US will send Ukraine longer-range rocket system: Senior official

  • The US will provide Ukraine with the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), which be equipped with munitions that will allow Ukraine to launch rockets about 80 kilometres, a senior Biden administration official says.
  • The rocket system and missiles will be part of Washington’s new $700m aid package for Ukraine expected to be announced Wednesday.
  • Russian forces, including Chechen fighters, have taken control of most of the eastern industrial city of Severodonetsk.
  • Ukrainian forces have had some success near the southern city of Kherson and are advancing in parts of the Kharkiv region, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says.
(Al Jazeera)

Here are all the latest updates:

China bars Russian airlines with foreign planes: Report

China has barred Russia’s airlines from flying foreign-owned jetliners into its airspace, the Russian news outlet RBK has reported. The move came after Putin threw the aircrafts’ ownership into doubt by allowing them to be re-registered in Russia to avoid seizure under sanctions over Moscow’s attack on Ukraine.

The EU, home to major aircraft leasing companies, banned the sale or lease of aircraft to Russian carriers in February. Putin responded by approving the re-registration measure in March, which prompted suggestions foreign owners may never recover planes worth billions of dollars.

China’s air regulator asked all foreign carriers last month to update ownership information and other details, RBK said, citing two unidentified sources. It said Russian airlines that couldn’t provide documents showing their aircraft were “de-registered abroad” were barred from Chinese airspace.

Denmark to vote on closer EU defence ties due to Russia concerns

Danes vote on Wednesday to decide whether to join the EU’s defence policy, potentially becoming the final hold-out in the bloc to sign up as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine forces countries to radically reassess their security.

Denmark is the only member of the 27 nation bloc not in the Common Security and Defence Policy, having secured exemptions from it and the euro currency in a 1993 referendum on the Maastricht Treaty, which laid the groundwork for the modern EU.

If the notoriously EU-critical Danes vote to abolish the opt-out, as polls suggest will be the case, it would mark another significant shift in policy for Europe after Russia launched the invasion in February.

Participating in the Common Security and Defence Policy would enable Denmark to take part in joint EU military operations, such as those in Somalia, Mali and Bosnia.

Russia continues long-range missile strikes on infrastructure across Ukraine: UK

Russia continues to conduct long-range missile strikes on Ukraine’s infrastructure across the country, the United Kingdom’s defence ministry has said.

In its latest intelligence briefing, the ministry confirmed previous reports that Russian forces are pushing closer to the centre of Severodonetsk city.

“Over half of the town is likely now occupied by Russian forces, including Chechen fighters,” the ministry said.

It added that with Ukraine’s Black Sea ports being blocked, Ukraine’s ports on the Danube river have become critical to its exports.

Russian manufacturing activity returns to growth in May: Survey

Russian manufacturing activity expanded in May after three months of contraction and price pressures eased notably, but sanctions continued to dent client demand, a survey has shown.

The S&P Global Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) rose to 50.8 from 48.2 in the previous month, climbing above the 50.0 mark that separates expansion from contraction for the first time since January.

“Slower declines in output, new orders, employment and stocks of purchases all helped to boost the seasonally adjusted PMI,” S&P Global, which compiles the index, said. Actual manufacturing output continued to fall in May, S&P Global said.

Exports remained in steep decline, as Russian firms have been severed from the global economy and face significant disruption to their supply chains.

Russia won’t suffer from EU oil embargo: Official

Russia’s economy will not suffer from the European Union’s embargo on its oil due to new markets and rising fuel prices, the chairwoman of Russia’s Federation Council has said.

“We can easily reorient this oil, the demand for which is huge, to other markets,” Valentina Matviyenko told reporters on Wednesday after a meeting with Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi.

“There is only a certain amount of production on the world market, a certain volume of oil for sale, any more, nobody will be able to get from the moon,” Matviyenko said, adding that the sanctions were encouraging Russia to build more oil refinery plants rather than relying on crude exports.

Matviyenko also said that “the price of oil will rise significantly,” which would balance out whatever profits Russia might lose from lower exports.

Russian troops storming Severodonetsk, destroying infrastructure: Governor

Russian forces are storming Severodonetsk and consolidating their positions in the centre of the city, while continuing to destroy the region’s infrastructure, the governor of the Luhansk region has said.

Serhiy Haidai said that at about 6:55 pm on Tuesday, Russians hit Severodonetsk’s giant Azot chemical plant, which produces nitrogen-based fertilisers, “releasing toxic substances”.

“During the day, the enemy fired artillery at the Proletary factory in Lysychansk,” he added in a post on Telegram.

Haidai said that at least six houses and a local art school were destroyed in the settlement of Vrubivka, five houses destroyed in the village of Novoivanivka, four in Severodonetsk, three in Lysychansk and two in the village of Mykolaivka.

Moscow risking its hold on Kherson in the battle for Severodonetsk: ISW

Moscow’s focus on seizing the eastern city of Severodonetsk, and the Donbas region more generally, puts its vital position in the Kherson region at risk, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) has said.

“If Russia is able to retain a strong lodgement in Kherson when fighting stops it will be in a very strong position from which to launch a future invasion,” the ISW said in its latest campaign assessment, adding that if Ukraine were to regain the region, it would be in a much stronger position to defend itself against a future attack.

The institute said that this strategic situation should lead Russia to concentrate its combat power on holding Kherson, but Russia’s president has instead chosen to “concentrate all the forces and resources that can be scraped together in a desperate and bloody push to seize areas of eastern Ukraine that will give him largely symbolic gains”.

“Continuing successful Ukrainian counter-offensives in Kherson indicate that Ukraine’s commanders recognise these realities and are taking advantage of the vulnerabilities that Putin’s decisions have created,” the ISW said adding. It added that Ukrainian forces were now withdrawing from Severodonetsk, allowing Russian forces to move in “relatively quickly”.

UN confirms 9,029 civilian casualties in Ukraine

The United Nations human rights body (OHCHR) has confirmed 9,029 civilian casualties in Ukraine from February 24 until midnight local time on May 30.

The OHCHR’s latest civilian casualty confirmed 4,113 people have been killed and 4,916 injured.

But the organisation noted that the actual figures were considerably higher as information was still pending from areas of “intense hostilities”, such as Mariupol, Izyum and Popasna.

“Most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multiple launch rocket systems, and missile and air strikes,” the OHCHR said.

Ukraine’s Lyudmyla Denisova dismissed as human rights commissioner

Ukraine’s parliament has dismissed Lyudmyla Denisova from her post as human rights commissioner, the Ukrinform news agency has reported.

The reasons for Denisova’s dismissal are in relation to inadequate performance — including establishing humanitarian corridors, arranging prisoner swaps, and ensuring against the deportation of Ukrainians from occupied territory, Ukrinform cited a member of parliament saying.

Ukrinform also said the member of parliament noted Denisova’s dismissal related to “focusing the ombudsman’s media activity on the numerous details of ‘unnatural sexual offences’ and child sexual abuses in the occupied territories, which were unsupported by evidence and only harmed Ukraine”.

Russia’s nuclear forces holding drills: Interfax

Russia’s nuclear forces are holding drills in Ivanovo province, northeast of Moscow, the Interfax news agency cited the Russian defence ministry as saying.

Some 1,000 servicemen are exercising in intense manoeuvres using more than 100 vehicles, including Yars intercontinental ballistic missile launchers, the ministry said.

Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia to become part of Russia: RIA

The Russian-occupied Kherson region, as well as the so-called Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) and Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR), will become part of Russia, Russian state news agency RIA reports, citing the secretary-general of the United Russia Party’s general council.

“The decision should be made by the residents themselves, and I am sure that they will accept it. Therefore, I have no doubts that this region will be part of the Russian Federation,” Andrey Turchak said of Kherson, adding he had no doubt the same would happen with the DNR and LNR, and likely the Zaporizhzhia region.

“People want protection, stability so that after eight years of the Bandera terror legalised by the West a long-awaited and lasting peace has come,” he added, saying that plans for a referendum were underway in each region.

Western analysts have previously warned that Russia may stage sham referendums in these territories. The US State Department’s spokesperson earlier said Washington was concerned about “steps Russia is taking to attempt to institutionalise control over sovereign Ukrainian territory, particularly in Ukraine’s Kherson region”.

Ukraine loses 60 to 100 soldiers daily: Zelenskyy

Some 60 to 100 Ukrainian soldiers are killed per day in the war with Russia, Zelenskyy has said, adding that around 500 are wounded daily.

In an interview with Newsmax in Kyiv, Zelenskyy also said that Ukraine’s requests for longer-range weapons were for Ukraine to defend its territory, not to attack Russia on theirs.

“We’re not interested in what’s happening in Russia. We’re only interested in our own territory in Ukraine,” he said.

‘We do not seek a war between NATO and Russia’: Biden

Joe Biden has said that although the US is continuing to “reinforce NATO’s eastern flank with forces and US capabilities”, Washington does not seek a war between NATO and Russia.

“As much as I disagree with Mr. Putin, and find his actions an outrage, the United States will not try to bring about his ouster in Moscow,” Biden wrote in a guest essay in the New York Times newspaper.

“So long as the United States or our allies are not attacked, we will not be directly engaged in this conflict, either by sending American troops to fight in Ukraine or by attacking Russian forces,” he said.

Biden added that the US was not “encouraging or enabling Ukraine to strike beyond its borders”, adding “we do not want to prolong the war just to inflict pain on Russia.”

US to provide longer-range rocket system to Ukraine: Official

The US will provide Ukraine with the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), which be equipped with munitions that will allow Ukraine to launch rockets about 80 kilometres, a senior Biden administration official has said.

“These systems will be used by the Ukrainians to repel Russian advances on Ukrainian territory, but they will not be used on targets in Russian territory,” the official told reporters.

Joe Biden said in a guest essay for the New York Times that the US “will provide the Ukrainians with more advanced rocket systems and munitions that will enable them to more precisely strike key targets on the battlefield in Ukraine.”

“We will continue providing Ukraine with advanced weaponry, including Javelin anti-tank missiles, Stinger antiaircraft missiles, powerful artillery and precision rocket systems, radars, unmanned aerial vehicles, Mi-17 helicopters and ammunition,” Biden added.

A launch truck fires the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) at its intended target during the African Lion military exercise in Grier Labouihi complex, southern Morocco, Wednesday, June 9, 202
A launch truck fires the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) at its intended target during the African Lion military exercise in Grier Labouihi complex, southern Morocco, Wednesday, June 9, 2021 [Mosa’ab Elshamy/AP]

Russia’s bombing of Severodonetsk ‘just madness’: Zelenskyy

Zelenskyy has called Russia’s bombing of Severodonetsk “madness” due to the number of chemical plants in the city.

“Given the presence of large-scale chemical production in Severodonetsk, the Russian army’s strikes there, including blind air bombing, are just madness,” he said in his nighttime address.

Zelenskyy added that the situation in the Donbas remained “very difficult”.

“Severodonetsk, Lysychansk, Kurakhove are now at the epicentre of the confrontation,” he said.

US to announce medium-range rockets for Ukraine

Washington’s new aid package for Ukraine is expected to include what the United States considers medium-range rockets, which generally can travel about 70 kilometres (43 miles).

That is a critical weapon Ukrainian leaders have been begging for as they struggle to stall Russian progress in the Donbas region, US officials said Tuesday.

The US plan tries to strike a balance between the desire to help Ukraine battle ferocious Russian artillery barrages while not providing arms that could allow Ukraine to hit targets deep inside Russia and trigger an escalation in the war.

The expectation is that the medium-range rockets could both intercept Russian artillery and take out Russian positions in towns where fighting is intense, such as Severodonetsk.

A child standing next to a damaged car looks up at a building destroyed during attacks in Irpin, on the outskirts Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, May 30, 2022
A child standing next to a damaged car looks up at a building destroyed during attacks in Irpin, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, May 30, 2022 [Natacha Pisarenko/AP]

European centre-right’s new leader backs Ukraine EU membership

German politician Manfred Weber has said European Union membership for war-torn Ukraine was a priority as he was elected leader of Europe’s struggling main group of conservative parties.

The Bavarian lawmaker, 49, was the sole candidate to be the new president of the European People’s Party (EPP) at a group meeting in Rotterdam.

“The first message we have to give in this moment is that we as EPP family, we say, ‘Yes you are welcomed, yes it’s worth to fight, yes you can become a member of the European Union,’” Weber said in a speech after he was elected. “The EPP supports the candidate status for our Ukraine friends.”

Ukraine football star Zinchenko in tears ahead of World Cup playoff

Ukrainian football star Oleksandr Zinchenko couldn’t hold back tears as he tried to explain what it means to represent his country’s national team at this moment, with a spot at the World Cup within reach.

Ukraine is two games away from qualifying for the World Cup in Qatar, starting with a match against Scotland in Glasgow on Wednesday– which was postponed in March following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The winner at Hampden Park will play against Wales on Sunday in the decisive playoff.

“We want to give incredible emotions to the Ukrainian people because Ukrainians deserve it so much at this very moment,” Zinchenko said at a news conference. “Our mood, I would describe as a fighting mood, because everyone understands what is going on in Ukraine these days.”

Oleksandr Zinchenko
Ukraine’s Oleksandr Zinchenko reacts during the press conference [Lee Smith/Action Images via Reuters]

Zelenskyy thanks EU for Russian oil ban

Zelenskyy has thanked the European Union for banning most oil from Russia and urged Ukraine’s allies to give the country more weapons.

Speaking in a video address, Zelenskyy said the EU’s decision to cut the bulk of Russian oil imports means Moscow “won’t be able to spend tens of billions of euros to finance terror”.

He added that Ukraine will be pressing for more sanctions, saying that “there should be no significant economic ties left between the free world and the terrorist state”.

Zelenskyy also urged Ukraine’s Western allies to provide more heavy weapons, saying that the situation in eastern Ukraine where Russia has been pressing its offensive remains “very difficult”.

US warns against formalising Russian control in Kherson

Washington has warned against attempts by Russia to “institutionalise” its control over “sovereign Ukrainian territory”, particularly in the Kherson region.

Price, the State Department spokesman, said Russia could announce an independent region in the area in an effort to eventually annex it.

“It’s a predictable part of the Russian playbook, which is why we are continuing to sound the alarm now, particularly following Russian President Putin’s unilateral decree that would fast-track the issuance of Russian passports to Ukrainian citizens,” he said.

Ukrainian reports ‘shutdown of all communications’ in Kherson region

Ukrainian officials have reported a “shutdown of all communications” in the Russian-occupied southern region of Kherson.

Ukraine’s State Service for Special Communication and Information Protection said in a statement that an unspecified intrusion “by the occupation regime” had taken place and that equipment had been powered down and cables disconnected.

“The residents of the region are currently left without Ukrainian mobile communication and Internet access, as well as with no means to make national and international phone calls using landline phone devices,” the agency said.

On Tuesday, the Russian-backed occupation regime of the Kherson region said that the region had switched over to Russia’s mobile and Internet networks.

US to announce new Ukraine aid package ‘before too long’

The United States State Department has suggested that Washington is readying another aid package for Kyiv, after Congress approved an additional $40bn in military and humanitarian assistance earlier this month.

“Now that we have significant additional financial resources for security assistance, I imagine you’ll be hearing from us before too long about additional security assistance as those conversations with senior levels of the Ukrainian government have been ongoing,” spokesperson Ned Price said.

Russia captures most of Severodonetsk city in eastern Ukraine: Governor

Russia has taken control of most of the eastern industrial city of Severodonetsk, the regional governor has said.

Russia’s all-out assault on the city in Ukraine’s Luhansk province has been met by tough resistance from Ukrainian forces. Russian-backed separatists in Luhansk acknowledged that capturing the city was taking longer than hoped, despite one of the biggest ground attacks of the three-month-long war.

Luhansk’s regional governor, Serhiy Haidai, said nearly all critical infrastructure in Severodonetsk had been destroyed and 60 percent of residential property has been damaged beyond repair.

“Most of Severodonetsk is under the control of the Russians. The town is not surrounded and the prerequisites for it to be are not in place,” Haidai said, adding that Russian shelling had made it impossible to deliver aid or evacuate people.

People line up outside a Church to get food and clothing in Borodyanka, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 31, 2022
People line up outside a Church to get food and clothing in Borodyanka, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 31, 2022 [Natacha Pisarenko/AP]

Ukrainian forces having some success near Kherson, Zelenskyy says

Ukrainian forces have had some success near the southern city of Kherson and are advancing in parts of the Kharkiv region to the east of Kyiv, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said.

“Our defenders are showing the utmost courage and remain masters of the situation at the front despite the fact the Russian army has a significant advantage in terms of equipment and numbers,” he said in a late-night address.

Ukraine FM calls for French president to visit before end of June

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has called on French President Emmanuel Macron to visit the country before the end of France’s European Union presidency on June 30.

“It would be good that Macron came during the French EU presidency, and the best thing would be that he comes with more weapons deliveries for Ukraine,” Kuleba told French news channel LCI.

“That’s the most precious aid we can receive from France.”

US hails EU decision to scale back Russian oil imports

The US has hailed a European Union decision to scale back Russian oil imports and called for long-term efforts to further reduce dependence on Moscow.

“We applaud the steps by our European allies and partners to reduce their reliance on Russian oil and natural gas,” said State Department spokesperson Ned Price. He added that there was “broad support” among US allies for “cutting off the strength of Russia’s war machine, and that is Russia’s energy market”.

“The EU took an important step on that near-term path, but then there’s also a longer-term path that has less to do with the day to day and more to do with trends over time and the broader need to lessen our reliance on Russian energy,” Price told reporters.

US will not send long-range rockets for use beyond Ukraine: White House

The Biden administration is still considering sending rocket systems to Kyiv, the White House press secretary has said, but Washington will not send long-range rockets for use beyond the battlefield in Ukraine.

Karine Jean-Pierre’s comments echoed those of US President Joe Biden, who said earlier this week that his administration would not send Ukraine any rockets capable of reaching Russia.

Welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the Russia-Ukraine war.

Read all the updates from Tuesday, May 31 here.

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