EU bans Russian oil; Zelenskyy calls the state of affairs in Donbass “extraordinarily troublesome”

  • Zelenskyy says situation remains ‘extremely difficult’
  • Russian forces are entering the outskirts of Sieverodonetsk, the governor
  • “Terrible smell of death” in the air
  • Biden says no to missiles that can reach Russia

Kyiv/LVIV, May 30 (Reuters) – EU leaders on Monday agreed to ban Russian oil exports to the 27-nation bloc, said EU Council President Charles Michel, as Ukrainian and Russian Forces fought on the outskirts of Sievierodonetsk, the last city still held by Kyiv in Ukraine’s strategic Luhansk province.

Michel said on Twitter the ban would immediately cover more than two-thirds of oil imports from Russia, “cutting a huge source of funding for its war machine.” Continue reading

EU leaders also agreed to disconnect Russia’s largest bank Sberbank from the SWIFT system and ban three other Russian state broadcasters at their meeting in Brussels, Michel added.

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Shortly before the announcement, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the situation in the Donbass region remained “extremely difficult” where Russia has focused its military efforts after failing to capture the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv in March.

Zelenskyy had called the EU too lenient towards Moscow when it seemed that leaders would not reach an agreement on the oil ban. Continue reading

Earlier in Washington, President Joe Biden said the United States would not send Ukraine missile systems capable of reaching Russia, a decision that Russian Security Council Deputy Chairman Dmitry Medvedev called “rational.” Continue reading

Russia has attempted to seize the entire Donbass region, consisting of Luhansk and Donetsk, another province Moscow is claiming on behalf of separatist proxies.

The capture of Sievierodonetsk and its twin city of Lysychansk on the opposite bank of the Siverskyi Donets River would give Moscow effective control over Luhansk and allow the Kremlin to declare some form of victory after more than three months of death and destruction in Ukraine.

But by focusing on a battle for the single small town, Russia may leave other areas open to Ukrainian counterattacks.

In his late-night address, Zelenskyy said the situation in Donbass was “extremely difficult” and the Russian army was “trying to gather a superior force to put more and more pressure on our defenders.”

“The Russian army has now accumulated the maximum combat capability there,” he said of the entire Donbass.

Kyiv said its forces in recent days have pushed back Russian troops into defensive positions in Andriyivka, Lozove and Bilohorka, villages on the south bank of the Inhulets River, which forms the border with Kherson province, where Moscow is trying to tighten control.

RUSSIAN BELLS

Zelenskyi said Russian forces fired again on Monday at the city of Kharkiv and the border region of Sumy, which was hit from Russia.

A police officer checks an area during an evacuation of local residents between shelling, amid the Russian attack on Ukraine, in the village of Novomykhailivka in Donetsk region, Ukraine, May 29, 2022. Picture taken May 29, 2022. REUTERS/Anna Kudriavtseva

Continue reading

Russian shelling has reduced much of Sievierodonetsk to rubble, but Ukrainian defenses have slowed the broader Russian campaign in the Donbass region. Continue reading

Lugansk Governor Serhiy Gaidai said Russian troops had advanced into the southeastern and northeastern edges of Sievierodonetsk, but Ukrainian forces had driven them south from the village of Toshkivka, which could thwart a push to encircle the area. Continue reading

“They use the same tactics over and over again. They shell for several hours – three, four, five hours straight – and then they attack,” he said. “Those who attack die. Then comes more shelling and attack and so on until they break through somewhere.”

With rising temperatures, there was a “terrible smell of death” in the outskirts of Sieverodonetsk, Gaidai said.

A French journalist, Frederic Leclerc-Imhoff of TV channel BFM, was killed near Sievierodonetsk on Monday when shells hit the vehicle he was traveling in during an evacuation of civilians. French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna, who was visiting Ukraine, called for an investigation. Continue reading

The Kremlin said Russian President Vladimir Putin said in talks with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan that Russia is ready to allow unhindered grain exports from Ukrainian ports in coordination with Turkey.

Western leaders have chastised Russia for blocking Ukrainian ports and driving up prices for grain and other commodities. The United Nations has said a global food crisis is deepening and has attempted to negotiate a deal to unblock Ukraine’s grain exports. Continue reading

“Emphasis has been placed on ensuring safe navigation in the Black and Azov Seas and eliminating mine threats in their waters,” the Kremlin said of Putin’s call to Erdogan.

Putin said if sanctions were lifted, Russia could export significant amounts of fertilizers and agricultural products.

Zelenskyi also spoke to Erdogan and said they discussed food security and defense cooperation, “and of course how to speed up the end of this war”.

HUNGARY BLOCKS EU OIL EMBARGO

Efforts to agree an EU oil embargo have been blocked by Hungary’s refusal to agree to a ban on Russian imports it receives through the huge Soviet-era “Friendship” pipeline that runs through Ukraine.

Zelenskyj had questioned the EU’s lack of determination.

“Why are you dependent on Russia… Why can Russia still make almost a billion euros a day selling energy?” he said in an address to EU leaders.

In the Netherlands, GasTerra, which buys and trades gas on behalf of the Dutch government, said it will stop buying gas from Russia’s Gazprom as of Tuesday.

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Reporting by Reuters bureaus; writing by Peter Graff, Angus MacSwan and David Brunnstrom; Edited by Kevin Liffey, Nick Macfie, Leslie Adler, Chris Sanders and David Gregorio

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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