- EU breaks deadlock over Russian oil ban
- Zelenskiy says situation remains ‘extremely difficult’
- Russian forces enter the margins of the governor of Sievierodonetsk
- “A terrible smell of death” in the air
- Biden says no to rockets that can reach Russia
KYIV/LVIV, May 30 (Reuters) – European Union leaders agreed on Monday to ban most Russian oil imports to the 27-nation bloc as Ukrainian and Russian forces battled on the outskirts of Sievierodonetsk , the last city still held by Kyiv in Ukraine. strategic province of Lugansk.
In the toughest sanction imposed by the bloc on Moscow since invading Ukraine three months ago, European Council President Charles Michel said the ban agreed at a summit from the EU in Brussels would immediately cover more than two-thirds of oil imports from Russia and cut off a “huge source of funding for its war machine.” Read more
Leaders said they had agreed to cut oil imports from Russia by 90% by the end of this year, with exemptions for Hungary – a landlocked country that relies heavily on crude brought in from Russia – and others concerned about the economic impact of the ban. Read more
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EU leaders also agreed to cut Russia’s biggest bank, Sberbank, from the SWIFT system and ban three other Russian public broadcasters, Michel added.
The announcement came as Russia continued its attacks in Ukraine’s Donbass region, where Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the situation remained “extremely difficult”.
Russia seeks to seize the whole of Donbass, made up of Luhansk and Donetsk, which Moscow claims in the name of separatist proxies.
Capturing the twin cities of Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk on the banks of the Siverskyi Donets River would give Moscow effective control of Luhansk and allow the Kremlin to declare some form of victory after more than three months of war.
But by focusing on a battle for just one small town, Russia could leave another territory open to Ukrainian counterattacks.
Kyiv said its forces pushed Russian troops back to defensive positions in Andriyivka, Lozove and Bilohorka, villages on the southern bank of the Inhulets River that forms the border of Kherson province, where Moscow is trying to consolidate control.
Ukraine has called on the West to send more long-range weapons, but US President Joe Biden has said Washington will not send Ukrainian rocket systems that can reach Russia, a move the vice president of the Russian Security Council, Dmitry Medvedev, called it “rational”. Read more
Zelenskiy said Russian forces again shelled the northeastern city of Kharkiv on Monday, as well as the border region of Sumy, which was hit from inside Russia.
Russian shelling reduced much of Sievierodonetsk to rubble, but the Ukrainian defense slowed the wider Russian campaign in the Donbas region. Read more
Luhansk Governor Serhiy Gaidai said Russian troops had advanced on the southeastern and northeastern fringes of Sievierodonetsk, but Ukrainian forces had driven them south from the village of Toshkivka, which could thwart a thrust to encircle the area. Read more
“They use the same tactic over and over again. They bomb for several hours – for three, four, five hours – in a row, then attack,” he said. “Those who attack die. Then the bombardments and the attacks follow one another, and so on until they break through somewhere.”
With rising temperatures, there was a “terrible smell of death” in the outskirts of Sievierodonetsk, Gaidai said.
The leader of the Moscow-backed Luhansk People’s Republic, Leonid Pasechnik, told the Tass news agency that a third of Sievierodonetsk was “already under our control”.
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, visiting Ukraine, has called for an investigation. Read more
Russian President Vladimir Putin, in talks with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, said Russia was ready to facilitate unhindered grain exports from Ukrainian ports in coordination with Turkey, according to the Kremlin.
Western leaders have chastised Russia for blockading Ukrainian ports, sending prices for grain and other commodities skyrocketing. The UN declared a worsening global food crisis and tried to broker a deal to unblock Ukraine’s grain exports. Read more
“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 said that if the sanctions were lifted, Russia could export large volumes of fertilizers and agricultural products.
Zelenskiy also spoke with Erdogan and said he discussed food security and defense cooperation, “and, of course, how to speed up the end of this war.”
TEMPORARY PIPELINE EXEMPTION
Efforts to agree an EU oil embargo have been stymied by Hungary’s refusal to agree to a ban on Russian imports it receives through the huge Soviet-era ‘Friendship’ pipeline that crosses Ukraine.
Michel told a press conference that there was a “temporary exception for oil transported by pipeline to the EU”, but added: “We want to come back to the European Council as soon as possible in order to deal with this exception. temporary and to make sure that we can target all Russian oil.”
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.
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Reports from Reuters offices; Written by David Brunnstrom and Stephen Coates; Editing by David Gregorio and Lincoln Feast.
Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.