Russia–Ukraine War (May 27): Chechen Leader: Poland is Next After Ukraine

The latest on the Russia–Ukraine crisis, May 27. Click here for updates from May 26.

Chechen Leader: Poland is Next After Ukraine

The Kremlin-backed leader of Russia’s southern province of Chechnya has posted a video in which he warns that Poland could be next after Ukraine.

Ramzan Kadyrov, who is famous for his bluster, said in the video he posted to his official Telegram page that Ukraine was “a done deal” and that “if an order is given after Ukraine, we’ll show you (Poland) what you’re made of in six seconds.”

Poland, which borders Ukraine, has provided its neighbor with weapons and other aid since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. It has also welcomed millions of Ukrainian refugees.

Kadyrov later urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to “finally come to his senses and accept the conditions offered by our president [Vladimir Putin].”

Kadyrov has repeatedly used social media to boast about Chechen fighters’ alleged performance against Ukrainian troops and to make other unconfirmed statements about the war in Ukraine.

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Putin Says He Is Ready to Deliver Gas, Discuss Prisoner Swap: Austria

Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer said Russian President Vladimir Putin told him on Friday that Moscow would meet its natural gas delivery commitments to Austria and was ready to discuss a prisoner swap with Ukraine.

Nehammer made the comments to reporters after the two leaders held a 45-minute telephone call that Nehammer described as a chance to confront Putin with the realities of the war in Ukraine and discuss prospects for humanitarian solutions.

Asked what Putin had told him about gas deliveries, the Austrian conservative said: “He also raised the subject (and said) that all deliveries would be completed in full.”

In a separate statement, the Kremlin said Russia had reaffirmed its commitment to supply natural gas to Austria, which gets 80 percent of its gas from Russia.

Nehammer, who visited Russia last month for talks with Putin, said the Russian leader had expressed readiness to discuss a prisoner swap with Ukraine.

“Whether he is really ready to negotiate is a complex question,” he added.

Nehammer said Putin had repeatedly defended Moscow’s actions and blamed Western sanctions for economic disruptions that ensued. He said he thought Putin was creating facts on the group to take into negotiations.

Putin was “entirely aware” of the issue of food security, Nehammer said of the conversation, adding Putin “gave signals” that he was ready to allow exports over seaports but had linked progress to the lifting of Western sanctions.

The Kremlin statement said Putin had discussed work to ensure the safety of navigation in the Azov and Black Seas, saying Ukraine should clear ports of mines to allow the free passage of blocked ships.

The United States and others accuse Russia of blockading Ukraine’s ports.

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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, on Friday said it was possible that Kyiv’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.

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Russia Will Need Huge Financial Resources for Military Operation in Ukraine, Minister Says

Russia will need huge financial resources to fund its military operation in Ukraine, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said on Friday, May 27.

Siluanov said Russia had earmarked an 8 trillion ruble ($123 billion) fiscal stimulus package to support the economy under the current circumstances.

“[These are] huge amounts of money: we need these resources to support the economy, support our citizens,” Siluanov told a university audience.

The minister also added that Russia would continue paying its external debt in rubles—Russia’s national currency.

($1 = 64.8100 rubles)

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UK Leader: Russian Forces Making Progress

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says Russian forces are making “palpable progress” in eastern Ukraine, and Kyiv’s forces need long-range rocket launchers and other military support.

Britain’s defense ministry said Friday that Moscow’s troops have recently captured several villages as they attempt to surround Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk in the eastern Donbass region, but do not yet have full control of the region.

Johnson told news agency Bloomberg that Russian President Vladimir Putin “at great cost to himself and Russian military is continuing to chew through ground in Donbass, he’s continuing to make gradual, slow but I’m afraid palpable progress.”

He said that “therefore it is absolutely vital that we continue to support the Ukrainians militarily.”

Johnson said long-range multiple-launch rocket systems, or MLRSs, “would enable them to defend themselves against this very brutal Russian artillery.”

Britain possesses some of the systems, but Johnson did not say whether the U.K. would send any to Ukraine.

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UK’s Truss: Completely Legitimate to Support Ukraine With Tanks and Planes

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said on Friday it was legitimate for allies to send tanks and planes to Ukraine.

“We are very clear it is completely legitimate to be supporting Ukraine with tanks, with planes and we’re very supportive of the work that the Czech Republic has done sending tanks to Ukraine,” she told a news conference.

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Ukraine Needs to Face Reality and Talk to Putin: Zelenskyy

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Friday 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.

“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.

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Ukrainian City of Sievierodonetsk 2/3 Surrounded by Russian Forces: Governor

Ukrainian forces are engaged in a “fierce defence” of the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk, which is two-thirds surrounded by Russian forces, the Luhansk region’s governor Serhiy Gaidai said on Friday, citing the head of the city’s administration.

Shelling, which is “very strong,” has damaged 90 percent of the housing in the city, Gaidai added, also citing Sievierodonetsk Mayor Oleksandr Stryuk.

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UN Says More Than 4,000 Civilians Killed in Ukraine So Far

More than 4,000 civilians have been killed in Ukraine since Russia’s invasion began on Feb. 24, although the true number is likely much higher, the U.N. rights office (OHCHR) said in a statement on Friday.

In total, 4,031 people have been killed, including nearly 200 children, according to OHCHR, which has dozens of monitors in the country. Most were killed by explosive weapons with a wide impact such as shelling from heavy artillery or airstrikes.

It did not attribute blame for the deaths. Russia has denied targeting civilians in the conflict.

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Russian Proxies Claim Control of Key Town in East Ukraine

Russia’s separatist proxies in eastern Ukraine claimed full control of the important battlefield town of Lyman on Friday, and Ukraine appeared to concede it, as Moscow presses its biggest advance for weeks.

Lyman, the site of a key railway hub, has been a major front line as Russian forces press down from the north, one of three directions from which they have been attacking Ukraine’s industrial Donbass region. The pro-Russian Donetsk People’s Republic separatists said they were now in full control of it.

Oleksiy Arestovych, adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, appeared to confirm the fall of Lyman in an interview overnight, and said the battle there showed that Moscow was improving its tactics.

“According to unverified data, we lost the town of Lyman. The Russian army—this must be verified—captured it,” Arestovych said in a video posted on social media.

“Moreover, the way they captured it … correctly organising the operation. This shows, in principle, the increased level of operational management and tactical skills of the Russian army. It has grown. It has not grown everywhere of course, but it has unquestionably grown.”

Further east, Russian forces have been trying to encircle Ukrainian troops in the cities of Sievierodonetsk and Lyshchansk, after breaking through Ukrainian lines further south in the city of Popasna last week.

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WHO Condemns Russian Aggression That Resulted in Ukrainian Health Crisis

The World Health Organization passed a resolution Thursday addressing the Ukrainian health crisis that began with Russian aggression, while rejecting a similar counter-proposal from Russia that failed to mention the country’s role in the war.

The “Health emergency in Ukraine and refugee receiving and hosting countries, stemming from the Russian Federation’s aggression” draft proposal was passed with 88 yes votes, 12 nos, and 53 abstentions during the organization’s 75th World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland.

The original proposal (pdf) published on May 23, brought by the United States and 46 other nations, including the UK, Australia, Germany, France, Japan, and Turkey, condemned the Russian military incursion which began on Feb. 24, and requested WHO to “consider temporarily suspending all regional meetings” in the country until a peaceful resolution has been reached and Russia withdraws its forces from Ukraine.

Read the full article here 

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US Wins Latest Legal Battle to Seize Russian Yacht in Fiji

The United States has won the latest round of a legal battle to seize a $325-million Russian-owned superyacht in Fiji, with the case now appearing headed for the Pacific nation’s top court.

The case has highlighted the thorny legal ground the United States finds itself on as it tries to seize assets of Russian oligarchs around the world. Those intentions are welcomed by many governments and citizens who oppose the war in Ukraine, but some actions are raising questions about how far U.S. jurisdiction extends.

Fiji’s Court of Appeal on Friday dismissed an appeal by Feizal Haniff, who represents the company that legally owns the superyacht Amadea. Haniff had argued the United States had no jurisdiction under Fiji’s mutual assistance laws to seize the vessel, at least until a court sorted out who really owned the Amadea.

Haniff said he now plans to take the case to Fiji’s Supreme Court and will apply for a court order to stop U.S. agents sailing the Amadea from Fiji before the appeal is heard.

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Turkey Keeps Up Pressure on Sweden, Finland

Turkey’s foreign minister says Sweden and Finland must now take “concrete steps” to alleviate his country’s security concerns to overcome Ankara’s objections to their NATO membership bid.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Friday that delegations from the two Nordic countries have returned home with Turkey’s demands after a visit this week and Ankara is awaiting their answers.

The countries’ membership bids require support from all NATO countries, but Turkey is objecting to them. It has cited alleged support for Kurdish militants that Turkey considers terrorists and restrictions on weapons sales to Turkey.

Cavusoglu said that “an approach of ‘we’ll convince Turkey in time anyway, we are friends and allies’ would not be correct.” He insisted that “these countries need to take concrete steps.”

He added that “we understand Finland and Sweden’s security concerns but … everyone also needs to understand Turkey’s legitimate security concerns.”

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Putin Assembles Eurasian Economic Union to Counter Western Sanctions

The Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) heads of state planned to meet on Friday after holding a forum on Thursday, a move considered an attempt by Russian President Vladimir Putin to rally support in the wake of Western sanctions stemming from its invasion of Ukraine.

The Moscow-led bloc—which includes Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan—is expected to discuss their “economic cooperation with external partners” during the summit, which Kyrgyzstan will host.

Mikhail Myasnikovich, Chairman of the Board of the Eurasian Economic Commission, said last week that the leaders planned to meet in person in Kyrgyzstan, but they later opted to meet by video conference, Belarusian news agency Belta reported.

Read the full article here

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Russia Expels Five Croatian Diplomats in Retaliatory Move

Russia’s foreign ministry said on Friday 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.

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Lukashenko Orders New Military Command for South of Belarus, Bordering Ukraine

Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko on Thursday ordered the creation of a new military command for the south of country, bordering Ukraine.

“A new front has opened and we can’t fail to pay attention to it,” Lukashenko, wearing military uniform, told a televised meeting of defence officials.

He said the new command had been proposed last year but needed to be set up immediately.

“Even before creating it, we are obliged today—quickly, on the run, to work out the defence of our southern borders,” Lukashenko said.

Any build-up of Belarusian forces near the border will further stretch Ukraine’s military as it defends against Russian attacks focused on the Donbass region hundreds of miles (km) to the east.

Belarus said earlier this month it planned to deploy special operations troops in three areas near the border with Ukraine, as Lukashenko talked up the role of Russian-made missiles in boosting the country’s defences.

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Ukrainian Minister Pleads for Heavy Weapons

Ukraine’s foreign minister is pleading with Western nations to provide Kyiv with heavy weapons to enable it to push Russian forces back.

Dmytro Kuleba on Thursday night posted a video of himself answering questions submitted on Twitter and said: “We need heavy weapons. The only position where Russia is better than us [is] 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.”

He added: “I would even say it’s even worse than people say. We need weapons. If you really care for Ukraine, weapons, weapons and weapons again,” the minister stressed.

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US General: No Need to Add Ground Forces in Sweden, Finland

The U.S. general nominated to take over European Command has told senators that Sweden and Finland’s push to join NATO won’t require adding more U.S. ground forces into either country. But Army Gen. Christopher Cavoli said Thursday that military exercises and occasional American troop rotations will probably increase.

Cavoli, who currently serves as head of U.S. Army Europe and Africa, said the increased military focus will probably continue to be on eastern Europe—where nations are more worried about potential Russian aggression and any spillover of the war on Ukraine.

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

Cavoli was asked about the U.S. troop presence in Europe, which has grown from fewer than 80,000 to about 102,000 since the buildup to Russia’s invasion. He said the increase had no ties to the more recent move by Finland and Sweden to seek NATO membership.

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Mayor: Some 1,500 Killed in Sievierodonetsk

The Ukrainian city of Sievierodonetsk is the center 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 to 13,000 remain in the city, where he said 60 percent of residential buildings have been destroyed.

Sievierodonetsk is the only part of the Luhansk region in the Donbass under Ukrainian government control, and Russian forces have been trying to cut it off from the rest of Ukrainian-controlled territory.

Stryuk said the main road between the neighboring town of Lysychansk and Bakhmut to the southwest remains open, but travel is dangerous.

He said only 12 people were able to be evacuated Thursday.

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Putin: Russia Is Ready to Help Solve Food Crisis If West Lifts Sanctions

Russian President Vladimir Putin told Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi by phone on Thursday that Russia was ready to help ease the international food crisis, but only if the West lifts sanctions, the Kremlin said.

“Vladimir Putin emphasized that the Russian Federation is ready to make a significant contribution to overcoming the food crisis through the export of grain and fertilizers, provided that politically motivated restrictions from the West are lifted,” it said in a statement.

Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian ports has prevented it from shipping out grain, of which both countries are major exporters. Russia accuses Ukraine of mining the ports.

The conflict is fuelling a global food crisis by sending prices for grains, cooking oils, fuel, and fertilizer soaring.

Separately, Russia’s defense ministry said civilian vessels may now safely use the Azov Sea port of Mariupol in Ukraine, where its forces took full control last week after Ukrainian fighters surrendered at the besieged Azovstal steelworks.

It said the danger from mines around Mariupol port had now been eliminated.

The ministry said six foreign dry cargo vessels in the port were now free to leave. It said they were from Bulgaria, Dominica, Liberia, Panama, Turkey, and Jamaica, and urged those governments to get the owners of the vessels to remove them.

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Russian Strikes Kill at Least 7 in Ukraine’s Kharkiv: Governor

Russian strikes killed at least seven civilians and wounded 17 in the city of Kharkiv in northeastern Ukraine on Thursday, local authorities said.

“It’s too early to relax,” Kharkiv region Governor Oleh Synehubov said, reporting heavy fighting to the north and northeast of the city. “The enemy is again insidiously hitting the civilian population, terrorizing them.”

Russia didn’t immediately comment on the situation in Kharkiv. It has denied targeting civilians in the “special military operation” launched on Feb. 24.

When Kharkiv resumed its metro service on Tuesday, it asked the hundreds of people who had used the underground as a bomb shelter to free up the train carriages, but many said they were still too scared to return home.

Aldgra Fredly, Naveen Athrappully, The Associated Press, and Reuters contributed to this report.