Latest Developments in Ukraine: May 31

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Latest Developments in Ukraine: May 31


For full coverage of the crisis in Ukraine, visit Flashpoint Ukraine.

The latest developments in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. All times EDT.

5:00 a.m.: A Ukrainian court sentenced two captured Russian soldiers to 11 and a half years in jail on Tuesday for shelling a town in eastern Ukraine, the second war crimes verdict since the start of Russia’s invasion in February, Reuters reported. 

Alexander Bobikin and Alexander Ivanov, who listened to the verdict standing in a reinforced glass box at the Kotelevska district court in central Ukraine, both pleaded “guilty” last week. 

4:45 a.m.: Helga Maria Schmid, the secretary-general of the Vienna-based Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE, said Tuesday she is “very relieved” following news about the release of a national mission member of monitoring mission to Ukraine. In a Twitter post, Schmid further called on the release of three others detained in Donetsk and Luhansk.


4:15 a.m.: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is expected to go to Turkey with a military delegation on June 8 to discuss creating a potential sea corridor for Ukrainian agricultural exports, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Tuesday, according to Reuters.

Speaking to the state-owned Anadolu news agency, Cavusoglu said work was still underway with the United Nations to reach an agreement on creating the corridor from the Black Sea, but that issues between Moscow and Kyiv remained. He said the U.N. had proposed forming a joint observation mechanism to monitor the shipping route, and that Turkey was open to the idea. He said Russia wanted some Western sanctions targeting its insurance sector lifted, as it would impact the ships that will participate in the potential shipping network, while Ukraine did not want Russian warships to approach its docks in Odesa.

In a phone call with Turkey’s Tayyip Erdogan on Monday, President Vladimir Putin said that Russia was ready to facilitate the unhindered export of grain from Ukrainian ports in coordination with Turkey. The Associated Press has the story.

4:05 a.m.: The U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia said on Tuesday that U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud held a call to discuss regional developments including the Ukraine crisis.

3:20 a.m.: The head of Sievierodonetsk administration Oleksandr Stryuk said Tuesday that Ukraine is still in control of the city as soldiers continue to fight Russian troops.

“The city is still in Ukrainian hands and it’s putting up a fight,” Stryuk said speaking to a Ukrainian television. However, he added that civilian evacuation is impossible due to continued fighting.

2:45 a.m.: According to the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defense daily battleground report:

“Heavy shelling continues, while street fighting is likely taking place on the outskirts of Sieverodonetsk town,” the ministry update said. “Russia has achieved greater local successes than earlier in the campaign by massing forces and fires in a relatively small area. This forces Russia to accept risk elsewhere in occupied territory.”

Russian troops were slowly advancing towards the city center in Sievierodonetsk, the governor of Luhansk region said earlier in the day, according to Reuters.


2:05 a.m.: A ship has left the Ukrainian port of Mariupol for the first time since Russia took the city and is headed east to Russia, Interfax quoted the Russian-backed separatist leader of the Ukrainian breakaway region of Donetsk as saying on Tuesday, according to Reuters.

A spokesperson for the port said last week that the ship would be loading 2,700 tons of metal in Mariupol before traveling east to the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don. Ukraine said the shipment of metal to Russia from Mariupol amounted to looting.

1:00 a.m.: Japanese industry minister said on Tuesday that his country will not leave the Sakhalin 2 liquefied natural gas (LNG) project even if asked to leave, Reuters reported.

The land for the project is Russia’s but the plant is owned by the Japanese government and companies, Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Koichi Hagiuda told a parliamentary committee.

12:30 a.m.: Moscow backed separatist leader said Tuesday that Russian forces had not advanced as rapidly as they had hoped in the battle for Sievierodonetsk, the easternmost city still in Ukraine’s hands, Reuters reported citing state-run TASS news agency.

As the Russian offensive continued across Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, the European Union agreed to ban most imports of Russian oil, a move intended to blow a hole in the Kremlin’s war finances.

12:15 a.m.: Russian troops continue to battle Ukrainian forces in the eastern part of the country, according to The Associated Press.

12:01 a.m.: European Union leaders agreed late Monday to ban two-thirds of Russian oil imports as part of a compromise deal to increase pressure on Russia while accounting for the economic effects on some EU nations that are more reliant on Russian oil supplies. The embargo cuts off Russian oil delivered by sea, while exempting oil imported through pipelines.

Landlocked Hungary had threatened to oppose restrictions on oil imports, a move that would have scuttled the effort that requires consensus of all EU members. European Council President Charles Michel said he expects EU ambassadors to formally endorse the embargo, which is part of a larger sanctions package, on Wednesday.

Combined with pledges from countries such as Germany to phase out their Russian oil imports, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the agreement will “effectively cut around 90% of oil imports from Russia to the EU by the end of the year.”


Other parts of the sanction package include assets freezes and travel bans on individuals, and excluding Russia’s biggest banks, Sberbank, from the SWIFT global financial transfer system. The EU is also barring three Russian state-owned broadcasters from distributing content in EU countries. EU leaders also agreed to provide Ukraine with $9.7 billion in assistance for the country’s economy and reconstruction efforts.

Some information in this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.