Russians and Ukrainians fight on Sievierodonetsk outskirts, EU haggles over oil ban
- Russian forces enter outskirts of Sievierodonetsk – governor
- “A terrible smell of death” in the air
- EU leaders struggle to reach agreement on oil ban
KYIV, May 30 (Reuters) – Ukrainian and Russian forces clashed on Monday on the outskirts of Sievierodonetsk, the last city still held by Kyiv in Ukraine’s Lugansk province and the center of Moscow’s offensive in eastern country.
Russian shelling reduced much of the city to rubble, but the Ukrainian defense slowed the wider Russian campaign in the Donbass region. Read more
Luhansk region governor Serhiy Gaidai said Russian troops had advanced to the southeastern and northeastern fringes of Sievierodonetsk.
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“They use the same tactic over and over again. They bomb for several hours – for three, four, five hours – in a row, and then attack,” Gaidai said. “Those who attack die. Then the bombardments and the attacks follow one another, and so on until they break through somewhere.”
He said that with the rising temperatures there was a “terrible smell of death” in the outskirts of the city.
But Ukrainian forces chased the Russians from the southern village of Toshkivka, he said, potentially frustrating Moscow’s efforts to encircle the area. Read more
As the fight on the battlefield wore on, EU countries meeting in Brussels to discuss new sanctions on Moscow failed to agree on a ban on Russian oil imports, despite last-minute haggling. minute before a peak.
The EU has rolled out five sanctions packages against Russia since its troops invaded Ukraine on February 24, but a deal on oil sanctions has proven elusive as many countries depend on Russian crude.
“There is no compromise at the moment,” said Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, whose country has been the main opponent of a deal.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, has said Moscow is ready to facilitate grain exports from Ukrainian ports – a possibility that could ease a food crisis as war and the West’s attempt to isolate Russia have skyrockets the price of grain and other commodities.
After failing to capture the capital Kyiv in March, Russia has said the aim of what it calls its “special military operation” is now to seize the entire Donbass region, made up of two provinces, Luhansk and Donetsk, which Moscow claims on behalf of separatist proxies. .
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Sunday that the “liberation” of Donbass was an “unconditional priority”. Read more
Capturing Sievierodonetsk and its sister city Lysychansk on the opposite bank of the Siverskyi Donets River would give Russia effective control of Luhansk and allow the Kremlin to declare some form of victory after more than three months of death and destruction.
But by concentrating its efforts on a battle for the small town alone, Russia could leave another territory open to possible Ukrainian counterattacks.
The past few days have seen the first signs of a potential Ukrainian counteroffensive in the south, where Moscow is trying to consolidate its control of Kherson province.
Kyiv says its forces have pushed Russian troops back in recent days to defensive positions in three villages – Andriyivka, Lozove and Bilohorka – all on the south bank of the Inhulets River which forms the Kherson border.
A French journalist, Frédéric Leclerc-Imhoff of the BFM television channel, was killed on Monday near Sievierodonetsk when a shell hit the vehicle he was traveling in during an evacuation of civilians. French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna, then visiting Ukraine, called for an investigation.
PAY WITH THEIR LIFE
As EU leaders tried to hammer out a deal in Brussels, Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins told them they were forgetting about the bigger picture.
“It’s just money. Ukrainians are paying with their lives,” he said. “We can and should support them, if only out of self-interest, because only when Russia is defeated can we in Europe feel safe.”
The failure to reach an agreement has infuriated the government in Kyiv and frustrated its biggest supporters within the EU. Ahead of the summit, German Economy Minister Robert Habeck expressed fears that EU unity was “starting to crumble”. Read more
A draft of the summit’s conclusions showed leaders would agree in principle to an oil embargo, but would postpone practical details and tough decisions until later.
According to the text seen by Reuters – which could still be changed – the leaders would ban Russian oil first by sea and at some point later by pipelines. The package has been blocked by landlocked Hungary’s refusal to agree to a ban on imports of Russian oil, which it receives via the huge Soviet-era “Friendship” pipeline that runs through Ukraine.
There is broad agreement on the rest of the package, including removing Russia’s largest bank, Sberbank (SBMX.MM), from the SWIFT messaging system, banning Russian broadcasters from the EU and adding people to a list whose assets are frozen.
Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said it was more realistic to expect an agreement on an oil embargo within weeks, hopefully at the next EU summit on June 23-24.
In the Netherlands, GasTerra, which buys and trades gas on behalf of the Dutch government, said it would no longer receive gas from Russia’s Gazprom from Tuesday after refusing to accede to ruble payment demands from Moscow.
Western leaders have accused Russia of holding the world hostage by blockading Ukrainian ports and the United Nations, which says a worsening global food crisis, is trying to broker a deal to unblock Ukraine’s grain exports . Read more
Putin, in talks with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, said Russia was ready to facilitate the unhindered export of grain from Ukrainian ports in coordination with Turkey, the Kremlin said.
“The focus was on ensuring safe navigation in the Black and Azov Seas and eliminating the threat of mines in their waters,” the Kremlin said of Putin’s call with Erdogan.
Putin also said that if the sanctions were lifted, Russia could export significant volumes of fertilizers and agricultural products.
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Reports from Reuters offices; Written by Peter Graff and Angus MacSwan, edited by Kevin Liffey and Nick Macfie
Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.