Fighting is intensifying in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine. Moscow confirmed on Saturday, May 28, the takeover by pro-Russian separatists of the key locality of Lyman, which opens the way to the major cities of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk. Negotiations are also continuing.on the diplomatic level.
Here’s what to remember from the day.
A diplomatic appeal to Vladimir Putin
French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz spoke at length on the phone with Vladimir Putin on Saturday. They asked the Russian President to start “serious direct negotiations” with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky, as well as the release of the 2,500 Ukrainian fighters who had entrenched themselves in the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol.
The two leaders “insisted on an immediate ceasefire and a withdrawal of Russian troops”, according to a statement from the German Chancellery. Emmanuel Macron and Olaf Scholz have “called on the Russian President for serious direct negotiations with the Ukrainian President and a diplomatic solution to the conflict”. “Tany solution to the war [doit] be negotiated between Moscow and Kyiv, with respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine”they insisted, according to the French presidency.
Russia “ready” to help export grain from Ukraine
While Ukraine, a major agricultural power, can no longer export its cereals due to the blocking of its ports, Vladimir Putin assured, during his conversation with Emmanuel Macron and Olaf Scholz that his country was “ready” to help an export “without hindrance” grain from Ukraine.
“Russia is ready to help find options for unhindered export of grain, including Ukrainian grain from ports on the Black Sea”, specifies a press release from the Kremlin published at the end of this telephone conversation. According to Vladimir Putin, the difficulties with food deliveries were caused by “a wrong economic and financial policy of Western countries, as well as anti-Russian sanctions” imposed by these countries.
During the telephone interview with Emmanuel Macron and Olaf Scholz, Vladimir Putin also “stressed the dangerous nature of continuing to flood Ukraine with Western weapons, warning of the risks of further destabilization of the situation and aggravation of the humanitarian crisis”according to the Kremlin.
Lyman’s capture confirmed by Moscow
The Russian Ministry of Defense confirmed, Saturday morning, in a press release, “that as a result of the joint actions of the militia units of the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Russian Armed Forces, the town of Lyman was completely liberated from Ukrainian nationalists.”
The territorial defense of this republic “self-proclaimed” by the pro-Russian separatists had indicated on Friday on Telegram to have “taken complete control” of Lyman, with “support” of the Russian army.
Aid worker killed in Donbass
As Ukraine faces an increasingly critical humanitarian situation, an Australian aid worker was killed this week. The Australian newspaper Mercury Newspaper announced on Saturday the death of Michael Charles O’Neill, 47, who was helping the wounded on the front line, information confirmed by the Australian Ministry of Foreign Affairs which did not give further details.
A show of force in the Arctic
At the same time, as it intensified its offensive in eastern Ukraine, the Russian army delivered a new show of force in the Arctic on Saturday with a successful hypersonic missile launch. The Zircon missile was fired from the Admiral Gorchkov frigate in the Barents Sea at a target in Arctic White Sea waters, according to the Russian Defense Ministry. A first official firing of this missile dates back to October 2020.