Russia tries to consolidate its grip on Ukraine's Luhansk and Donetsk regions, where it has backed a separatist revolt since 2014, as fighting in Ukraine enters its 93rd day.

It was the second downgrade since the offensive began in late February.
It was the second downgrade since the offensive began in late February. (Reuters)

Friday May 27, 2022

S&P cuts Ukraine debt rating, outlook negative

S&P Global Ratings lowered the grade on Ukraine's long- and short-term foreign currency debt to 'CCC+/C' from 'B-/B' due to the "expectation of a prolonged period of macroeconomic instability in the country."

It was the second downgrade since the offensive began in late February.

The fighting has taken "a severe toll on Ukraine's economy and society," and on Kyiv's ability t o collect taxes, S&P said.

Ukraine military may have to retreat from Luhansk cities, governor says

The governor of Ukraine's eastern Luhansk region, which has almost completely fallen under Russian control, said it was possible that Kiev's forces would be forced to retreat from the final pocket of resistance to avoid being captured. 

"The Russians will not be able to capture Luhansk region in the coming days as analysts have predicted," Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Gaidai said in a post on the Telegram messaging service, referring to the near-surrounded cities of Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk.

"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," he said. 

ICC prosecutor urges Russia to cooperate on Ukraine probe

Russia should cooperate with the International Criminal Court's investigation into alleged war crimes carried out during Moscow's offensive against Ukraine, the tribunal's prosecutor told AFP news agency.

"The invitation is there. My door is open, and I will also keep knocking on the door of the Russian Federation," ICC prosecutor Karim Khan said in an interview at the Hague-based court.

Attempts to blame Russia for grain shipping trouble 'groundless': Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin told Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer that attempts to blame Russia for difficulties in shipping grain worldwide were unfounded and pointed to Western sanctions instead, the Kremlin said.

"Vladimir Putin stressed that attempts to make Russia responsible for the difficulties with the supply of agricultural products to world markets are groundless," the Kremlin said after the phone call.

"Detailed explanations have been given of the real causes of these problems, which have emerged due to anti-Russian sanctions by the United States and the European Union, among other things." 

Ukraine nuclear inspectorate accuses IAEA of falling for Russian propaganda

Ukraine's state nuclear inspectorate accused the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of falling for Russian propaganda and demanded it back efforts by Kiev to expel Moscow's forces from a major power plant. 

The complaint coincides with signs of increasing unhappiness by Ukrainian authorities about what they say is less than whole-hearted support from the international community in the war against Russia.

Moscow's forces have occupied the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station, the largest of its kind in Europe. Shortly before the offensive, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Ukraine was using Soviet know-how to create its own nuclear weapons.

Ukraine's Moscow-backed Orthodox Church cuts ties with Russia

The Moscow branch of Kiev's Orthodox Church said it was cutting ties with Russia over its operation in Ukraine, declaring "full independence" in a historic move against Russia's spiritual authorities.

"We disagree with the position of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow... on the war," the church said in a statement after holding a council focused on Russia's "aggression" and declaring the "full independence and autonomy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church".

The Moscow branch of Ukraine's Orthodox Church has until now formally pledged allegiance to Russia's Patriarch Kirill, who has expressed clear support for President Vladimir Putin's offensive in Ukraine. 

Russia closes in on key Ukraine Donbass city

Russian forces were closing in on the strategic city of Severodonetsk in a relentless offensive to control Ukraine's Donbass region, bombing residential areas and claiming the capture of a key town.

At least nine people were killed in shelling of Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, raising fears that Russia had not lost interest in the northeastern hub even after Ukraine managed to take back control.

Around 10 people were also killed in Russian strikes on a military facility in the central Ukrainian city of Dnipro, well away from the frontline of the offensive, the regional head of the national guard said.

NATO threat pushed Russia to launch Ukraine war, says Chinese envoy

Lu Shaye, China’s ambassador to France, said NATO’s expansion eastward led Russia to launch the Ukraine offensive, accusing the West of trying to contain Beijing and Moscow.

“For the Chinese, the (root) cause (of the war) is NATO’s five cycles of eastward expansion … it constitutes a military and security threat to Russia,” Lu told Europe1 radio’s morning show.

“You cannot oppress or threaten the security of others by forbidding others to retaliate or defend themselves,” he said, defending Moscow’s military action against Kiev. 

Putin says Ukraine 'sabotaging' negotiating processs – Kremlin

Russia's President Vladimir Putin has accused Ukraine of "sabotaging" the negotiating process between the two countries, the Kremlin said, citing comments he made to Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer in a phone call.

Putin also informed Nehammer about actions that Russia was taking to secure safe passage for vessels in the Azov and Black Seas, the Kremlin said in a statement.

Russian lawmakers in hot water for urging Putin to end Ukraine conflict

Two Communist lawmakers in Russia's far east have urged President Vladimir Putin to put an end to Moscow's offensive in Ukraine in a rare public show of dissent.

Despite thousands of people having been killed and wounded during Russia's three-month military campaign in Ukraine, Putin has largely enjoyed the public loyalty of the country's political parties and government officials.

But a meeting of the legislative assembly of the Primorsky Krai region caused an uproar when a local lawmaker and member of the Communist faction in the legislature read out a statement urging the Kremlin chief to pull out Russian troops. 

Ukraine demands Germany cut or halt Nord Stream 1 gas flows

Ukraine's state gas company and gas infrastructure operator have issued a demand to the German government to either halt or severely curtail gas flows through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, the head of the gas system operator said.

"With Naftogaz we sent an appeal to the German economy ministry and the German regulator... on the suspension of Nord Stream 1," the head of Ukraine's gas system operator Serhiy Makogon told national television.

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

West has declared ‘total war’ on Russia

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has accused Western countries of waging a "total war" on Russia and its people and culture, as Moscow pushes on with its military operation in Ukraine.

"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," Lavrov said at a ministry meeting.

He accused the West of banning Russian writers, composers and other cultural figures. "It is safe to say that this situation will be with us for a long time," he added.

Kremlin accuses Ukraine of “contradictory” statements on peace talks

The Kremlin has said that it blames Ukraine for the fact that peace talks between the two countries are frozen, saying it was unclear what Kiev wanted.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said in a call with reporters: "The Ukrainian leadership constantly makes contradictory statements. This does not allow us to fully understand what the Ukrainian side wants."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said earlier that he had tried repeatedly to organise a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin to end the conflict, but that Russia did not appear to be ready yet for serious peace talks.

Russia looking to boost grain exports as food crisis looms

Russia has said it was looking to ramp up its production of grain to export in the coming season, amid a global food crisis exacerbated by Moscow's military campaign in Ukraine.

The military action and sanctions imposed on Russia over the offensive have disrupted global supplies of grain, wheat and other commodities.

Russia and Ukraine alone produce 30 percent of the global wheat supply.

"In the current season (2021-2022) we have already exported over 35 million tonnes of grain, including 28.5 million tonnes of wheat," Agriculture Minister Dmitry Patrushev said at a Russian grain forum, adding that before the end of the season on June 30 the export volume will exceed 37 million tonnes.

UK wants to include Ukraine in ‘European Commonwealth’: Report

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is trying to create a new bloc of European nations that would bring together Ukraine, much of Eastern Europe, and Türkiye at a later stage, Italian media has reported.

The daily Corriere della Sera called the idea a “European Commonwealth” and described it as “a new system of political, economic and military alliances - alternative to the European Union.”

The countries in the new bloc would be united by their "diffidence towards Brussels" and criticism of Germany’s excessively timid response to the Russian aggression in Ukraine, the report suggested.

Ukrainian minister appeals for heavy weapons

Ukraine’s foreign minister has pleaded with Western nations to provide Kiev with heavy weapons to enable it to push Russian forces back.

Dmytro Kuleba tweeted a video of himself answering questions submitted on Twitter and said: “We need heavy weapons. The only position where Russia is better than us it’s the amount of heavy weapons they have. Without artillery, without multiple launch rocket systems we won’t be able to push them back.”

Kuleba said that the situation in the east of the country, where the Russian forces are on the offensive, “is as dire as people say.”

Pro-Russia separatists claim they captured Ukraine's Lyman

Moscow-backed separatist forces in Ukraine say they have captured Lyman, a strategic town that sits on a road leading to key eastern cities still under Kiev's control.

Together with Russian troops, separatist forces have "liberated and taken full control of 220 settlements, including Krasny Liman," the breakaway region of Donetsk said on its Telegram channel, using an old name for the town.

There was no immediate confirmation from Russia or Ukraine.

Located in the north of the eastern Donetsk region, Lyman lies on the road to Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, the capital of the Ukrainian-controlled part of Donetsk.

Russia expels five Croatian diplomats in retaliatory move

Russia's foreign ministry has said that it was expelling five staff members of the Croatian embassy in Moscow in response to Zagreb ordering out some of its staff.

Croatia in April told 24 Russian embassy staff to leave over Moscow's actions in Ukraine.

Russian gas deliveries to Slovakia through Ukraine edge lower

Delivery of Russian gas to Europe through Ukraine has edged lower while flows from Germany to Poland via the Yamal pipeline were also down.

Nominations for flows into Slovakia from Ukraine via the Velke Kapusany border point stood at 420,009,181 kilowatt hours per hour, down from 421,945122 the previous day, data from the Ukrainian transmission system operator showed.

Russian gas producer Gazprom said that its supply of gas to Europe through Ukraine via the Sudzha entry point stood at 43.6 million cubic metres, slightly down from 44.5 on Thursday.

Ukraine: Four more killed in Sievierodonetsk

A Ukrainian regional governor has said that at least four people have been killed in the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk over the past 24 hours by Russian shelling. One more person was killed by a Russian shell in the village of Komushuvakha.

Serhiy Haidai, the governor of the Luhansk region, wrote in a Telegram post that “the residents of Sievierodonetsk have forgotten when was the last time there was silence in the city for at least half an hour." 

He said that “the Russians are pounding residential neighbourhoods relentlessly.”

Separatist leader: Thousands of Ukrainian prisoners held in breakaway region

A pro-Russian separatist leader in East Ukraine said that more than 5,000 Ukrainian prisoners were being held in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, TASS reported.

Reuters was not immediately able to verify the report. 

Zelenskyy: Ukraine needs to face reality and talk to Putin

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy 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 conflict.

"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," Zelenskyy said in an address to an Indonesian think-tank.

"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," he said, adding that Russia did not appear to be ready yet for serious peace talks.

UK: Putin making slow but palpable progress in Donbass

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that Russian President Vladimir Putin was making slow but palpable progress in the Donbass region of Ukraine.

"I'm afraid that Putin, at great cost to himself and to the Russian military, is continuing to chew through ground in Donbass," he told Bloomberg TV.

"He's continuing to make gradual, slow, but I'm afraid palpable, progress and therefore it is absolutely vital that we continue to support the Ukrainians militarily."

Ukraine: Russia commits all its forces to take Luhansk

Russia has made an all-out effort to capture the rest of the industrial region of Luhansk in eastern Ukraine, officials said. Luhansk is part of Donbass, the industrial basin comprising that region and Donetsk.

Russian forces are now closing in on several urban centres, including the strategically located Severodonetsk and Lysychansk. "The situation remains difficult, because the Russian army has thrown all its forces at taking the Luhansk region," regional governor Sergiy Gaiday said in a video.

Gaiday said three people died in recent Russian attacks on Severodonetsk and Lysychansk. Russian forces also bombarded Ukraine's second largest city Kharkiv, killing nine people, and five civilians were killed on Thursday in the Donetsk region to the south, according to the governor. 

Extremely fierce fighting is taking place on the outskirts of Severodonetsk. They are simply destroying the city, they are shelling it every day, shelling without pause

Regional governor Sergiy Gaiday

Moscow 'failed to achieve goal so far' in eastern Ukraine

Russian troops are attempting to gain full control over Ukraine’s Luhansk and Donetsk regions, but their efforts have been unsuccessful so far, the Ukrainian General Staff has said.

"Meanwhile, the enemy is still planning to force a crossing over the Siverskyi Donets (River),” Oleksii Hromov, deputy chief of the Main Operational Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, told reporters.

He went on to say that Russian forces continue to launch offensive operations in eastern Ukraine and strikes deep into the defence lines of Ukrainian forces.

"Despite the prevailing number of personnel, ammunition and military equipment, the enemy has failed to achieve their goal so far," he added.

Fiji dismisses plea to stop US seizing Russian superyacht

A Fiji court has dismissed an appeal to stop US authorities from seizing the Russian superyacht Amadea.

The $300 million yacht, linked by the United States to billionaire oligarch and politician Suleiman Kerimov — who is the target of sanctions, was impounded on arrival in Fiji a month ago at Washington's request.

The yacht's registered owners, Millemarin Investments, denied Kerimov was the owner and argued that the Fijian law under which the 106-metre Amadea was detained did not allow for the United States to take it away. But the Court of Appeal said it dismissed the appeal.

Mayor: Some 1,500 killed in Sievierodonetsk

The Ukrainian city of Sievierodonetsk is the centre of fierce fighting in the east. Mayor Oleksandr Stryuk says it’s holding out even though a Russian reconnaissance and sabotage group went into a city hotel.

Stryuk said at least 1,500 people have been killed in Sievierodonetsk and about 12,000-13,000 remain in the city, where he said 60 percent of residential buildings have been destroyed. 

There was no immediate response from Russia, which denies targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure.

Sievierodonetsk is the only part of the Luhansk region in the Donbass under Ukrainian government control. Stryuk said the main road between the neighbouring town of Lysychansk and Bakhmut to the southwest remains open, but travel is dangerous.

Zelenskyy says Russia carrying out 'genocide' in Ukraine's Donbass

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has accused Russia of carrying out "an obvious policy of genocide" in his country's eastern Donbass region.

Moscow's offensive in Donbass could end up leaving the region "uninhabited," he said, accusing the Russians of wanting to reduce its cities to ashes.

"All this, including the deportation of our people and the mass killings of civilians, is an obvious policy of genocide pursued by Russia," he said in his daily televised address.

For live updates from Thursdau (May 26), click here

Source: TRTWorld and agencies