Russia-Ukraine war latest: Russian attack kills nine civilians in Kharkiv; Zelenskiy accuses Moscow of ‘genocide’ in Donbas – live

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A man helps his father in the basement of their building, where they are living, in Lysychansk, a city without electricity and water, in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas.

Here are some of the latest images to come out of Ukraine today.

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A man helps his father in the basement of their building, where they are living, in Lysychansk, a city without electricity and water, in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas. Photograph: Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images
Remains of a home’s decorations are seen at shelled Severnaya Saltyvka residential area in Kharkiv, Ukraine.
Remains of a home’s decorations are seen at shelled Severnaya Saltyvka residential area in Kharkiv, Ukraine. Photograph: Iván Alvarado/Reuters
Liudmyla Voronina opens a skylight window on the roof of her house roof as she stands inside her home that was damaged by attacks in Irpin, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine.
Liudmyla Voronina opens a skylight window on the roof of her house roof as she stands inside her home that was damaged by attacks in Irpin, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine. Photograph: Natacha Pisarenko/AP
A man on a bicycle takes pictures of damaged buildings ruined by attacks in Irpin, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine.
A man on a bicycle takes pictures of damaged buildings ruined by attacks in Irpin, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine. Photograph: Natacha Pisarenko/AP
Olga Chernenko, 51, holds her dog Casper, at the entrance of her home ruined by attacks in Irpin, on the outskirts Kyiv, Ukraine.
Olga Chernenko, 51, holds her dog Casper, at the entrance of her home ruined by attacks in Irpin, on the outskirts Kyiv, Ukraine. Photograph: Natacha Pisarenko/AP
A burned kitchen room is seen at shelled Severnaya Saltyvka residential area in Kharkiv, Ukraine.
A burned kitchen room is seen at shelled Severnaya Saltyvka residential area in Kharkiv, Ukraine. Photograph: Iván Alvarado/Reuters

No need to add US ground forces in Sweden or Finland, general says

Sweden and Finland’s push to join Nato won’t require adding more US ground forces into either country, the US general nominated to take over European Command told senators on Thursday.

Army general Christopher Cavoli noted that military exercises and occasional American troop rotations will probably increase and the increased military focus will probably continue to be on eastern Europe, according to a report from the Associated Press.

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

Cavoli was asked about the US troop presence in Europe, which has grown from fewer than 80,000 to about 102,000 since the build-up to Russia’s invasion.

He said the increase had no ties to the more recent move by Finland and Sweden to seek Nato membership.

US voices ‘concerns about escalation’ as west steps up long-range weaponry to Ukraine

Western countries led by the United States have provided Ukraine with long-range weaponry, including M777 howitzers from Washington and Harpoon anti-ship missiles from Denmark.

Washington is even considering providing Kyiv with a rocket system that can have a range of hundreds of kilometres, and has held discussions with Kyiv about the danger of escalation if it strikes deep inside Russia, US and diplomatic officials told Reuters.

We have concerns about escalation and yet still do not want to put geographic limits or tie their hands too much with the stuff we’re giving them,” one US official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Peter Beaumont

Peter Beaumont

Meanwhile, officials in Ukraine earlier admitted that Russia has the “upper hand” in fighting in the country’s east, as Ukrainian forces fell back from some of their positions in the Donbas region.

Amid reports that Lyman, the site of an important railway junction, had largely been taken by Russian forces, Ukraine’s general staff reported that Russian forces were also advancing on Sievierodonetsk, Bakhmut and Avdiivka.

The governor of Luhansk region, Serhiy Haidai, said just 5% of the region remained in Ukrainian hands – down from about 10% little more than a week ago – and that Ukrainian forces were retreating in some areas.

“It is clear that our boys are slowly retreating to more fortified positions – we need to hold back this horde,” Haidai said. Hinting at further withdrawals, he said it was possible that troops would leave “one settlement, maybe two. We need to win the war, not the battle.”

Separately, a senior Ukrainian military official conceded at a briefing on Thursday that Russia had the upper hand in fighting in Luhansk. “Russia has the advantage, but we are doing everything we can,” Gen Oleksiy Gromov said.

If confirmed, Russia’s continuing advances in Lyman, which has been contested for a month, would make it easier for Russian forces to isolate the key city of Sievierodonetsk, which has been under relentless shelling for days.

US to send long-range rocket systems to Ukraine – reports

The US is preparing to send advanced, long-range rocket systems to Ukraine after an urgent request from Ukrainian officials, multiple officials reportedly told CNN.

The Biden administration is leaning toward sending the systems as part of a larger package of military and security assistance to Ukraine, which could be announced as soon as next week, the outlet reported.

Senior Ukrainian officials, including President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba, have pleaded in recent weeks for the US and its allies to provide the Multiple Launch Rocket System, or MLRS.

The US-made weapon systems can fire a barrage of rockets hundreds of kilometres — much farther than any of the systems Ukraine already has — which the Ukrainians argue could be a game-changer in their war against Russia.

Earlier this week, Kuleba said Ukraine’s most urgent need is for multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) to counter Russian superiority in heavy weaponry.

Spoke with my German counterpart @ABaerbock and briefed her on the difficult situation in the Donbas. We need more heavy weapons delivered as soon as possible, especially MLRS, to repel Russian attacks. Also discussed further sanctions on Russia and Ukraine’s EU candidate status.

— Dmytro Kuleba (@DmytroKuleba) May 26, 2022

Zelenskiy also referred to the weapons as “the systems that are really needed to stop this aggression” in his latest address.

Russia has in recent weeks pummelled Ukraine in the east, where Ukraine is outmanned and outgunned, Ukrainian officials said.

Another system Ukraine has asked for is the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, known as HIMARS, a lighter wheeled system capable of firing many of the same types of ammunition as MLRS.

A Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) shoots during an artillery live fire event by the US Army Europe’s 41st Field Artillery Brigade at the military training area in Grafenwoehr, southern Germany in 2020.
A Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) shoots during an artillery live fire event by the US Army Europe’s 41st Field Artillery Brigade at the military training area in Grafenwoehr, southern Germany in 2020. Photograph: Christof Stache/AFP/Getty Images

Russian forces surround Severodonetsk and Lyschansk, UK MoD says

Russian ground forces are continuing their attempt to surround Severodonetsk and Lyschansk, having recently captured several villages north-west of Popasna, the UK ministry of defence has said in its latest report.

Russia is pressuring the Severodonetsk pocket although Ukraine retains control of multiple defended sectors, denying Russia full control of the Donbas.

Russia’s Southern Grouping of Forces (SGF) likely remains tasked with occupying southern Ukrainian territory. In recent days, Russia has likely moved 50-year-old T-62 tanks from deep storage into the SGF’s area of responsibility.

The T-62s will almost certainly be particularly vulnerable to anti-tank weapons and their presence on the battlefield highlights Russia’s shortage of modern, combat-ready equipment.”

Russian attack kills nine civilians in Kharkiv

Artillery has pounded the north eastern city of Kharkiv for the first time in two weeks, just as life in Ukraine’s second city was starting to return to normal after Russian troops were pushed back from its outlying towns and villages.

Kharkiv’s regional governor, Oleh Synehubov, said at least nine people had been killed and 17 injured in the attacks on the northern part of the city.

“There’s no logic to it, it’s just terror against the local population, to sow panic and to destroy critical infrastructure,” Synehubov told the Guardian.

“For two weeks it’s been relatively quiet … I think this is them saying hello, telling us they are still there, trying to create panic.”

Ukrainian president Zelenskiy noted the casualties in his latest national address:

Today, the occupiers shelled Kharkiv again. At the moment, the list of the dead includes nine people. 19 wounded. All civilians. A child (five months) and a father were killed. The mother is in grave condition. Among the wounded in Kharkiv is also a nine-year-old girl.”

Firefighters put out a blaze at a coffee kiosk which ignited as a result of shelling in Kharkiv on Thursday.
Firefighters put out a blaze at a coffee kiosk which ignited as a result of shelling in Kharkiv on Thursday. Photograph: Sergey Bobok/AFP/Getty Images
Residents provide medical care to a man wounded as a result of shelling in the city.
Residents provide medical care to a man wounded as a result of shelling in the city. Photograph: Sergiy Bobok/AFP/Getty Images

Russia pushed towards debt default

Russia may escape defaulting on its debt on Friday, but the tightening noose of western sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine is inexorably drawing the nation towards a default.

A $71m payment due Friday may have already been made before US authorities removed this week an exception that allowed Russia to pay its debts in dollars using currency it held outside US financial institutions, Agence France-Presse reports.

However, with other payments coming due, the world will likely soon have its first case of a country that unwillingly defaults because of international sanctions rather than not having the money to pay.

The White House said it expects minimal impact on the US and global economy.

“We expect the impact on the US and the global economy to be minimal, given Russia has already been isolated financially,” White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said in a press briefing on Thursday.

Zelenskiy accuses Moscow of carrying out ‘genocide’ in Donbas

Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy has accused Moscow of carrying out a “genocide” in the eastern region of Donbas, where the city of Sievierodonetsk is suffering an onslaught of Russian shelling.

Zelenskiy said Russia’s brutal assault on the Donbas could leave the entire region “uninhabited” during his latest national address.

The current offensive of the occupiers in Donbas can make the region uninhabited.

They want to burn Popasna, Bakhmut, Lyman, Lysychansk and Sievierodonetsk to ashes. Like Volnovakha, like Mariupol. In cities and communities closer to the Russian border, in Donetsk and Luhansk, they gather everyone they can to fill the place of those killed and wounded in the occupation contingent.

All this, including the deportation of our people and the mass killings of civilians, is an obvious policy of genocide pursued by Russia.

A young boy sits in front of a damaged building after a strike in Kramatorsk in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas.
A young boy sits in front of a damaged building after a strike in Kramatorsk in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas. Photograph: Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images

Summary and welcome

Hello. I’m Samantha Lock and welcome to our live coverage of the war in Ukraine.

If you’re just waking up or dropping in to catch up on what’s been happening, here are some of the latest developments:

  • Kharkiv has been hit by fresh strikes amid fears the city is still on Russia’s agenda. At least nine civilians were killed, including a child, and 19 injured, authorities said. “Today, the occupiers shelled Kharkiv again. At the moment, the list of the dead includes nine people. 19 wounded. All civilians,” Zelenskiy said. Residents have been urged to go to, or remain in, shelters.
  • Officials in Ukraine have admitted that Russia has the “upper hand” in fighting in the country’s east. The governor of the Luhansk region, Serhiy Haidai, said just 5% of the area now remained in Ukrainian hands – down from about 10% little more than a week ago – and that Ukrainian forces were retreating in some areas. “The Russian army has thrown all its forces at taking the Luhansk region,” he said in a video on Telegram. “Extremely fierce fighting is taking place on the outskirts of Sievierodonetsk. They are simply destroying the city, they are shelling it every day, shelling without pause.”
  • There are about 8,000 Ukrainian prisoners of war held in the Russian-backed self-proclaimed Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics, the Luhansk official Rodion Miroshnik has said. “That’s a lot, and literally hundreds are being added every day,” Miroshnik was quoted by the Russian Tass news agency as saying.
  • Russia has deployed mobile propaganda vans with large-screen televisions to humanitarian aid points in the captured city of Mariupol. The Orwellian turn comes as the Kremlin continued to push forward with efforts to integrate newly occupied territories across the south of Ukraine.
  • Alexander Lukashenko, the Belarusian president who is a close Putin ally, has ordered the creation of a new military command for the south of the country bordering Ukraine. The Belarusian armed forces previously said they would deploy special operations troops in three areas near its southern border with Ukraine. Lukashenko has also talked up the role of Russian-made missiles in boosting the country’s defences.
  • Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister, said that “weapons, weapons and weapons again” are what the country needs. “We need more heavy weapons delivered as soon as possible, especially MLRS (multiple launch rocket systems) to repel Russian attacks,” Kuleba said.
  • The US is preparing to send advanced, long-range rocket systems to Ukraine after an urgent request from Ukrainian officials, multiple officials reportedly told CNN. Kuleba said Ukraine’s most urgent need is for multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) to counter Russian superiority in heavy weaponry. Zelenskiy also referred to the weapons as “the systems that are really needed to stop this aggression” in his latest address.
  • Volodymyr Zelenskiy has complained about divisions inside the European Union over more sanctions against Russia and asked why some nations were being allowed to block the plan. “How many more weeks will the European Union try to agree on a sixth package?” Zelenskiy asked in his latest national address. “Pressure on Russia is literally a matter of saving lives,” he added.
  • Russian president Vladimir Putin and Italian prime minister Mario Draghi held a phone call to discuss the situation in Ukraine and the issue of global food security on Thursday. Speaking to journalists after the call, Draghi said he would continue talking to both Moscow and Kyiv to resolve the food crisis, but added that he had little optimism for ending the war. “When asked if I have seen any glimmer of hope for peace, the answer is no,” he said.
  • Russian troops occupying the south-eastern port city of Mariupol have cancelled school summer holidays to prepare pupils for switching to a Russian curriculum, according to officials. “The main goal is to eradicate everything Ukrainian and prepare for the new school year, which will be according to the Russian curriculum,” city official Petro Andryushchenko said.

Fighting continues in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region
Fighting continues in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region

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