US defense secretary highlights the "power of democratic citizens and soldiers" in Ukraine
From CNN's Ellie Kaufman
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin marked the annual US Memorial Day holiday in a short speech highlighting the “power of democratic citizens and soldiers to defy tyranny, cruelty and oppression,” in Ukraine as Russia’s invasion of the country continues. Austin made the brief remarks to introduce President Joe Biden at Arlington National Cemetery on Monday.
“Today, on the battlefields of Ukraine, the world again sees the power of democratic citizens and soldiers to defy tyranny, cruelty, and oppression. Their freedom is under attack, and so is the international order rooted in the rules that we have built since World War II at such terrible costs,” Austin said.
Austin said the US understands “the challenge” posed by the threat in Ukraine. “We’re determined to meet it,” he added.
“As the President says, in the battle between democracy and autocracy, democracies are rising to the moment. We draw inspiration from the unity of our allies and partners and we draw strength from the men and women of the United States military,” Austin said.
6:48 p.m. ET, May 30, 2022
EU "cannot afford" for no agreement to be reached on new round of Russian sanctions, parliament chief says
From CNN's Niamh Kennedy in London
The European Union "cannot afford" for no agreement to be reached on the bloc's proposed sixth round of sanctions against Russia, European Parliament President Roberta Metsola said Monday.
"I really hope there will be an agreement. We cannot afford there not to be," Metsola told a news conference in Brussels after meeting with the heads of EU member states.
"While I understand the realities facing different countries, there is a limit as to how much flexibility we can allow without losing credibility vis vie our populations," she stressed.
She acknowledged that while sanctions packages "are never easy to adopt" there is strong hope that the EU can "reach an agreement that can be one that is effective that has beef that has teeth."
"Would we have liked it to go further? Of course. Do we still want it to go further? Of course. And we will continue to make this point," the European Parliament chief added.
On the topic of Ukraine's application to become an EU member state, Metsola gave positive signals from the European Parliament's perspective.
"In my view, we have no choice but to bring Ukraine even more close to us and the worst signal we could give at this point in time would be to show a hesitation. And what Ukraine needs right now is hope and perspective," she added.
2:33 p.m. ET, May 30, 2022
US President Biden says he won't send rockets to Ukraine that could reach Russia
From CNN's Kevin Liptak
US President Joe Biden said he doesn't plan to ship any rockets to Ukraine that could reach Russian territory.
"I won't send anything that can fire into Russia," Biden said at the White House on Monday when asked whether he was planning to send long-range rockets to Ukraine.
CNN reported last week the Biden administration is preparing to step up the kind of weaponry it is offering Ukraine by sending advanced, long-range rocket systems that are now the top request from Ukrainian officials.
The administration is leaning toward sending the systems as part of a larger package of military and security assistance to Ukraine, which could be announced as soon as next week.
The administration has wavered on whether to send the systems amid concerns raised within the National Security Council that Ukraine could use the new weapons to carry out offensive attacks inside Russia, according to officials.
On Friday, after CNN first reported the news, Russians warned that the United States will “cross a red line” if it supplies the systems to Ukraine.
More background: The rocket systems the Biden administration is preparing to send to Ukraine are capable of firing different kinds of ammunition that reach a range of distances.
While some of the longer-range weapons can fire 300 miles (or about 500 kilometers) or more, the systems can also launch rockets with a range of just a few dozen miles — not considered long-range weapons but still able to reach a greater distance than the howitzers the US has already sent to Ukraine.
Biden's comments Monday leave open the possibility that the US could send the advanced, long-range rocket systems without the longest-range rockets.
CNN's Oren Liebermann and Alex Marquardt contributed reporting to this post.
3:12 p.m. ET, May 30, 2022
Ukrainian military reports advances in the south and intense fighting in eastern Donbas region
From CNN's Tim Lister
The Ukrainian military has reported advances during its counteroffensive in the south and continuing efforts to hold off Russian advances in the eastern Donbas region.
The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine reported Monday additional Russian efforts to degrade Ukrainian defenses in Luhansk and Donetsk, saying that artillery, airstrikes and missiles had been used in several places — including Lysychansk and Soledar.
Russian pressure on Severodonetsk, a city where two-thirds of properties have been reported as destroyed, continues — with the General Staff saying that hostilities persist in and around the city.
As the Russians attack Ukrainian lines in Donbas from the south, east and north, there are conflicting claims about their progress.
The General Staff said that fighting continues around the village of Komyshuvakha, to the southwest of Severodonetsk. Social media video geolocated by CNN appears to show a Chechen unit in the village, with drone footage suggesting Ukrainian soldiers retreating from the area. A Chechen commander says: "This locality is now under our control, and we will begin storming all fronts. We have seized, completely, you could say, Komyshuvakha."
Ukraine has claimed some success in its offensive in the south, which began during the weekend. The General Staff said, "the enemy suffered losses and withdrew from the village of Mykolaivka, Kherson region, which led to panic among servicemen of other units of the armed forces of the Russian Federation."
If Russian forces have withdrawn from Mykolaivka, it would represent a gain of several kilometers for Ukrainian units.
The General Staff reported continued further cross-border shelling of settlements in the northern regions of Chernihiv and Sumy, as well as shelling of territory north of the city of Kharkiv which has recently been retaken by Ukrainian forces.
Serhiy Hayday, the head of the Luhansk region military administration, said late Monday that while all parts of Luhansk region still under Ukrainian control are being attacked, "the situation in Severodonetsk is really the most difficult."
The official noted that Russian forces had been able to "push through territory from the outskirts of the city, where the Myr hotel is, and move a little deeper into the city. In the city now, there are and will be street battles."
CNN's Kostan Nechyporenko contributed reporting to this post.
11:12 a.m. ET, May 30, 2022
Turkey offers to host talks between Russia, Ukraine and the UN
From CNN's Isil Sariyuce in Istanbul and Niamh Kennedy in London
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, during a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday, offered to host talks between Russia, Ukraine and the United Nations in Istanbul, according to a Turkish readout of the call.
Erdogan stressed to Putin the "need for steps that will minimize the negative effects of the war" and reestablish peace between Russia and Ukraine "as soon as possible," according to the readout.
"President Erdoğan expressed that they are ready to meet with Russia, Ukraine and the United Nations in Istanbul and to play a role in a possible observation mechanism, if both sides agree on principle," the readout said.
Russian and Ukrainian delegations last met for talks in Istanbul on March 29.
3:09 p.m. ET, May 30, 2022
French journalist killed in Ukraine, Macron says
From CNN's Pierre Bairin
A French journalist has been shot and killed in Ukraine, French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted.
“Journalist, Frederic Leclerc-Imhoff was in Ukraine to show the reality of the war. On board a humanitarian bus, alongside civilians forced to flee to escape the Russian bombs, he was fatally shot,” the French president tweeted.
“I share the grief of the family, friends and colleagues of Frederic Leclerc-Imhoff, to whom I send my condolences. To those who carry out the difficult mission of providing information in theaters of operation, I want to reiterate France's unconditional support,” Macron said on twitter.
BFM TV, a CNN affiliate, said that Leclerc-Imhoff was one of their journalists. On air, the outlet said he was 32 years old and had worked for BFM for six years.
Serhiy Hayday, the head of the Luhansk region military administration, spoke late Monday about the death of the French journalist who was killed in the area Monday. He said Leclerc-Imhoff was being evacuated with others when the vehicle they were traveling in was hit.
"I don't know whether it was an air bomb or a large shell which pierced the armored glass with a fragment and the French journalist died. And he was in a helmet and in a bulletproof vest, but a piece hit him in the neck," he said.
CNN's Kostan Nechyporenko contributed reporting to this post.
11:01 a.m. ET, May 30, 2022
Ukrainian official: Military victory against Russia "unlikely" if US holds back long-range artillery
From CNN's Katya Krebs and Matthew Chance in Kyiv, Ukraine
A military victory against Russia is “unlikely” if the United States holds back supplies of long-range artillery, a senior Ukrainian official tells CNN.
Alexey Arestovych, a Ukrainian presidential advisor, told CNN the weapons are “essential for fate of Ukraine and its independence.”
US officials said last week they are considering a Ukrainian request for deliveries of Multiple Launch Rocket Systems, MLRS, which can strike targets as far as 300 kilometers, or about 186 miles, depending on the type of munition.
Arestovych told CNN that even a small number of the weapons systems — as few as 20 — would be a “game-changer” in the conflict with Russia, as he said it would enable Ukrainian troops to defend themselves against long-range Russian attacks.
“Without MLRS, we would probably be able to stabilize the frontlines,” Arestovych said.
“But we would be looking at losing Kherson, Luhansk, Donetsk and parts of the Zaporizhzhia region,” he told CNN.
But arming Ukraine with long-range rockets has raised concerns in the West that the MLRSs could be used to attack targets inside Russia, possibly escalating the conflict.
Acknowledging those concerns, Arestovych told CNN that Ukraine would only use the weapons to defend their territory, not to attack Russia.
10:19 a.m. ET, May 30, 2022
2 civilians injured in Melitopol explosion, Russian state media reports
From Ukraine journalists and CNN's Bex Wright
An “improvised explosive device” detonated in central Melitopol at 7:50 a.m. local time on Monday, Russian state news agency RIA reports, citing Aleksey Selivanov, deputy chief of Zaporizhzhia region’s police.
He was speaking on behalf of the Russian authorities, which currently control Melitopol.
Two civilians — a man and a woman — were injured due to the explosion, Selivanov said.
The attack “looks like it was done by Ukrainians,” Selivanov added, without providing further details.
Ukrainian Defense Ministry reports "maximum intensity" in Russian strikes
From CNN's Maria Kostenko and Tim Lister
Ukraine's Defense Ministry says that Russian forces are carrying our artillery strikes along much of the frontline that runs through Luhansk and Donetsk regions as they try to break through Ukrainian defensive positions.
Oleksandr Motuzianyk, the Defense Ministry spokesperson, told a briefing Monday that Russian forces "are trying encircle our troops in Donetsk and Luhansk regions."
"The battles have reached maximum intensity. The Russian occupation forces engage along the entire frontline and try to shell our rear positions with artillery," he said.
Suggesting an intensification of Russian efforts, Motuzianyk said "simultaneous assaults on multiple access have been conducted."
On the situation in Severodonetsk, Motuzianyk said: "There are street fights, [the] Ukrainian military keeps fighting. We know all about enemy plans. I’m quite optimistic about the situation but it's tense. We are trying to prevent the enemy from encircling our units near Lysychansk and Severodonetsk and blocking the main logistics path," which runs west to Bakhmut.
He said that Russian forces were regrouping "in order to relaunch an offensive on [the] Izium-Barvinkove and Izium-Slovyansk [directions]." The Russians have already taken the town of Lyman northeast of Sloviansk.