UK says Russia using separatist forces in eastern Ukraine

Ukrainian forces in the contested eastern city of Sieverodonetsk have been facing off against Russian-led Separatist Forces originating from Luhansk, the U.K.’s Ministry of Defence said.

The ministry said these forces are poorly equipped and trained and lack heavy equipment, as compared with regular Russian units. It said using proxy troops is a Russian tactic that was previously seen in Syria and suggests a desire to limit casualties among Moscow’s own forces.

CNBC was not able to immediately confirm the troop movements. Military developments can be difficult or impossible to confirm in the fluid situation on the ground.

— Christine Wang

Ukraine plans to restart football leagues starting in August

General view of fans before the Semi Final match – Scotland v Ukraine at Hampden Park, Glasgow, Scotland, Britain, June 1, 2022.

Lee Smith | Action Images via Reuters

Ukraine plans to resume competitive football in the country in August despite being under attack by Russia after President Volodymyr Zelenskyy gave approval.

Andriy Pavelko, the president of Ukraine’s football federation, revealed details to The Associated Press about his talks with Zelenskyy and the heads of FIFA and UEFA about finding a safe way of playing men’s and women’s matches on home soil.

Ukraine was forced to abandon its leagues in February when Russia began its invasion. But as Russian forces have been redeployed to the east and south, fighting has subsided in the area near the capital Kyiv and elsewhere.

There is optimism sport can resume to lift the spirits of the nation, which is trying to qualify for the World Cup on Sunday by winning away at Wales.

Associated Press

Moscow expects big jump in profits from energy exports in 2022

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Western sanctions would have no effect on the country’s oil exports and predicted a big jump in profits from energy shipments this year.

“Considering the price level that has been established as a result of the West’s policies, we have suffered no budgetary losses,” the foreign ministry quoted him as telling a Bosnian Serb television station.

“On the contrary, this year we will significantly increase the profits from the export of our energy resources.”

On Monday, European Union leaders agreed in principle to cut 90% of oil imports from Russia by the end of this year to punish Moscow for invading Ukraine.

“Oil, generally speaking, is not subject to politics, there is a demand for it … we have alternative sales markets, where we are already increasing sales,” said Lavrov.


Backed from the frontlines, Ukraine tries to seal a World Cup spot

Ukraine players celebrate and applaud their fans after the match.

Lee Smith | Action Images via Reuters

Far from battlefields and Russian invaders, the Ukrainian footballers exempted from military service are trying to complete the mission to lead their country to the World Cup.

When they prepare to face Wales on Sunday in a playoff final, they will have a little extra inspiration in their Cardiff locker room from a flag sent by soldiers on the frontline.

Since Wednesday when Ukraine beat Scotland in a playoff semifinal, the players have continued to exchange messages with friends who have been defending their homeland in a war that has passed 100 days.

“We all hope that very soon Ukraine will be liberated and will return to being an independent country,” Ukraine midfielder Oleksandr Karavayev said through a translator in the Welsh capital.

“This is a great positive stimulus and brings positive emotions because everyone believes and sees how the whole world is united around us.”

The Dynamo Kyiv player has family still in the southern city of Kherson, which was captured early in the war by Russia.

“They cannot watch the match because there is no connection and internet,” Karavayev said. “But they communicate by messages and they read the news.”

Keeping Ukraine high in the headlines can be partly achieved by the men qualifying for a first World Cup since 2006. But it might take time for their compatriots on the frontlines to discover the result in Wales.

“It is a really hard situation in Ukraine and not everyone has the chance to watch football,” coach Oleksandr Petrakov said through a translator. “I don’t communicate with any soldiers but the team writes to soldiers and even received a flag from the war which they promised to hang in the dressing room.”

Associated Press

Wife of Russian billionaire Melnichenko contests EU sanctions

Andrey Melnichenko, billionaire and owner of EuroChem Group AG, walks between sessions on day three of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg, Russia, on Friday, June 4, 2021.

Andrey Rudakov | Bloomberg | Getty Images

A European Union decision to extend sanctions against Russian billionaire Andrey Melnichenko to his wife is “irrational” because she has never held Russian citizenship or resided in Russia, a representative for the couple said on Saturday.

Aleksandra Melnichenko, who was born in Belgrade and holds Serbian and Croatian citizenship, will “vigorously contest the unfortunate decision against her,” the representative said in an email statement to Reuters, declining to give a name.

Reuters reported last month that Melnichenko ceded ownership of coal company SUEK AO and fertilizer company EuroChem Group AG to his wife on March 8, a day before the EU put him on a sanctions list.

The EU sanctioned Melnichenko’s wife on Friday as part of a sixth round of sanctions against Russia for waging a war against Ukraine. The EU
said Aleksandra Melnichenko “takes good advantage of the fortune and benefits from the wealth of her husband”.

The step could disrupt operations at SUEK and EuroChem because the sanctions include freezing her assets.

EuroChem produces roughly 5% of world fertilizer output.


‘Russia has no place in UNESCO,’ Zelenskyy says after destruction of cultural sites

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy speaks during a joint news briefing with Polish President Andrzej Duda, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda, Latvian President Egils Levits and Estonian President Alar Karis (not pictured), as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine April 13, 2022. 

Valentyn Ogirenko | Reuters

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called for Russia’s removal from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, known as UNESCO, after the destruction of historical monuments and cultural sites in Ukraine.

“Russian artillery struck the Sviatohirsk Lavra in the Donetsk region again today. Destroyed the Vsikhsviatskiy Monastery. It was consecrated in 1912,” Zelenskyy wrote in a social media post translated by NBC News.

“The occupiers know exactly which object is being shelled,” Zelenskyy wrote. “They know that there are no military targets on the territory of the Sviatohirsk Lavra. It is known that there are about 300 people fleeing hostilities, including 60 children. But still the Russian army is shelling the laurel, like the whole Donbas. Like any other territory and any other object of Ukraine that can be reached. They do not care what to turn into ruins.”

Zelenskyy said Ukraine’s parliament appealed to UNESCO to remove Russia’s membership in the organization. He added: “No country other than Russia has destroyed so many monuments, cultural and social sites in Europe since World War II.”

“Every church burned by Russia in Ukraine, every school blown up, every destroyed memorial proves that Russia has no place in UNESCO,” Zelenskyy said. He added that Ukraine expects a “logical and fair response from the UN and UNESCO.”

“It is the United Nations, and its charter does not provide for association with terrorists. Russia’s isolation must be complete, it must be held accountable for its crimes,” Zelenskyy said.

— Jessica Dickler

Putin says Russia has destroyed U.S. weapons in Ukraine by the dozen, RIA reports

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting of the State Council Presidium at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia May 25, 2022. 

Sergey Guneev | Sputnik | Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in comments about a U.S. decision to send new arms to Ukraine, said Russia was easily coping and was already destroying American-supplied weapons by the dozen, state-run news agency RIA reported.

Putin made the remarks in an interview with national television, RIA said. It is due to be shown on Sunday.

— Reuters

Ukraine foreign minister says ‘it is Russia that humiliates itself’ after Macron’s comments

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba speaks as he gives a statement with Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SPD) parliamentary group leader Rolf Muetzenich and SPD co-leader Lars Klingbeil, after a meeting amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Berlin, Germany May 12, 2022. 

Michele Tantussi | Reuters

Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba fired back at French President Emmanuel Macron’s recent statements that Russia must not be humiliated in order to pave the way toward a diplomatic solution to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Calls to avoid humiliation of Russia can only humiliate France and every other country that would call for it. Because it is Russia that humiliates itself. We all better focus on how to put Russia in its place. This will bring peace and save lives,” the foreign minister tweeted.

Kuleba’s tweet came after Macron said in an interview with regional newspapers that “we must not humiliate Russia so that the day when the fighting stops we can build an exit ramp through diplomatic means.” 

Macron has maintained efforts to facilitate negotiations between Kyiv and Moscow and said “it is France’s role to be a mediating power.”

— Jessica Dickler

NATO chief speaks with Erdogan about Finland, Sweden joining

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a news conference along with the European Parliament President Roberta Metsola (not pictured) at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, April 28, 2022. 

Johanna Geron | Reuters

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has met with Finland’s prime minister and spoken to Turkey’s president as he seeks to overcome Turkish resistance to Finland and Sweden joining the alliance.

Stoltenberg, who visited Washington this week, tweeted that he met with Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin while there and discussed “the need to address Turkey’s concerns and move forward” with the Finnish and Swedish membership applications.

Russia’s war in Ukraine pushed the Nordic countries to apply to join NATO, but Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accuses Sweden and Finland of supporting Kurdish militants deemed by Turkey to be terrorists.

Stoltenberg said he had a “constructive phone call” with Erdogan, calling Turkey a “valued ally” and praising Turkish efforts to broker a deal to ensure the safe transportation of grain supplies from Ukraine amid global food shortages caused by Russia’s invasion. Stoltenberg tweeted that he and Erdogan would continue their dialogue, without ela

— Associated Press

The Art of War: 101 days in, street artists show their support of Ukraine

It’s been 101 days since Russia invaded Ukraine and street artists around the world continue to create works showing support for Ukraine and condemnation of Russia. See the full collection here.

Ukrainian soldiers take pictures of a mural titled ‘Saint Javelin’ dedicated to the British portable surface-to-air missile has been unveiled on the side of a Kyiv apartment block on May 25, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine. The artwork by illustrator and artist Chris Shaw is in reference to the Javelin missile donated to Ukrainian troops to battle against the Russian invasion.

Christopher Furlong | Getty Images

Murals of two young Ukrainian victims portrayed on the wall. On the left, Vitaliy Skakun Volodymyrovych (1996-2022) who is seen as a hero by the Ukrainian army for his heroic action during the explosion of a bridge to stop the Russian army, on the right, 10 year old Ukrainian Polina, murdered by Russian soldiers when she and her family tried to flee Kyiv by car.

Ana Fernandez | Sopa Images | Getty Images

Street artist Denys Antiukov and his assistant Hanna work on a mural inspired by the Russian Warship, Go F… Yourself! postage stamp in the Khortytskyi district of Zaporizhzhia, southeastern Ukraine.

Albert Koshelev | Future Publishing | Getty Images

A newsagent picks up magazines next to a mural by Italian urban artist Salvatore Benintende aka “TV BOY” depicting a girl painting a peace symbol on an Ukraine’s flag, reading “Hope” in Barcelona on April 30, 2022.

Pau Barrena | AFP | Getty Images

VILNIUS, LITHUANIA – APRIL 26: Street art paintings which supports Ukraine on April 26, 2022 in Vilnius, Lithuania. Russia invaded neighbouring Ukraine on February 24, 2022, and has been met with worldwide condemnation in the form of rallies, protests and peace marches taking place in cities across the globe. (Photo by Paulius Peleckis/Getty Images)

Paulius Peleckis | \Getty Images

Getty Images | Reuters | AP

Ukraine says no point in talks until Russian troops pushed back

Ukraine said there was no point in negotiating with Russia until Moscow’s forces are pushed back as far as possible toward Ukraine’s borders.

Ukrainian negotiator and presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak makes statements on the latest developments in the war during an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency in Kyiv, Ukraine on April 19, 2022.

Metin Aktas | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak made the comment when asked about an offer from French President Emmanuel Macron to mediate talks between Kyiv and Moscow to end the war in Ukraine that passed the 100-day mark on Friday.

“…Until we receive weapons in their full amount, until we strengthen our positions, until we push them (Russia’s forces) back as far as possible to the borders of Ukraine, there is no point in holding negotiations,” Podolyak said on television.

Macron, who has sought to maintain dialogue with Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin since Moscow’s Feb. 24 invasion, said the West should not humiliate Russia, so that it can keep the doors open for a solution to be reached through diplomacy.

Ukraine, which says that Russia has already occupied about 20% of its territory, is now receiving more powerful weapons from the West.

“Our armed forces are ready to use (the new weapons)…and then I think we can initiate a new round of talks from a strengthened position,” David Arakhamia, a Ukrainian lawmaker and a member of the negotiation team, said on Friday.

Among other things, the United States will give Ukraine precision HIMARS rocket systems allowing it to hit Russian positions from a longer range.


Ukraine says Russian troops are trying to cut access to Sievierodonetsk

A photograph shows an explosion in the city of Severodonetsk during heavy fightings between Ukrainian and Russian troops at eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas on May 30, 2022, on the 96th day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Aris Messinis | AFP | Getty Images

Kyiv said Moscow had reinforced its troops around Sievierodonetsk and attempted to cut off Ukraine’s access to the industrial city, the focus of a Russian offensive to take the eastern Donbas region.

Serhiy Gaidai, governor of Luhansk province, said Russian forces were blowing up bridges across the Siverskyi Donets river to prevent Ukraine from bringing in military reinforcements and delivering aid to civilians in Sievierodonetsk.

“The Russian army, as we understand, is throwing all its efforts, all its reserves in that (Sievierodonetsk) direction,” Gaidai said in a live TV broadcast. “Russians are blowing up bridges, so we could not bring in reinforcements to our boys in Sievierodonetsk.”

Since being driven back from the capital Kyiv, Russia has launched a massive assault in Luhansk and Donetsk, two provinces that make up the eastern Donbas region.

For both sides, the fighting in the east in recent weeks has been one of the deadliest phases of the war, with Ukraine saying it is losing 60 to 100 soldiers every day.

Ukraine’s military said on Saturday Russia had used artillery to conduct “assault operations” in Sievierodonetsk, but Russian forces retreated and Ukrainian troops are holding positions inside the city, around 145 kilometers (90 miles) from the Russian border.

Russian soldiers also attempted to advance towards Lysychansk, across the Siverskyi Donets river from Sievierodonetsk, but were stopped, Ukraine’s military general staff said.

Reuters reached Sievierodonetsk on Thursday and was able to verify that Ukrainians still held part of the city.

In neighboring Donetsk province, Russian troops were just 15 km (9 miles) outside
the city of Sloviansk, regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko told Reuters on Friday.

Britain’s defense ministry said Russian air activity remains high over Donbas, with Russian aircraft carrying out strikes using both guided and unguided munitions.

In Ukraine’s southern Odesa region, a missile hit an agricultural storage unit, wounding two people, the regional administration’s spokesman wrote on Telegram.


UK says Russia’s offensive in northern Ukraine ‘ended in a costly failure’

The U.K. Ministry of Defence said Russia’s offensive in northern Ukraine “ended in a costly failure.”

The ministry said Russian forces were spread “too thinly without enough support from artillery and combat aircraft.” It said those efforts were based on “wildly optimistic assessments about the welcome Russian troops would receive in Ukraine.”

“Russia has now adopted a ‘strategy of attrition’ and is achieving slow and costly gains in the Donbas” region of eastern Ukraine, the ministry said.

— Christine Wang

Putin blames ‘short-sighted’ Western policy for energy, food issues

Russian President Vladimir Putin blamed the West for problems in global food and energy markets, warning new sanctions would only exacerbate the situation.

“It’s an absolutely short-sighted, erroneous, I would say, simply a stupid policy which leads into a dead end,” Putin said, according to Russia’s TASS news agency.

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting on the road construction development via a video link at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence, outside Moscow, on June 2, 2022.

Mikhail Metzel | AFP | Getty Images

Russia’s war in Ukraine has roiled the global economy, disrupting global food and energy supply chains. The two nations produce about 30% of the world’s wheat and barley. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization reported that food prices are at the highest levels ever recorded.

“The unfavorable situation in the global food market did not begin to take shape yesterday or even from the moment Russia launched a special military operation in the Donbass and Ukraine. It began to take shape as early as February 2020 in the process of combatting the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic,” he said, according to a TASS report translated by NBC News.

Putin’s comments come as the U.N. continues its efforts to release grain trapped in Ukraine’s Black Sea ports due to Russia’s blockade.

— Christine Wang

UN calls for end to violence as it works to release grain exports stuck in Black Sea ports

As the war in Ukraine entered its 100th day, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the conflict “already taken thousands of lives, caused untold destruction, displaced millions of people, resulted in unacceptable violations of human rights and is inflaming a three-dimensional global crisis – food, energy and finance – that is pummeling the most vulnerable people, countries and economies.”

“As we mark this tragic day, I renew my call for an immediate halt to violence, for unfettered humanitarian access to all those in need, for safe evacuation of civilians trapped in areas of fighting and for urgent protection of civilians and respect for human rights in accordance with international norms,” the UN chief said.

The UN said it is continuing work to release grain stuck in Ukraine’s Black Sea ports as well as securing fertilizer from major producer Russia. The agency estimates 1.5 billion people globally are in need of that food and fertilizer. It stressed resuming exports is key to preventing another crisis.

While humanitarian efforts have sought alternatives to maritime exports, the UN said the sea is still the “only viable solution” because of “the huge amount of cereals and other essential foodstuffs produced.” Rail and truck transportation cannot manage the same volume and have their own logistical problems, UN crisis coordinator for Ukraine Amin Awad said.

— Christine Wang

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