The latest on the Russia–Ukraine crisis, May 28. Click here for updates from May 27.
Ukraine’s Former President Blocked From Leaving the Country
Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko was prevented from leaving Ukraine to take part in a meeting of a NATO body in Lithuania, his party’s parliamentary faction said on Saturday.
Poroshenko was stopped twice at a border crossing with Poland while he was on his way to the meeting of NATO’s Parliamentary Assembly, a consultative interparliamentary organisation, the statement said.
Ukrainian media reported Poroshenko could not cross the border due to “technical problems” with a permit allowing him to leave the country.
“Poroshenko had received all the formal permissions to leave the country and had been included … in the official delegation of the Parliament of Ukraine for this event,” his European Solidarity parliamentary faction said.
Poroshenko was to have a number of high-level meetings in Vilnius, including with the President of Lithuania Gitanas Nauseda. He was also scheduled to participate in a meeting of the European People’s Party in Rotterdam, it said.
In January, Poroshenko won a court ruling allowing him to remain at liberty while being investigated for treason in a probe he says was a politically motivated attack linked to allies of his successor, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Poroshenko is being investigated in connection with the financing of Russian-backed separatists in the east of the country through illegal coal sales in 2014–15.
Putin Says He’s Willing to Discuss Resuming Ukrainian Grain Shipments
Russian President Vladimir Putin told the leaders of France and Germany in a phone call on Saturday that Russia was willing to discuss ways to make it possible for Ukraine to resume shipments of grain from Black Sea ports, the Kremlin said.
Russia and Ukraine account for nearly a third of global wheat supplies, while Russia is also a key global fertilizer exporter and Ukraine is a major exporter of corn and sunflower oil.
“For its part, Russia is ready to help find options for the unhindered export of grain, including the export of Ukrainian grain from Black Sea ports,” the Kremlin said.
It said he also informed French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz that Russia was ready to increase its export of fertilizers and agricultural products if sanctions against it were lifted—a demand he has raised in conversations with the Italian and Austrian leaders in recent days.
Ukraine and Western countries have accused Russia of weaponizing the food crisis created by its invasion of Ukraine, which has sent the prices of grains, cooking oils, fuel, and fertilizer soaring.
Russia has blamed the situation on Western sanctions against it, and on the mining of Ukrainian ports.
The Kremlin said Putin also said Russia was willing to resume talks with Ukraine.
“Special attention was paid to the status of the negotiations that are frozen because of Kyiv. President Vladimir Putin confirmed the Russian side’s openness to resume dialogue,” it said.
US Buys More Stingers After Missiles’ Success in Ukraine
The U.S. Army said on Friday it has awarded a contract worth $625 million to Raytheon Technologies Corp for anti-aircraft Stinger missiles in order to replenish stocks sent to Ukraine.
U.S. troops have limited use for the current supply of Stingers—a lightweight, self-contained weapon that can be deployed quickly to defend against helicopters, airplanes, drones, and even cruise missiles—but the United States needs to maintain its supply while it develops the next generation of a “man-portable air defense system.”
Since February, the United States has shipped about 1,400 Stingers to Ukraine. U.S. allies also want to restock the weapons they shipped to Ukraine in recent months.
The president of Raytheon Missiles & Defense, Wes Kremer, said the order will help “fulfill our current foreign military sale order, while replenishing Stingers provided to Ukraine and accelerating production.”
On May 6, the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer, Bill LaPlante, said he had aimed to sign a contract by the end of May and that the intent was to replace the Stinger missiles sent to Ukraine one-for-one.
The Pentagon and Raytheon did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The Stinger production line was closed in December 2020, the Pentagon has said. In July 2021, Raytheon won a contract to manufacture more Stingers, but mainly for international governments, according to the U.S. Army.
Raytheon Chief Executive Greg Hayes told analysts during an April 26 conference call that the U.S. Department of Defense has not purchased a Stinger in 18 years.
G-7 Working to Resume Grain Exports From Ukraine, UK’s Johnson Tells Zelenskyy
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Saturday that international partners were working intensively to find ways to resume the export of grain from Ukraine to avert a global food crisis.
Johnson, who has spoken regularly to Zelenskyy since the beginning of the invasion, said the two leaders also discussed the importance of the international community remaining united over the war.
“He said that the UK would work with G-7 partners to push for urgent progress,” a British readout of the call said, on the export of grain. “The leaders agreed next steps and the imperative for Russia to relax its blockade and allow safe shipping lanes.
Ship to Take Metal From Mariupol to Russia; Kyiv Decries Looting
A ship has entered the Ukrainian port of Mariupol for the first time since Russia completed its capture of the city to load metal and ship it east to Russia, TASS news agency reported on Saturday, in a move that Kyiv decried as looting.
A spokesperson for the port told TASS that the vessel would be loading 2,700 tonnes of metal before traveling 160 kilometers (100 miles) east to the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don on Monday.
The spokesperson did not say where the metal being shipped had been produced.
Ukraine’s Human Rights Ombudsman Lyudmyla Denisova said the shipment amounted to looting by Russia.
“Looting in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine continues,” she wrote on the Telegram messaging app.
Ukraine’s largest steelmaker Metinvest on Friday said it was concerned that Russia may use several ships stranded in Mariupol to “steal and smuggle metallurgical products” belonging to the group. It accused Russia of piracy.
Russian Forces Blast Ukraine’s Sievierodonetsk After Claiming Capture of Railway Junction Town
Russian forces were assaulting the Ukrainian city of Sievierodonetsk on Saturday after saying they had captured the nearby rail hub of Lyman as Moscow pressed its offensive in the eastern Donbass.
Russian gains in recent days indicate a shift in momentum in the war, now in its fourth month. The invading forces appear close to seizing all of the Luhansk region of Donbass, a main Kremlin war goal, despite Ukrainian resistance.
Russia’s defence ministry said on Saturday, its troops and allied separatist forces were now in full control of Lyman, site of a railway junction and lying west of the Siversky Donets River in the Donetsk region that neighbours Luhansk.
However, Hanna Malyar, Ukraine’s deputy defence minister, said the battle for Lyman continued, the ZN.ua website reported.
The Russian forces were likely to try to cross the river in coming days in the next phase of the Kremlin’s Donbass offensive, the British defence ministry said in its daily intelligence report on Saturday.
Sievierodonetsk, some 60 kilometers (40 miles) from Lyman on the eastern side of the river and the largest Donbass city still held by Ukraine, is now under heavy assault from the Russians.
“Sievierodonetsk is under constant enemy fire,” Ukraine’s police force said in a social media post on Saturday.
Russian artillery was also striking the Lysychansk-Bakhmut road, which Russia needs to take to close a pincer movement and encircle Ukrainian forces.
The governor of Luhansk, which along with Donetsk makes up the Donbass, said on Friday, Russian troops had already entered Sievierodonetsk. Ukrainian troops may have to retreat from the city to avoid capture, governor Serhiy Gaidai said.
The Russian forces have been making slow but steady advances in the Donbass—large parts of which were already controlled by Moscow-backed separatists before the war.
“If Russia did succeed in taking over these areas, it would highly likely be seen by the Kremlin as a substantive political achievement and be portrayed to the Russian people as justifying the invasion,” the British intelligence report said.
Ukraine Receives Harpoon Missiles and Howitzers, Says Defence Minister
Ukraine has started receiving Harpoon anti-ship missiles from Denmark and self-propelled howitzers from the United States, Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said on Saturday, saying the arms would bolster forces fighting Russia’s invasion.
“The coastal defense of our country will not only be strengthened by Harpoon missiles—they will be used by trained Ukrainian teams,” Reznikov wrote on his Facebook page.
He said Harpoon shore-to-ship missiles would be operated alongside Ukrainian Neptune missiles in the defense of the country’s coast including the southern port of Odesa.
Reznikov said the supplies of Harpoon missiles were the result of cooperation between several countries, saying the deliveries from Denmark took place “with the participation of our British friends.”
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Monday that Denmark would provide a harpoon launcher and missiles to Ukraine.
Reznikov said Ukraine had also received a range of heavy artillery pieces, including modified U.S.-made M109 self-propelled howitzers that will allow the Ukrainian military to strike targets from longer distances.
Ukraine has said it wants to secure deliveries of U.S.-made long-range M270 multiple-rocket launchers (MLRS) and use them in repelling Russian troops in the east of the country.
The Harpoon is an all-weather, over-the-horizon, anti-ship missile that uses active radar homing and flies just above the water to evade defenses. It can be launched from ships, submarines, aircraft, or coastal batteries.
Russia Says Eastern Ukraine Town of Lyman Is Under Its Full Control
Russia’s defense ministry said on Saturday that the eastern Ukrainian town of Lyman had fallen under the full control of Russian and Russian-backed forces in the region.
Pro-Russian separatists from the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic said on Friday that they had fully captured the town, a railway hub west of Sievierodonetsk.
Ukraine said on Friday that Russia had captured most of Lyman but that its forces were blocking an advance to Sloviansk, a city 20 kilometers (12 miles) southwest.
Ukrainian and Russian forces have been fighting for Lyman for several days.
In a daily update, Russia said it had used missile strikes to destroy Ukrainian command posts in Bakhmut and Soledar. Both towns lie on a strategically important road running southwest from Lysychansk and Sievierodonetsk, where the main Russian offensive is now concentrated.
The ministry also said it had destroyed five command and observation posts, hit areas where Ukrainian soldiers and equipment were located, and destroyed four ammunition depots near the towns of Nyrkove, Bakhmut, and Myronivka.
Reuters could not independently confirm the Russian claims.
Ukraine Says Russian Advances Could Force Retreat in Part of East
Ukrainian forces may have to retreat from their last pocket in the Luhansk region to avoid being captured, a Ukrainian official said, as Russian troops press an advance in the east that has shifted the momentum of the three-month-old war.
A withdrawal could bring Russian President Vladimir Putin closer to his goal of capturing eastern Ukraine’s Luhansk and Donetsk regions in full. His troops have gained ground in the two areas collectively known as the Donbass while blasting some towns to wastelands.
Luhansk’s governor, Serhiy Gaidai, said Russian troops had entered Sievierodonetsk, the largest Donbass city still held by Ukraine, after trying to trap Ukrainian forces there for days, adding that Russian forces would not be able to capture the Luhansk region “as analysts have predicted.”
“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,” Gaidai said on Telegram.
Gaidai said 90 percent of buildings in Sievierodonetsk were damaged with 14 high-rises destroyed in the latest shelling.
Speaking to Ukrainian television, Gaidai said there were some 10,000 Russian troops based in the region and they were “attempting to make gains in any direction they can.”
Reuters could not independently verify the information.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Ukraine was protecting its land “as much as our current defense resources allow.” Ukraine’s military said it had repelled eight attacks in Donetsk and Luhansk on Friday, destroying tanks and armored vehicles.
“If the occupiers think that Lyman and Sievierodonetsk will be theirs, they are wrong. Donbas will be Ukrainian,” Zelenskyy claimed in an address.
“We are tired of being so scared,” he said.
On the diplomatic front, European Union officials said a deal might be reached by Sunday to ban deliveries of Russian oil by sea, accounting for about 75 percent of the bloc’s supply, but not by pipeline, a compromise to win over Hungary and clear the way for new sanctions.
Russia Shows Off Zircon Hypersonic Cruise Missile in Test-launch at Sea
Russia successfully test-fired a hypersonic Zircon cruise missile over a distance of about 1,000 kilometers (625 miles), the defense ministry said on Saturday.
The missile was fired from the Barents Sea and hit a target in the White Sea, it said. Video released by the ministry showed the missile being fired from a ship and blazing into the sky on a steep trajectory.
President Vladimir Putin has described the Zircon as part of a new generation of unrivaled arms systems. Hypersonic weapons can travel at nine times the speed of sound, and Russia has conducted previous test launches of the Zircon from warships and submarines in the past year.
Last month Russia test launched a new nuclear-capable intercontinental missile, the Sarmat, capable of carrying 10 or more warheads and striking the United States.
Ukrainian Negotiator Says Any Agreement With Russia ‘Isn’t Worth a Broken Penny’
Ukrainian presidential adviser and peace talks negotiator Mykhailo Podolyak said on Saturday that any agreement with Russia cannot be trusted, and Moscow can only be stopped in its invasion by force.
“Any agreement with Russia isn’t worth a broken penny, Podolyak wrote on the Telegram messaging app. “Is it possible to negotiate with a country that always lies cynically and propagandistically?”
Russia and Ukraine have blamed each other after peace talks stalled, with the last known face-to-face negotiations on March 29. The Kremlin said earlier this month Ukraine was showing no willingness to continue peace talks, while officials in Kyiv blamed Russia for the lack of progress.
On Monday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that President Vladimir Putin was the only Russian official he was willing to meet with to discuss how to end the war.
Some 10,000 Russian Troops in Ukraine’s Luhansk Region: Governor
The governor of Ukraine’s Luhansk region, Serhiy Gaidai, said early on Saturday that there are some 10,000 Russian troops in the eastern region.
“These are the (units) that are permanently in Luhansk region, that are trying to assault, and are attempting to make gains in any direction they can,” Gaidai said on Ukrainian television.
Reuters could not independently verify the report.
Ukraine’s Leader Remains Defiant on Victory Over Russia
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelesnkyy spoke defiantly Friday in two speeches about his country’s ultimate victory over Russian forces in both the most pressing battle in eastern Ukraine and the war generally.
“Ukraine is a country that has destroyed the myth about the extraordinary power of the Russian army—an army that supposedly, in a few days, could conquer anyone it wants,” he told Stanford University students by video. “Now Russia is trying to occupy the entire state but we feel strong enough to think about the future of Ukraine, which will be open to the world.”
Later, in his nightly video address, Zelenskyy reacted to the Russians’ capture of the eastern city of Lyman, the Donetsk region’s large railway hub north of two more key cities still under Ukrainian control, and its attempt to encircle and seize the city of Sievierodonetsk, one of the last areas under Ukrainian control in Luhansk.
“If the occupiers think that Lyman or Sievierodonetsk will be theirs, they are wrong,” the Ukrainian president said in his nightly video address. “Donbass will be Ukrainian.”
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.