bring you all the latest developments from the war in Ukraine. I’m on Twitter or you can email me.

Updated

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, spoke with Italy’s prime minister, Mario Draghi, to discuss unblocking wheat exports from Ukraine, Rome said.

In the phone call between the two leaders, Draghi assured Zelenskiy of the Italian government’s support for Ukraine, along with the rest of the EU countries, Draghi’s office said.

Zelenskiy said he raised the issue of fuel supply with Draghi and that he expected “further defence support from our partners”.

Had a phone conversation with 🇮🇹 Prime Minister #MarioDraghi. Informed about the situation on the frontline. We expect further defense support from our partners. Raised the issue of fuel supply. Ways to prevent the food crisis were discussed. We have to unblock 🇺🇦 ports together.

— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) May 27, 2022

Updated

Boris Johnson said Ukraine should be supplied with long-range multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) to help Kyiv’s embattled forces prevent Russian invaders from gaining ground in the Donbas.

But the prime minister stopped short of committing the UK to sending the powerful M270 rocket system, which Kyiv has been pleading for from Britain, the US and other Nato members for several weeks.

Johnson said the MLRS would enable Ukraine “to defend themselves against this very brutal Russian artillery, and that’s where the world needs to go”, in an interview with Bloomberg Television.

He added that Putin’s forces were “continuing to chew through ground” in the Donbas region, making “slow, but I’m afraid palpable, progress” as they close in on Sievierodonetsk, the easternmost city held by Ukraine.

Johnson’s comments appear to confirm there has been a significant change of stance over the weapons among western nations.

A rocket is launched from a truck-mounted multiple rocket launcher near Svyatohirsk, eastern Ukraine.
A rocket is launched from a truck-mounted multiple rocket launcher near Svyatohirsk, eastern Ukraine. Photograph: Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images

The US previously rejected Ukraine’s request for the long-range rockets but overnight briefings suggested the White House was now willing to supply them. An announcement could come next week, CNN reported, for a weapon that could have a significant impact on the fighting.

Far more powerful than conventional artillery, M270 MLRS rockets can have a range of more than 100 miles (165km) and up to 12 rockets a minute can be fired from an armoured vehicle. Their firepower goes far beyond the original commitment made by Nato members to send only “defensive systems” to Ukraine when the war began.

Updated

Ukrainian boy Valentyn 6, poses in the trench that he and his friend Andrii have dug at their makeshift checkpoint in their village next to a school crossing in Stoyanka, Ukraine.
Ukrainian boy Valentyn, six, poses in the trench that he and his friend Andrii dug at their makeshift checkpoint in their village next to a school crossing in Stoyanka. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
Valentyn poses with his friend Andrii, aged 12 as they man their makeshift checkpoint in their village next to a school crossing in Stoyanka, Ukraine. The two boys have become well known to passing motorists.
Valentyn poses with his friend Andrii, aged 12, at their makeshift checkpoint in their village next to a school crossing in Stoyanka. The two boys have become well-known to passing motorists. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Updated

Ukraine’s state gas company and operator have issued a request to the German government to either halt or severely curtail gas flows through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, Reuters reports.

The request argues that the operation of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline is allowed under German law on the basis that it contributes to the strengthening of the security of gas supplies to Europe. However, Russia had “violated these principles”, the head of Ukraine’s gas system operator, Serhiy Makogon, said.

Makogon said:

With Naftogaz we sent an appeal to the German economy ministry and the German regulator … on the suspension of Nord Stream 1.

Ukraine is willing and able to provide an alternate transport route to the pipeline, which runs under the Baltic, he said.

Updated

Liz Truss, the UK foreign secretary, dismissed as completely unfounded reports emanating from Germany that an agreement exists preventing Nato members from delivering heavy weaponry to Ukraine.

Speaking in Prague, she said:

I want to be clear. Those rumours are completely untrue. We are very clear it is completely legitimate to be supporting Ukraine with tanks and planes and we are very supportive of the work Czech Republic has done sending tanks to Ukraine.

Some German defence ministers have claimed an informal agreement exists preventing Nato from sending high-quality heavy weapons to Ukraine, a claim that has been used to justify the slow pace of German arms support to Ukraine.

Truss dismissed this, adding the UK was helping Poland backfill its defence equipment as a result of Warsaw sending tanks to Ukraine.

The Czech foreign minister Jan Lipavsky (right) with the British foreign secretary Liz Truss (left) at the Czernin Palace in Prague, Czech Republic
The Czech foreign minister Jan Lipavsky (right) with the British foreign secretary Liz Truss (left) at the Czernin Palace in Prague, Czech Republic. Photograph: Milan Jaros/EPA

She added she wanted to see more heavy weaponry get to Ukraine, and to upgrade Ukraine’s armed forces to make sure they have got Nato standard equipment.

At the moment they are using a lot of ex-Soviet equipment. We need to make sure they are able to defend themselves in the future, that is the work we are doing with Poland and Ukraine.

She added she had proposed in her talks in Prague the Czech Republic join in this modernisation operation.

She said:

We have to be ready for the long haul because in supporting Ukraine because we are committed to freedom and democracy

Now is not the time to be complacent. There should be no talk of a ceasefire or appeasing Putin, We need to make sure that Ukraine wins, Russia withdraws and that we never see this kind of Russian aggression again.

Some German government members claim a Nato agreement existed not to deliver modern weapons to Ukraine fearing it might be seen as escalatory or allow Ukraine to attack Russia itself.

Siemtje Möller, Germany’s parliamentary state secretary in the defence ministry, was recently asked why Germany had not yet delivered any tanks of the Marder or Leopard type, the SPD politician replied that Germany “had firmly adhered to the Nato alliance with all western nations … that no armoured personnel carriers or battle tanks of western models were delivered”.

Moller subsequently revised the explanation, but there has been at best a communications failure by Germany over its efforts to help Ukraine.

Updated

Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy has posted to Telegram a rather more upbeat assessment of the war than he gave in his overnight address for the domestic audience last night. He said:

Addressed the Indonesian people. Emphasised that the sooner our lands are liberated from the occupiers, the more reliably people everywhere in the world will be protected. Protected from the aggressive desires of those who want to pursue colonial policies, as in the old days.

If the world is truly united and honest about this Russian aggression against our sovereign state, the speed of ending this war will be measured in weeks.

Weeks, not even months.

Updated

Pjotr Sauer and Andrew Roth report for us that 115 Russian national guard soldiers have been sacked for refusing to fight in Ukraine:

More than 100 Russian national guardsmen have been fired for refusing to fight in Ukraine, court documents show, in what looks to be the clearest indication yet of dissent among some parts of security forces over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

The cases of the 115 national guardsmen, a force also known as Rosgvardia, came to light on Wednesday, after a local Russian court rejected their collective lawsuit that challenged their earlier sacking.

According to the court’s decision published on its website, the lawsuit was dismissed after the judge determined that the soldiers had been rightfully fired for “refusing to perform an official assignment” to fight in Ukraine and instead returned to a duty station.

The appeal took place in Nalchik, the capital of the Kabardino-Balkarian republic in the Russian Caucasus, where the unit is based.

Since Moscow’s invasion of neighbouring Ukraine, its military has reportedly been plagued by poor morale, with reports of soldiers claiming they did not know they were going to war until they crossed into Ukraine. The Pentagon said this month that it has seen “anecdotal reports” that “mid-grade officers at various levels, even up to the battalion level”, have “either refused to obey orders” or were not obeying them with the expected measure of “alacrity”.

Andrei Sabinin, the lawyer who represented the 115 soldiers, said the court’s decision was “unprecedentedly quick” given the complexity of the case.

“I express doubts about the fairness of the process as a whole because my clients were denied to call up certain witnesses and several documents were rejected by the court.”

Read more here: 115 Russian national guard soldiers sacked for refusing to fight in Ukraine

Isobel Koshiw reports from Kyiv that Ukrainian authorities have issued differing statements about their control over the city of Lyman:

Last night, one of the president’s advisers, Oleksiy Arestovych, said he had unverified information that Ukraine had lost the city. This morning, Ukraine’s armed forces said Russian forces were trying to strengthen their positions in the city.

A few hours later, Pavlo Kyrylenko, the governor of the Donetsk military administration, said most of Lyman was no longer controlled by Ukraine but that Ukrainian forces were still present around the city – from where, he said, they aim to contain a Russian advance and may launch a counteroffensive.

Lyman can be used by Russian forces to advance further and achieve their goal of controlling the Donbas region.

The Donetsk People’s Republic, a Russian-backed proxy administration for the Donetsk region, said it planned to rename the city Red Lyman, its Soviet name.

Updated

Just a further note on the difficulties between Turkey, Sweden and Finland over the proposal that the Baltic nations join Nato. [See 13.22]

Sweden’s foreign minister, Ann Linde, has tweeted:

Incorrect information that Swedish politicians in democratic assemblies represent the terrorist organisation PKK. These are serious allegations that have no basis. Violence, terrorism and extremism have no place in our democratic society.

Turkey has cited Sweden and Finland supposedly tolerating PKK members as an issue it has with their accession.

Two-thirds of Sievierodonetsk surrounded by Russian forces, says governor

Russian forces have surrounded two-thirds of the city of Sievierodonetsk in eastern Ukraine, according to the regional governor of Luhansk, Serhiy Haidai.

Ukrainian forces are engaged in a “fierce defence” of the eastern city, Reuters quotes Haidai as saying.

“Very strong” shelling has continued unabated for two days and damaged 90% of the housing in the city, Haidai cited the head of Sievierodonetsk’s administration, Oleksandr Stryuk, as saying.

Updated

Russian-backed forces have captured the eastern city of Lyman in Ukraine’s Donetsk region, officials from both sides have now appeared to confirm.

Earlier today, Russian media reported that pro-Russian separatists had seized Lyman, a major railway hub in the Donetsk region which has long been a target of pro-Russian forces.

An adviser to the Ukrainian president’s chief of staff, Oleksei Arestovych, said the attack on the city showed that “the Russian army has improved its tactical skills and operational management”.

His comments came as the governor of the Donetsk region of Donbas, Pavlo Kyrylenko, told Ukrainian broadcaster Hromadske that Lyman was “mainly controlled by Russian troops” but the Ukrainian military had taken up new fortified positions in the area.

Located in the north of the eastern Donetsk region, Lyman sits on a road leading to key eastern cities still under Kyiv’s control.

The capture of Lyman marks the second midsize Ukrainian city to fall under Russian hands this week, following the capture of Svitlodarsk earlier this week.

A local resident walks past an industrial building damaged by a Russian military strike in the town of Bakhmut, in Donetsk region, Ukraine.
A local resident walks past an industrial building damaged by a Russian military strike in the town of Bakhmut, in Donetsk region, Ukraine. Photograph: Serhii Nuzhnenko/Reuters
Debris is seen in a street after a Russian military strike in the town of Bakhmut, in Donetsk region, Ukraine.
Debris is seen in a street after a Russian military strike in the town of Bakhmut, in Donetsk region, Ukraine. Photograph: Serhii Nuzhnenko/Reuters

Talks between Turkish officials and delegations from Sweden and Finland have made little progress in overcoming Ankara’s opposition to the Nordic countries’ Nato membership bids, according to sources.

A senior Turkish official told Reuters that it was “not an easy process”, and that it was not clear when further discussions will take place.

The source said:

They need to take concrete steps that will be difficult. Further negotiations will continue. But a date doesn’t seem very close.

Another source said the talks, which took place in the Turkish capital on Wednesday, made no clear progress and ended with no timeline to continue.

The five-hour discussions were cordial and included separate sessions between Turkish officials and counterparts from Finland and Sweden, followed by three-way talks with all parties, the second source added.

A third source said Turkish officials had downplayed the prospect of reaching an agreement before the Nato summit at the end of June in Madrid.

‘Serious and imminent' risk of genocide in Ukraine – report

There is enough evidence to conclude that Russia is inciting genocide in Ukraine and committing atrocities intended to destroy the Ukrainian people, according to the first independent report into allegations of genocide committed by Russian troops in Ukraine.

More than 30 leading legal scholars and genocide experts have signed the report accusing the Russian state of violating several articles of the United Nations Genocide Convention, CNN reports.

The report warns there is a serious and imminent risk of genocide in Ukraine, accompanied by a long list of evidence including examples of mass killings of civilians, forced deportations and dehumanising anti-Ukrainian rhetoric used by top Russian officials.

It directly accuses Russian top officials of orchestrating incitement to genocide and laying the groundwork for future genocide by repeatedly denying the existence of a Ukrainian identity.

As examples, the report points to the dehumanising language used by Russian officials to describe Ukrainians, including words such as “bestial”, “subordinate” and “filth”, or Vladimir Putin’s statements that he believes Ukraine has no right to exist as an independent state.

A Ukrainian woman with tied up hands takes part in a silent protest against the mass killing of Ukrainian civilians by the Russian army in Krakow, Poland.
A Ukrainian woman with tied up hands takes part in a silent protest against the mass killing of Ukrainian civilians by the Russian army in Krakow, Poland. Photograph: Omar Marques/Getty Images

Azeem Ibrahim, a director at the US-based thinktank New Lines Institute for Strategy and Policy, which put together the report, said:

What we have seen so far is that this war is genocidal in its nature, in terms of the language being used and the manner in which it is being executed. That’s very, very clear.

The experts also accused Russian forces of carrying out a “pattern of consistent and pervasive atrocities against Ukrainian civilians collectively” in the course of the invasion.

It said that well-documented massacres and summary executions in Bucha, Staryi Bykiv, and in Sumy and Chernihiv regions, Russia’s deliberate attacks on shelters, evacuation routes and healthcare facilities, as well the indiscriminate targeting and bombardment of residential areas, rapes, sieges, grain thefts and forced deportations to Russia all amount to “genocidal pattern of destruction”.

The report calls on the international community to act, warning that there is “no time at all”. Ibrahim said:

Every country that is a signatory to the Genocide convention, and that’s 151 countries including the Russian Federation, every country has to do whatever it can to put a stop to this, otherwise they will also be in breach of the convention.

Updated

Art critic Charlotte Mullins writes about 2,000 stolen artworks attest to Vladimir Putin’s desre to erase a nation’s history – like so many despots before him:

As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began, the director of the Museum of Local History in Melitopol in the south-east of the country, Leila Ibrahimova, arranged for a hoard of gold artefacts from ancient Scythia to be hidden. Just a few weeks later, she was kidnapped and interrogated by Russian troops. They demanded to know where the Scythian gold was; she refused to cooperate.

Subsequently the museum’s curator Galina Andriivna Kucher was taken at gunpoint to the museum and asked to show a Russian “expert” and agents where the gold was. She also refused to locate the collection. Kucher was later abducted from her home on 30 April and her whereabouts remains unknown.

According to a report on the theft in the New York Times, Russian troops eventually found the gold hoard, which dates back to the fourth century BC, boxed up in the museum’s basement.

The IV century B.C. golden pectoral, an ancient treasure from a Scythian king’s burial mound, is exhibited in the Museum of Historical Treasures in Kyiv, Ukraine.
The IV century BC golden pectoral, an ancient treasure from a Scythian king’s burial mound, is exhibited in the Museum of Historical Treasures in Kyiv, Ukraine. Photograph: Efrem Lukatsky/AP

The items were taken to Donetsk, in the Russian-controlled Donbas region, for “safety”, with the museum’s newly installed puppet director, Evgeny Gorlachev, stating that the gold artefacts were not just for Ukrainians but “of great cultural value for the entire former Soviet Union”. His carefully chosen words were designed to erase the collection’s Ukrainian heritage and replace it with a Soviet one, one that suggested Ukraine was back within Russia’s sphere of influence and control.

To date, Russian forces have caused the destruction or severe damage of 250 museums and institutions in Ukraine. Twenty-five paintings by Ukrainian folk artist Maria Prymachenko were incinerated after the Museum of Local History in Ivankiv was hit by a missile. The Arkhip Kuindzhi museum in the besieged city of Mariupol was badly damaged by an airstrike that left paintings exposed to the elements, hanging on walls amid piles of rubble. The Cultural Heritage Monitoring Lab, run by the Virginia Museum of Natural History in association with the Smithsonian, has already logged more than 110 memorials destroyed by Russian weapons.

But as well as destroying museums and galleries, Russian troops are accused of having stolen an estimated 2,000 artworks. In addition to the theft of the Scythian gold in Melitopol, in Mariupol a handwritten Torah scroll and a valuable gospel printed in Venice in 1811 were all have been taken.

Read the full story: ‘Ukraine’s heritage is under direct attack’: why Russia is looting the country’s museums

Ten people were killed and at least 35 wounded after Russian missile strikes hit the Dnipropetrovsk region in central-eastern Ukraine this morning, according to reports.

Russian forces launched three missiles from the Rostov region of Russia, with one missile hitting a Ukrainian national guard base in Dnipro, Ukrinform reports.

Regional governor Valentyn Reznichenko earlier said rescuers were working in rubble to look for possible survivors in the aftermath of “an unquiet night and an unquiet morning”.

More recently, the head of the Dnipro territorial defence, Hennadiy Korban, said on local TV:

There was a tragedy in the morning. An Iskander missile struck a National Guard firing range.

Unfortunately, about ten people were killed. About 30-35 people were injured. Most of the personnel were scattered throughout the region.

He added that the situation was getting worse not only in the region, but also at the front. Russian troops have been intensifying their offensive primarily in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, and the Dnipropetrovsk region is surrounded by three fronts.

Turkey expects Sweden and Finland to stop what it says is their “support given to terrorism” in order for Ankara to lift its opposition to them joining Nato, the Turkish foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, said.

The two Nordic countries formally applied to join the military alliance last week, and all 30 Nato member states must give their approval in order for them to be admitted.

However, Turkey has challenged their Nato bids and claimed they harbour people linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group and followers of Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara accuses of orchestrating a 2016 coup attempt.

Çavuşoğlu told reporters at a news conference, quoted by Reuters:

A concrete step needs to be taken regarding Turkey’s concerns. They have to cut the support given to terrorism.

Finnish and Swedish delegations visited the Turkish capital for talks with Turkish officials on Wednesday. After the meetings, a spokesperson for Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said Ankara had observed a positive attitude on lifting an arms exports embargo.

Moscow and Kyiv blame each other for frozen peace talks

The Kremlin has blamed Kyiv for the stalling of peace talks between Russia and Ukraine, claiming that Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, “constantly makes contradictory statements”.

In his daily briefing with reporters, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said:

The Ukrainian leadership constantly makes contradictory statements. This does not allow us to fully understand what the Ukrainian side wants.

Earlier today, Zelenskiy said he had tried repeatedly to organise a meeting with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, to end the war, but that Moscow did not appear to be ready yet for serious talks.

Zelenskiy said:

There are things to discuss with the Russian leader. I’m not telling you that ... our people are eager (for me) to talk to him, but we have to face the realities of what we are living through.

What do we want from this meeting? ... We want our lives back... We want to reclaim the life of a sovereign country within its own territory.

Ukrainian bomb disposal experts and de-mining teams clear a lake and field of unexploded munitions and mines in Horenka suburb in Kyiv, Ukraine.
Ukrainian bomb disposal experts and de-mining teams clear a lake and field of unexploded munitions and mines in Horenka suburb in Kyiv, Ukraine. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
The demining and clearing of unexploded munitions in Ukraine after the Russian invasion could take between 5-7 years.
The de-mining and clearing of unexploded munitions in Ukraine after the Russian invasion could take five to seven years. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
Ukrainian bomb disposal experts and de-mining teams in Horenka suburb in Kyiv, Ukraine.
Ukrainian bomb disposal experts and de-mining teams in Horenka suburb in Kyiv. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Updated

Moscow says west has declared ‘total war’ on Russia

Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, has accused western countries of waging a “total war” on Russia and its people and culture.

Western allies are “cancelling Russia and everything connected” with it including banning Russian writers, composers and other cultural figures, he said at a ministry meeting.

Lavrov said:

The west has declared war on us, on the whole Russian world. The culture of cancelling Russia and everything connected with our country is already reaching the point of absurdity.

It was “safe to say” that the situation “will be with us for a long time”, he said.

He said the US “and its satellites are doubling, tripling, quadrupling their efforts to contain our country”, by using “the widest range of tools – from unilateral economic sanctions to thoroughly false propaganda in the global media space”.

He added:

In many western countries, everyday Russophobia has become of an unprecedented nature, and, to our great regret, is encouraged by government circles in a number of countries.

Hello everyone. It’s Léonie Chao-Fong here again, taking over the live blog from Martin Belam to bring you all the latest developments on the war in Ukraine. Feel free to get in touch on Twitter or via email.

Updated

Russia making 'slow but palpable' progress in Ukraine, says UK

The UK’s prime minister, Boris Johnson, said Russia was making “slow but palpable” progress in Donbas.

In an interview with Bloomberg, extracts from which are being released over the course of the day, Johnson said:

I think it’s very, very important that we do not get lulled because of the incredible heroism of the Ukrainians in pushing the Russians back from the gates of Kyiv.

I’m afraid that Putin – at great cost to himself and Russian military – is continuing to chew through ground in Donbas, he’s continuing to make gradual, slow, but, I’m afraid, palpable progress. Therefore it is absolutely vital that we continue to support the Ukrainians militarily.

As Bloomberg reports, Johnson said he would like to see further military support going to Ukraine, including more multiple-launch rocket systems that would allow the Ukrainians to strike Russian targets from a greater distance.

Boris Johnson with Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy, during the prime minister’s visit to Kyiv.
Boris Johnson with Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy during the prime minister’s recent visit to Kyiv. Photograph: Ukraine Government/PA

He also appeared to dismiss the prospect of negotiating with Vladimir Putin, saying the Russian president was not to be trusted. He said:

How can you deal with a crocodile when it’s in the middle of eating your left leg? The guy’s completely not to be trusted.

Updated

Today so far …

  • Officials in Ukraine have admitted that Russia has the “upper hand” in fighting in the country’s east, as Ukrainian forces fell back from some of their positions in the Donbas region.
  • The governor of Luhansk region, Serhiy Haidai, said just 5% of the region remained in Ukrainian hands – down from about 10% little more than a week ago – and that Ukrainian forces were retreating in some areas.
  • Pro-Russian separatists from the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic have said they have established full control over the strategic town of Lyman in eastern Ukraine. The claims have not been independently verified.
  • Russian ground forces are continuing their attempt to surround Sievierodonetsk and Lyschansk, having recently captured several villages north-west of Popasna, the UK ministry of defence has said in its latest report.
  • Artillery pounded the north eastern city of Kharkiv yesterday for the first time in two weeks, just as life in Ukraine’s second city was starting to return to normal. Kharkiv’s regional governor, Oleh Synehubov, said at least nine people had been killed and 17 injured in the attacks on the northern part of the city. He said “doctors are providing all necessary assistance” and there were no further casualties overnight.
  • Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said Ukraine was not eager to talk to Russia’s Vladimir Putin, but that it has to face the reality that this will likely be necessary to end the war.
  • Russia’s ministry of defence has claimed to have killed more than 250 fighters overnight, shot down one MiG-29 aircraft, and destroyed two ammunition dumps, including one within the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic.
  • The Kremlin has rejected claims that Russia has blocked grain exports from Ukraine, blaming the west for creating such a situation by imposing sanctions on Russia. The UK’s foreign minister, Liz Truss, accused Vladimir Putin of “weaponising” hunger through Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian grain exports. A senior Turkish official said Ankara was in “ongoing” talks with Russia and Ukraine to open a corridor via the Bosphorus.
  • Two captured Russian soldiers have pleaded guilty to shelling a town in eastern Ukraine, in the second war crimes trial since Russian troops invaded the country. Alexander Bobikin and Alexander Ivanov acknowledged being part of an artillery unit that fired at targets in the Kharkiv region from Russia’s Belgorod region.
  • Russia has deployed mobile propaganda vans with large-screen televisions to humanitarian aid points in the captured city of Mariupol. The Orwellian turn comes as the Kremlin continued to push forward with efforts to integrate newly occupied territories across the south of Ukraine.
  • Sweden and Finland’s push to join Nato won’t require adding more US ground forces into either country, the US general nominated to take over European Command told senators.
  • The US is reportedly preparing to send advanced, long-range rocket systems to Ukraine after an urgent request from Ukrainian officials.
  • Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, said that “weapons, weapons and weapons again” are what the country needs. “We need more heavy weapons delivered as soon as possible, especially MLRS (multiple launch rocket systems) to repel Russian attacks,” Kuleba said.

Updated

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy has given an address to an Indonesian thinktank this morning, and said Ukraine was not eager to talk to Russia’s Vladimir Putin, but that it has to face the reality that this will likely be necessary to end the war. He said Russia did not appear to be ready yet for serious peace talks. Reuters quotes him saying:

There are things to discuss with the Russian leader. I’m not telling you that to me our people are eager to talk to him, but we have to face the realities of what we are living through. What do we want from this meeting … We want our lives back … We want to reclaim the life of a sovereign country within its own territory.

Updated

The governor of Kharkiv, Oleh Synehubov, has posted to Telegram to say “doctors are providing all necessary assistance to all Kharkiv residents who were injured yesterday” and there were no further casualties overnight. He also said:

The enemy continued to shell the settlements of Kharkiv region at night. A boarding school in Lyubotyn was damaged as a result of enemy shelling. Chuguiv was also shelled at night. Dwelling houses were damaged.

He warned the public:

I emphasize once again that it is impossible to relax in any case. The enemy acts insidiously and purposefully strikes at civilians. Do not be on the streets unnecessarily and do not ignore air alarms.

Reuters reports that Russia is expelling five staff members from the Croatian embassy in Moscow.

Russia’s ministry of defence has issued its operational briefing for today. None of the claims have been independently verified.

It says that operational-tactical and army aviation hit 44 areas of concentration of manpower and Ukrainian military equipment, and claimed to have killed more than 250 fighters.

It says two ammunition depots were destroyed near the settlement of Spornoye in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic and Barvenkovo in the Kharkiv region, and that one MiG-29 aircraft of the Ukrainian air force was shot down over the village of Belyary in the Odesa region.

It also claims: “Missile troops and artillery hit 77 command posts of the armed forces of Ukraine, 412 areas of concentration of manpower and military equipment, as well as 53 artillery firing positions.”

Updated

Reuters is reporting that pro-Russian separatists from the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic have said they have established full control over the strategic town of Lyman in eastern Ukraine. The claims have not been independently verified.

Isobel Koshiw reports for us from Kyiv:

Ukraine’s armed forces and regional officials say Russia is launching attacks on all fronts in eastern Ukraine in what seems to be new offensive.

In April, Ukraine’s authorities had said that Moscow had launched a second phase of the war, but satellite images and intelligence indicated Russia was instead using the time to resupply and reposition its forces. Fighting now seems to have intensified.

Yesterday, Russian artillery hit central Kharkiv for the first time in week, killing nine people, according to Kharkiv’s regional governor. In the Donbas, Russian forces appear to have moved into the edges the city of Sievierodonetsk. The city’s mayor, Oleksandr Stryuk, said that Russian forces were in the city’s Hotel Myr yesterday but that Ukrainian forces still hold the city.

Stryuk said 1,500 people in the city have died so far, and that yesterday they managed to evacuate people, but thousands remain. This comes after a barrage of attacks on the remaining Ukrainian-controlled Donbas cities in the last week and mass evacuations.

On Ukraine’s south-eastern front, in Zaporizhzhia region, the regional-military administration say Russia has reinforced their positions with tank battalions and has moved columns of heavy equipment from Crimea, including grad missile systems. Russia has reportedly launched several attacks but according to them, Ukrainian forces are holding the line.

Updated

Ukrinform is reporting that there were also attacks in the Dnipropetrovsk region of Ukraine overnight. It quotes Valentyn Reznichenko, who is part of the regional state administration, saying: “An unquiet night and an unquiet morning. We have several strikes. Serious destruction.”

He said that rescuers were working in rubble to look for possible survivors.

Ukrinform also quotes the mayor of Novomoskovsk, Serhii Rieznik, who said explosions had been heard in Dnipro. The Dnipropetrovsk region borders Donetsk, and is to the west of the Donbas area where much of Russia’s military activity is targeted.

Updated

Ukrainian journalist Nataliya Gumenyuk writes us for us today that Ukrainians are more determined to win than ever:

As a conflict reporter I know that wars cause societies to disintegrate. But from what I’ve seen, Ukrainians, and in particular Kyiv residents, have become kinder and warmer. The discussions that prevail are about rebuilding the country for the better. Professionals who helped with the logistics during the first months of the military invasion are now figuring out how their skills might be useful in a new environment. My cousin, an architect, recently called to tell me how his university mates have been united in developing a plan for rebuilding the country’s demolished infrastructure.

I find it hardest to interact with foreign experts and analysts. One veteran reporter from the Balkans recently told me that the longer the war lasted, the less she could understand its goal. Perplexed, I responded that Ukrainians saw the goal even more clearly now than before: to defend cities from invasion while ensuring the fewest possible casualties and to liberate the occupied territories, where the atrocities have been greatest.

Read more here: Nataliya Gumenyuk – Emerging from the rubble of Kharkiv, Ukrainians are more determined to win than ever

In contrast, Dmytro Zhyvytskyi, the governor of Sumy, which is in the north-east of Ukraine and borders Russia, said it had not been a quiet night there. He has posted to Telegram to say:

From 4.30am mortar shots were fired every half an hour in the Shostka district. Private houses of civilians on the outskirts of Seredino Buda were damaged.

At half past six in the morning, the outskirts of the village of Stari Vyrky, Bilopil community, Sumy district, were fired upon with anti-aircraft guns. The enemy fled from its territory. No one was injured.

With the majority of Russia’s forces concentrated in the east of Ukraine, Maksym Kozytskyi, the governor of Lviv, has posted to Telegram to say that again it was a quiet night in his region. He stated there was one air raid alarm overnight, but there was no strike. He said that 71 people were resettled in Lviv yesterday from areas of Ukraine where conflict continues.

Here are some of the latest images to come out of Ukraine today.

A man helps his father in the basement of their building, where they are living, in Lysychansk, a city without electricity and water, in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas.
A man helps his father in the basement of their building, where they are living, in Lysychansk, a city without electricity and water, in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas. Photograph: Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images
Remains of a home’s decorations are seen at shelled Severnaya Saltyvka residential area in Kharkiv, Ukraine.
Remains of a home’s decorations at the Severnaya Saltyvka residential area in Kharkiv, Ukraine. Photograph: Iván Alvarado/Reuters
Liudmyla Voronina opens a skylight window on the roof of her house roof as she stands inside her home that was damaged by attacks in Irpin, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine.
Liudmyla Voronina opens a skylight window on the roof of her house roof as she stands inside her home damaged by attacks in Irpin, on the outskirts of Kyiv. Photograph: Natacha Pisarenko/AP
A man on a bicycle takes pictures of damaged buildings ruined by attacks in Irpin, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine.
A man on a bicycle takes pictures of buildings ruined by attacks in Irpin, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine. Photograph: Natacha Pisarenko/AP
Olga Chernenko, 51, holds her dog Casper, at the entrance of her home ruined by attacks in Irpin, on the outskirts Kyiv, Ukraine.
Olga Chernenko, 51, holds her dog Casper, at the entrance of her home in Irpin, on the outskirts of Kyiv. Photograph: Natacha Pisarenko/AP
A burned kitchen room is seen at shelled Severnaya Saltyvka residential area in Kharkiv, Ukraine.
A burned kitchen room at Severnaya Saltyvka residential area in Kharkiv, Ukraine. Photograph: Iván Alvarado/Reuters

Updated

No need to add US ground forces in Sweden or Finland, general says

Sweden and Finland’s push to join Nato won’t require adding more US ground forces into either country, the US general nominated to take over European Command told senators on Thursday.

Army general Christopher Cavoli noted that military exercises and occasional American troop rotations will probably increase and the increased military focus will probably continue to be on eastern Europe, according to a report from the Associated Press.

The centre of gravity of Nato forces has shifted eastward,” Cavoli told the Senate Armed Services Committee during his nomination hearing. “Depending on the outcome of the conflict, we may have to continue that for some time.”

Cavoli was asked about the US troop presence in Europe, which has grown from fewer than 80,000 to about 102,000 since the build-up to Russia’s invasion.

He said the increase had no ties to the more recent move by Finland and Sweden to seek Nato membership.

Updated

US voices 'concerns about escalation' as west steps up long-range weaponry to Ukraine

Western countries led by the United States have provided Ukraine with long-range weaponry, including M777 howitzers from Washington and Harpoon anti-ship missiles from Denmark.

Washington is even considering providing Kyiv with a rocket system that can have a range of hundreds of kilometres, and has held discussions with Kyiv about the danger of escalation if it strikes deep inside Russia, US and diplomatic officials told Reuters.

We have concerns about escalation and yet still do not want to put geographic limits or tie their hands too much with the stuff we’re giving them,” one US official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Meanwhile, officials in Ukraine earlier admitted that Russia has the “upper hand” in fighting in the country’s east, as Ukrainian forces fell back from some of their positions in the Donbas region.

Amid reports that Lyman, the site of an important railway junction, had largely been taken by Russian forces, Ukraine’s general staff reported that Russian forces were also advancing on Sievierodonetsk, Bakhmut and Avdiivka.

The governor of Luhansk region, Serhiy Haidai, said just 5% of the region remained in Ukrainian hands – down from about 10% little more than a week ago – and that Ukrainian forces were retreating in some areas.

“It is clear that our boys are slowly retreating to more fortified positions – we need to hold back this horde,” Haidai said. Hinting at further withdrawals, he said it was possible that troops would leave “one settlement, maybe two. We need to win the war, not the battle.”

Separately, a senior Ukrainian military official conceded at a briefing on Thursday that Russia had the upper hand in fighting in Luhansk. “Russia has the advantage, but we are doing everything we can,” Gen Oleksiy Gromov said.

If confirmed, Russia’s continuing advances in Lyman, which has been contested for a month, would make it easier for Russian forces to isolate the key city of Sievierodonetsk, which has been under relentless shelling for days.

Updated

US to send long-range rocket systems to Ukraine - reports

The US is preparing to send advanced, long-range rocket systems to Ukraine after an urgent request from Ukrainian officials, multiple officials reportedly told CNN.

The Biden administration is leaning toward sending the systems as part of a larger package of military and security assistance to Ukraine, which could be announced as soon as next week, the outlet reported.

Senior Ukrainian officials, including President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba, have pleaded in recent weeks for the US and its allies to provide the Multiple Launch Rocket System, or MLRS.

The US-made weapon systems can fire a barrage of rockets hundreds of kilometres — much farther than any of the systems Ukraine already has — which the Ukrainians argue could be a game-changer in their war against Russia.

Earlier this week, Kuleba said Ukraine’s most urgent need is for multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) to counter Russian superiority in heavy weaponry.

Spoke with my German counterpart @ABaerbock and briefed her on the difficult situation in the Donbas. We need more heavy weapons delivered as soon as possible, especially MLRS, to repel Russian attacks. Also discussed further sanctions on Russia and Ukraine’s EU candidate status.

— Dmytro Kuleba (@DmytroKuleba) May 26, 2022

Zelenskiy also referred to the weapons as “the systems that are really needed to stop this aggression” in his latest address.

Russia has in recent weeks pummelled Ukraine in the east, where Ukraine is outmanned and outgunned, Ukrainian officials said.

Another system Ukraine has asked for is the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, known as HIMARS, a lighter wheeled system capable of firing many of the same types of ammunition as MLRS.

A Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) shoots during an artillery live fire event by the US Army Europe’s 41st Field Artillery Brigade at the military training area in Grafenwoehr, southern Germany in 2020.
A Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) shoots during an artillery live fire event by the US Army Europe’s 41st Field Artillery Brigade at the military training area in Grafenwoehr, southern Germany in 2020. Photograph: Christof Stache/AFP/Getty Images

Russian forces surround Sievierodonetsk and Lyschansk, UK MoD says

Russian ground forces are continuing their attempt to surround Sievierodonetsk and Lyschansk, having recently captured several villages north-west of Popasna, the UK ministry of defence has said in its latest report.

Russia is pressuring the Sievierodonetsk pocket although Ukraine retains control of multiple defended sectors, denying Russia full control of the Donbas.

Russia’s Southern Grouping of Forces (SGF) likely remains tasked with occupying southern Ukrainian territory. In recent days, Russia has likely moved 50-year-old T-62 tanks from deep storage into the SGF’s area of responsibility.

The T-62s will almost certainly be particularly vulnerable to anti-tank weapons and their presence on the battlefield highlights Russia’s shortage of modern, combat-ready equipment.”

Latest Defence Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine - 27 May 2022

Find out more about the UK government's response: https://t.co/8oy0CIaoIP

🇺🇦 #StandWithUkraine 🇺🇦 pic.twitter.com/6gQjEGEiRb

— Ministry of Defence 🇬🇧 (@DefenceHQ) May 27, 2022

Updated

Russian attack kills nine civilians in Kharkiv

Artillery has pounded the north eastern city of Kharkiv for the first time in two weeks, just as life in Ukraine’s second city was starting to return to normal after Russian troops were pushed back from its outlying towns and villages.

Kharkiv’s regional governor, Oleh Synehubov, said at least nine people had been killed and 17 injured in the attacks on the northern part of the city.

“There’s no logic to it, it’s just terror against the local population, to sow panic and to destroy critical infrastructure,” Synehubov told the Guardian.

“For two weeks it’s been relatively quiet … I think this is them saying hello, telling us they are still there, trying to create panic.”

Ukrainian president Zelenskiy noted the casualties in his latest national address:

Today, the occupiers shelled Kharkiv again. At the moment, the list of the dead includes nine people. 19 wounded. All civilians. A child (five months) and a father were killed. The mother is in grave condition. Among the wounded in Kharkiv is also a nine-year-old girl.”

Firefighters put out a blaze at a coffee kiosk which ignited as a result of shelling in Kharkiv on Thursday.
Firefighters put out a blaze at a coffee kiosk which ignited as a result of shelling in Kharkiv on Thursday. Photograph: Sergey Bobok/AFP/Getty Images
Residents provide medical care to a man wounded as a result of shelling in the city.
Residents provide medical care to a man wounded as a result of shelling in the city. Photograph: Sergiy Bobok/AFP/Getty Images

Russia pushed towards debt default

Russia may escape defaulting on its debt on Friday, but the tightening noose of western sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine is inexorably drawing the nation towards a default.

A $71m payment due Friday may have already been made before US authorities removed this week an exception that allowed Russia to pay its debts in dollars using currency it held outside US financial institutions, Agence France-Presse reports.

However, with other payments coming due, the world will likely soon have its first case of a country that unwillingly defaults because of international sanctions rather than not having the money to pay.

The White House said it expects minimal impact on the US and global economy.

“We expect the impact on the US and the global economy to be minimal, given Russia has already been isolated financially,” White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said in a press briefing on Thursday.

Zelenskiy accuses Moscow of carrying out ‘genocide’ in Donbas

Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy has accused Moscow of carrying out a “genocide” in the eastern region of Donbas, where the city of Sievierodonetsk is suffering an onslaught of Russian shelling.

Zelenskiy said Russia’s brutal assault on the Donbas could leave the entire region “uninhabited” during his latest national address.

The current offensive of the occupiers in Donbas can make the region uninhabited.

They want to burn Popasna, Bakhmut, Lyman, Lysychansk and Sievierodonetsk to ashes. Like Volnovakha, like Mariupol. In cities and communities closer to the Russian border, in Donetsk and Luhansk, they gather everyone they can to fill the place of those killed and wounded in the occupation contingent.

All this, including the deportation of our people and the mass killings of civilians, is an obvious policy of genocide pursued by Russia.

A young boy sits in front of a damaged building after a strike in Kramatorsk in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas.
A young boy sits in front of a damaged building after a strike in Kramatorsk in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas. Photograph: Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images

Updated

Summary and welcome

Hello. I’m Samantha Lock and welcome to our live coverage of the war in Ukraine.

If you’re just waking up or dropping in to catch up on what’s been happening, here are some of the latest developments:

  • Kharkiv has been hit by fresh strikes amid fears the city is still on Russia’s agenda. At least nine civilians were killed, including a child, and 19 injured, authorities said. “Today, the occupiers shelled Kharkiv again. At the moment, the list of the dead includes nine people. 19 wounded. All civilians,” Zelenskiy said. Residents have been urged to go to, or remain in, shelters.
  • Officials in Ukraine have admitted that Russia has the “upper hand” in fighting in the country’s east. The governor of the Luhansk region, Serhiy Haidai, said just 5% of the area now remained in Ukrainian hands – down from about 10% little more than a week ago – and that Ukrainian forces were retreating in some areas. “The Russian army has thrown all its forces at taking the Luhansk region,” he said in a video on Telegram. “Extremely fierce fighting is taking place on the outskirts of Sievierodonetsk. They are simply destroying the city, they are shelling it every day, shelling without pause.”
  • There are about 8,000 Ukrainian prisoners of war held in the Russian-backed self-proclaimed Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics, the Luhansk official Rodion Miroshnik has said. “That’s a lot, and literally hundreds are being added every day,” Miroshnik was quoted by the Russian Tass news agency as saying.
  • Russia has deployed mobile propaganda vans with large-screen televisions to humanitarian aid points in the captured city of Mariupol. The Orwellian turn comes as the Kremlin continued to push forward with efforts to integrate newly occupied territories across the south of Ukraine.
  • Alexander Lukashenko, the Belarusian president who is a close Putin ally, has ordered the creation of a new military command for the south of the country bordering Ukraine. The Belarusian armed forces previously said they would deploy special operations troops in three areas near its southern border with Ukraine. Lukashenko has also talked up the role of Russian-made missiles in boosting the country’s defences.
  • Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister, said that “weapons, weapons and weapons again” are what the country needs. “We need more heavy weapons delivered as soon as possible, especially MLRS (multiple launch rocket systems) to repel Russian attacks,” Kuleba said.
  • The US is preparing to send advanced, long-range rocket systems to Ukraine after an urgent request from Ukrainian officials, multiple officials reportedly told CNN. Kuleba said Ukraine’s most urgent need is for multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) to counter Russian superiority in heavy weaponry. Zelenskiy also referred to the weapons as “the systems that are really needed to stop this aggression” in his latest address.
  • Volodymyr Zelenskiy has complained about divisions inside the European Union over more sanctions against Russia and asked why some nations were being allowed to block the plan. “How many more weeks will the European Union try to agree on a sixth package?” Zelenskiy asked in his latest national address. “Pressure on Russia is literally a matter of saving lives,” he added.
  • Russian president Vladimir Putin and Italian prime minister Mario Draghi held a phone call to discuss the situation in Ukraine and the issue of global food security on Thursday. Speaking to journalists after the call, Draghi said he would continue talking to both Moscow and Kyiv to resolve the food crisis, but added that he had little optimism for ending the war. “When asked if I have seen any glimmer of hope for peace, the answer is no,” he said.
  • Russian troops occupying the south-eastern port city of Mariupol have cancelled school summer holidays to prepare pupils for switching to a Russian curriculum, according to officials. “The main goal is to eradicate everything Ukrainian and prepare for the new school year, which will be according to the Russian curriculum,” city official Petro Andryushchenko said.
Fighting continues in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region
Fighting continues in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region

Contributors

Kari Paul (now) and Gloria Oladipo, Léonie Chao-Fong, Martin Belam, Samantha Lock (earlier)

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