Ukraine: Nine dead in Kharkiv, as Donbas fighting at 'maximum intensity'

Thursday, May 26, 2022. Residents in villages and towns near the front line continue to flee as fighting rages in eastern Ukraine.
Thursday, May 26, 2022. Residents in villages and towns near the front line continue to flee as fighting rages in eastern Ukraine. Copyright AP Photo/Francisco Seco
By Euronews with AP, AFP, Reuters
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Russian forces intensify their assault on eastern Ukraine as military commander says "we are fighting for every inch of the front line, for every village."


Ukrainian commanders say fighting is at "maximum intensity" in eastern Ukraine as Russian forces step up their offensive in the Donbas region. Meanwhile in Ukraine's second city Kharkiv at least nine people have been killed after a renewed Russian bombardment. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the West will fail in its attempts to isolate Russia. Speaking to the Eurasian Economic Forum, Putin said that western countries were facing their own economic challenges, and criticized them for seizing Russian assets, describing it as "theft." 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy strongly rebuffed those in the West who have suggested Ukraine cede control of areas occupied by Russian forces for the sake of reaching a peace agreement.

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin is in Ukraine, holding talks with President Zelenskyy who thanked the Finns for military support. Marin also visited the scenes of atrocities in Bucha. 

Follow developments on Thursday as they unfolded in our blog below:


Thursday's key points:

  • Fighting in eastern Ukraine's Donbas region is at "maximum intensity" according to military commanders, as Russian forces step up their offensive to capture the whole area. 

  • Russia has offered to lift a blockade of Ukrainian ports to allow agriculture exports, in return for an easing of sanctions. 

  • Vladimir Putin said the West will fail in its attempts to isolate Russia.

  • Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin is in Ukraine. She held talks with President Zelenskyy, who thanked Finland for military support. Marin also visited the scenes of Russian atrocities in the city of Bucha. 

  • German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said he was "convinced" that Russia would not win the war in Ukraine.


That's our Ukraine live blog coming to a close for Thursday evening. 

We're back early Friday morning with all the latest developments. 


Nine dead in new Kharkiv bombing

Nine people are dead after Russian bombardment of Ukraine's second city Kharkiv, which had begun a return to normal life in mid-May.

Writing on Telegram, the regional governor said: "Russian shelling of Kharkiv killed nine civilians."

"A five-month-old baby died, as did his father. The mother was seriously injured and 19 civilians were injured." 

Missiles hit the residential area of ​​the Pavlové Polé district, in the center-north of the city, near a shopping center which was closed at the time of the strike, according to an AFP journalist on the spot. He saw a young man killed and four injured, all taken to hospital, including an older man with a severed leg and arm. 

Other residential areas were also bombed, with extensive destruction of buildings.

The mayor of the city, Igor Terekhov, asked residents to take refuge in safe shelters. 

“Enemy troops are shelling our city again,” he said in a video posted on Telegram. "I ask you to stay in safe places, cellars, shelters and metro stations." 

Since mid-May, relative calm had returned to the city, which is about 50km from the Russian border. Before the war some 1.5 million people lived there.  

Russian forces had ceased their offensive on Kharkiv, to concentrate more troops in eastern and southern Ukraine, and the city was beginning a difficult return to normal, including reopening subway traffic. 



Fighting "maximum intensity" in east Ukraine

Ukraine described a Russian military offensive of "maximum intensity" and an extremely difficult situation in the east of its territory, asking for more heavy weapons and denouncing in advance any "pacifist" concessions to Russia, which has disdainfully rejected an Italian peace plan.

"It's hard, but we are holding on. We are fighting for every inch of the front line, for every village. Western weapons help us push the enemy out of our land," the commander wrote on Telegram. head of the Ukrainian armed forces Valeriï Zalouzhny.

"We badly need weapons that will allow us to strike the enemy at a great distance", he added, stressing that "any delay (in these deliveries of heavy weapons) is paid for by the lives of people who protect the world of Ruscism", the contraction of "Russia" and "fascism" used in Ukraine to designate the regime established in Moscow by Vladimir Putin.

The Russian army has concentrated its efforts on the complete conquest of Donbas, the industrial basin in the East already partially controlled by pro-Russian separatists since 2014, however their progress has been slow. 



Could Russian oligarchs buy their way out of sanctions?

Western allies are considering whether to allow Russian oligarchs to buy their way out of sanctions and using the money to rebuild Ukraine, according to government officials familiar with the matter.

Canadian Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland proposed the idea at a G-7 finance ministers’ meeting in Germany last week.

Freeland raised the issue after oligarchs spoke to her about it, one official said. The Canadian minister knows some Russian oligarchs from her time as a journalist in Moscow.

The official said the Ukrainians were aware of the discussions. The official said it’s also in the West’s interests to have prominent oligarchs dissociate themselves with Russian President Vladimir Putin while at the same time providing funding for Ukraine.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak publicly about internal G-7 discussions.



Belarus sending troops to Ukrainian border

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said Thursday he was forming a southern military command and sending battalion tactical groups to the area that borders Ukraine.

Lukashenko did not give details, but battalion tactical groups typically consist of mechanized infantry including tanks. The territory of Belarus was used for rocket attacks on Ukraine, but the military of Belarus did not take part in the Russian ground operation.

Ukrainian authorities have expressed concern that Belarus may agree to a wider participation in the war.



Russians broadcast state television in occupied Mariupol

Russia has started broadcasting its state television news in the ravaged port city of Mariupol and other locations it controls in eastern Ukraine, Russian and Ukrainian officials said Thursday.

Russia’s Ministry for Emergency Situations, or MChS, said it has launched “three mobile complexes for informing and alerting the population” that will be “broadcasting news for two hours in different parts of Mariupol.”

Such mobile units also operate in the city of Volnovakha and the Lyman district of Ukraine's Donetsk province, broadcasting state news shows, “practical information” and cartoons for children, Russian state news agency Tass reported Thursday.

Petro Adnryushchenko, an advisor to Mariupol's Ukrainian mayor, posted on his Telegram channel footage of MChS trucks with TV screens broadcasting Russian news shows to crowds of people in the Russian-occupied city.

“Yesterday, the occupiers launched three mobile propaganda cars and additionally installed 12 75-inch TVs in places of mass gathering - humanitarian aid distribution points, paperwork points and water access points,” he wrote. “The practice of ‘nothing to feed, feed lies’ is gaining momentum.”



Red Cross: Registering prisoners of war 'amounts to life insurance'

The International Committee of the Red Cross said Wednesday that it has been able to give answers to 300 families in Russia and Ukraine about the fate of their loved ones.

ICRC Director-General Robert Mardini told reporters that the organization’s work trying to clarify the fate of missing persons “is very much on track.” He did not disclose the fate of the 300 Russians and Ukrainians, saying only that their families had provided “very concrete questions about their loved ones.”

Mardini said some progress has also been made on the right of the ICRC to visit prisoners of war, which is part of the Geneva conventions.

“There is agreement on both sides” on this right, “which is good news,” Mardini said, but the major obstacle in the ICRC carrying out visits is the war itself and the logistical constraints.

Mardini said the ICRC registered all the Ukrainian fighters that held out until last week at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol before they were taken to Russian-controlled territory. Russia said there were 2,439 Ukrainian fighters.

“Registering prisoners of war or detainees amounts to nothing short of a life insurance,” Mardini said.



Prague strips Soviet commander of honorary citizenship

The Czech capital stripped a Soviet World War II commander of his honorary Prague citizenship Thursday.

The Prague City Council ’s approved Mayor Zdenek Hrib’s proposal to revoke the honour bestowed in June 1945 on Soviet Marshal Ivan Stepanovic Konev.

Konev led the Red Army forces that liberated large parts of Czechoslovakia from Nazi occupation in 1945 and also contributed to Prague's liberation. He died in 1973.

The mayor said the general and his army were welcomed in Prague in 1945 but he based his proposal on Konev's post-war activities.

Hrib cited Konev’s authorization of a Soviet bombardment of the Czech town of Mlada Boleslav a day after World War ended, an attack which killed some 150 Czech citizens, and his role in crushing the 1956 anti-Soviet uprising in Hungary.

Two years ago, a Prague district removed a statue of Konev. The action angered Russia.

After communism ended in 1989, Prague authorities stripped honorary citizenship from Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

FILE - The statue of a Soviet World War II commander Marshall Ivan Stepanovic Konev is removed from its site in Prague, Czech Republic, April 3, 2020. (AP Photo)

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