Putin shows no signs of illness or ailment, says Russian foreign minister
From CNN's Uliana Pavlova and Sarah Diab
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has dismissed rumors concerning President Vladimir Putin's health.
"You know, President Putin appears in public every day. You can see him on TV screens, read his speeches, listen to his speeches," Lavrov told French broadcaster TF1.
"I do not think that any sane person can see in this person signs of some kind of illness or ailment. I leave this on the conscience of those who spread such rumors despite daily opportunities to ensure who looks how in this world," Lavrov said.
Speculation on Putin's health has been circulating for a while, with the Kremlin often denying rumors of ailments.
The interview was uploaded by the Kremlin to its channel on RuTube, the Russian version of YouTube.
7:56 a.m. ET, May 30, 2022
Car bomb detonates in Russian-occupied Melitopol in southern Ukraine, says Russian state media
From CNN's Teele Rebane, Taras Zadorozhnyy, Oleksandra Ochman, Konstantin Gak, Bex Wright and Uliana Pavlova
A car bomb detonated in the Russian-occupied city of Melitopol in southern Ukraine on Monday, Russian state media has reported.
The car was parked in the center of the city near the House of Culture, where Russia’s officials in the city are now operating, according to a report by Russian state-run news channel RT.
The explosion shattered windows in nearby buildings, the report added.
Three people were injured in the blast, a source in the Kremlin-backed city administration told the Russian state-run news agency RIA Novosti.
Exiled mayor of Melitopol, Ivan Fedorov, said: "The explosion took place in the central part of the city, right next to the building belonging to the so-called head of the regional military administration."
Fedorov said there were "several versions" of what happened, and that law enforcement agencies will provide more details later.
He said that the area of the explosion is being investigated by the Russians.
CNN has reached out to Melitopol officials for more details.
Speaking to reporters in a daily call Monday, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov called the explosions "outrageous."
"The fact of the strikes on civilian infrastructure, on children's institutions, is, of course, outrageous," Peskov said, adding that this is what they were fighting to prevent, to protect people from "neo-Nazis."
The Kremlin has been falsely claiming that the Russian invasion of Ukraine is a special operation to rid the country of "neo-Nazis." Since the offensive started in February, Moscow still cites this as their reason, despite providing no evidence.
4:55 a.m. ET, May 30, 2022
French foreign minister to meet Zelensky in Ukraine
From CNN's Pierre Bairin in Paris and CNN’s Sophie Jeong and Mayumi Maruyama in Hong Kong
French Foreign Affairs Minister Catherine Colonna arrived in Ukraine on Monday for her first trip to the country, according to a tweet on her official account.
Colonna will meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and her counterpart Dmytro Kuleba in Kyiv to discuss France’s support for Ukraine in “all areas, and in particular the blockage of grain and oilseed exports from Ukraine,” the French Foreign Affairs Ministry said.
The ministry said Colonna’s visit is to demonstrate France’s solidarity with Ukrainian people and to strengthen its support for Ukraine, “both in humanitarian and financial terms and in terms of supplying defense equipment.”
Colonna will also visit the town of Bucha and donate civil security equipment, including fire trucks and ambulances, from France to the Ukrainian authorities, according to the ministry.
1:55 p.m. ET, May 30, 2022
Russians advancing into "middle of the city" in Severodonetsk, two people killed, Ukraine officials say
From CNN's Taras Zadorozhnyy, Bex Wright, Josh Pennington, Sophie Jeong, and Mayumi Maruyama
Russian forces are “advancing into the middle of the city” of Severodonetsk in northeast Ukraine, the head of the Luhansk regional military administration Serhiy Hayday said on Monday.
Two people were killed and five others wounded in attacks on Sunday, and 50 houses were destroyed, Hayday said.
The Russians have “consolidated their hold on the northeastern and southeastern outskirts of the city” and are “trying to encircle Severodonetsk and Lysychansk,” Hayday said.
Currently the fighting is very fierce,” Hayday added. “The situation is still very difficult.”
There is no internet connection in the city, apart from limited access to Starlink, Hayday said.
The neighboring city of Lysychansk remains under the control of Ukraine, Hayday added. The road to Bakhmut to the southwest of Lysychansk is “not blocked, but it is under fire” so it is “very dangerous to use it,” he said.
He added that humanitarian aid is arriving “almost every day,” and his men are trying to evacuate people when they can.
Separately, the Luhansk Military Administration said in a Telegram post on Monday that "heavy battles for Severodonetsk and Lysychansk [are underway]."
"The Russians are transporting ammunition and equipment in large quantities to the Severodonetsk area," the military statement said.
Some context: On Sunday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told French broadcaster TFI that the "liberation" of Ukraine's Donbas region is an "absolute priority" for Moscow.
2:23 a.m. ET, May 30, 2022
"Hands down the cheapest price in all of Europe": Serbia announces three-year gas deal with Russia
From CNN's Teele Rebane in Hong Kong and Josh Pennington
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic announced a three-year gas deal with Russia in an interview with Serbian TV channel Pink on Sunday, calling the deal “advantageous” for his country.
Vucic said Serbia will sign another three-year deal with Russian state energy provider Gazprom after the current 10-year gas deal expires on Monday.
This is hands down the cheapest price in all of Europe. What we agreed to, (Russian President Vladimir) Putin and I, is very advantageous for Serbia, and so we will sign another contract, the first part, which is a three-year contract," Vucic said.
On Sunday, Putin and Vucic discussed natural gas supplies to the Balkan country, according to RIA Novosti, the Russian state-owned news agency, which quoted the Kremlin as saying that Russia had agreed to “continue to supply uninterrupted natural gas to Serbia.”
Serbia is not a member of the European Union or NATO.
It is almost entirely dependent on Russian gas, while its army maintains ties with Russia's military.
Although the country backed two United Nations resolutions condemning Russia's invasion of Ukraine, it refused to impose sanctions against Moscow.
6:49 p.m. ET, May 30, 2022
It's 7 a.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know
From CNN staff
As the battle for the eastern Donbas region heats up, Ukraine's military says Russian forces are trying to surround its troops in Lysychansk and Severodonetsk.
Here's the latest on Russia's war in Ukraine:
Donbas the "priority": Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says Moscow's "absolute priority" is "the liberation of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions." Lavrov, speaking in an interview with French broadcaster TFI, said the two areas were now recognized by the Russian Federation as independent states. "Our obvious objective is, of course, to push the Ukrainian army and the Ukrainian battalions out of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions," he said.
Russia attacks Severodonetsk: The Ukrainian military says Russian shelling across the border into the northern regions of Sumy and Chernihiv has resumed. "The main goal of the enemy is to surround our troops in the areas of Lysychansk and Severodonetsk and to block the main logistics routes," the Ukrainian General Staff of the Armed Forces said. It added that Russian forces are "trying to gain a foothold on the northeastern outskirts of the city of Severodonetsk, conducting assault operations in the direction of the city center."
Concern for Azovstal prisoners: Two wives and a girlfriend of Ukrainian troops captured by Russian forces or unaccounted for after defending the Azovstal factory in a lengthy siege told CNN they had little or no information about the whereabouts of their loved ones. The besieged Ukrainian port city of Mariupol fell under complete Russian control earlier this month with the surrender of the factory. It is unclear how many Ukrainian troops are now in Russian custody, but the Russian military has claimed that over 2,000 Ukrainian service members surrendered. Russian state propaganda has demonized Azovstal defenders as "Nazis," raising serious concerns about how they may be treated in captivity.
Zelensky in Kharkiv: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited the "front line positions" of the Ukrainian military and met soldiers during a trip to the Kharkiv region on Sunday. "I want to thank each of you for your service. You risk your life for all of us and our state. Thank you for defending Ukraine's independence. Take care of yourself," he said. During the visit, Zelensky got an operational update and visited destroyed administrative and residential buildings in the city. Zelensky praised authorities in Kharkiv but said he had dismissed the head of the regional SBU security service who "didn't work to protect the city from the first days of a full-scale invasion and thought only of himself personally."
Ukrainian counterattack: The Ukrainian military says it has begun a counter-offensive against Russian forces in the south of the country and has claimed significant advances in the direction of Kherson. Serhii Hlan, a deputy who sits on the Kherson region council, said Ukrainian forces "continued offensive operations and pushed the enemy back 9 kilometers (5 miles) in the Beryslav district." Hlan also claimed that Ukrainian units "broke the enemy grouping into two parts and actually encircled the enemy grouping in Davidiv Brid."
1:55 p.m. ET, May 30, 2022
Pushing Ukrainian military out of Donbas region an "absolute priority," Russian foreign minister says
From CNN’s Mitchell McCluskey
Pushing the Ukrainian army out of the Donbas region is a priority for Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview with French broadcaster TFI.
Our absolute priority is the liberation of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, which are now recognized by the Russian Federation as independent states," Lavrov said.
Asked if Russia would annex the territories in Donbas, Lavrov responded: "It's not about annexation. This is a military operation requested by the sovereign states of the People's Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, under the United Nations Charter, Article 51, which provides for the right of individual and collective self-defense. We defend the populations, and we help them to restore their territorial integrity," Lavrov said.
Lavrov also told TFI that the other regions will be able to decide their fate.
"Our obvious objective is, of course, to push the Ukrainian army and the Ukrainian battalions out of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. For the rest of the territories in Ukraine, where there are people who do not want to break ties with Russia, it will be up to the populations of these regions to decide," Lavrov said.
11:59 p.m. ET, May 29, 2022
Ukraine reports counterattack south of Kryvyi Rih
From CNN's Tim Lister and Kostan Nechyporenko
Ukrainian forces have launched a "successful counterattack south of Kryvyi Rih," according to Oleksandr Vilkul, head of the Kryvyi Rih military administration in southern Ukraine.
Sixty-three invaders and 19 units of enemy equipment were destroyed, including modern T-72 tanks, a Grad multiple launch rocket system, artillery, helicopters and one SU-35 aircraft," Vilkul said.
He provided no further details, and the claim cannot be verified. But the Ukrainian military had earlier claimed significant advances south in the area where Kherson and Mykolaiv regions meet.
Vilkul also said the internally displaced from Russian-occupied areas or communities under attack continued to arrive in Kryvyi Rih.
"Refugees continue to arrive in the city. There are already more than 45,000 officially registered migrants in the city, but in reality, this number is more than 60,000.
2:24 a.m. ET, May 30, 2022
Wives, girlfriend of Azovstal defenders say there's little information on whereabouts of loved ones
From CNN's Yulia Kesaieva and Daria Markina
Two wives and a girlfriend of Ukrainian troops captured by Russian forces or unaccounted for after defending the Azovstal factory in a lengthy siege told CNN they had little or no information about the whereabouts of their loved ones.
"I have not been in touch with my husband or got any information about him lately," said Anna Ivleva, the wife of Anton, a marine who was seriously wounded in Azovstal. "The last time we spoke was on April 13. And then his brothers-in-arms would send me texts that he was still alive."
Ivleva said Ukrainian government officials had been in touch but added that there was "no information" on where Azovstal fighters were being kept and under what conditions. She is holding out hope her husband is alive, even if in captivity.
"We all -- families, wives and mothers of the marines, are sticking to each other, we are always in touch with each other 24/7," she said. "We always exchange any available news, we are like a family."
The besieged Ukrainian port city of Mariupol fell under complete Russian control earlier this month with the surrender of Azovstal, the city's last bastion of Ukrainian defense. It is unclear how many Ukrainian troops are now in Russian custody, but the Russian military has claimed that over 2,000 Ukrainian servicemembers surrendered there. Russian state propaganda has demonized Azovstal defenders as "Nazis," raising serious concerns about how they may be treated in captivity.
A woman named Yana helped organize events in Kyiv in support of Azovstal fighters. Her boyfriend is a marine who was in Azovstal. She spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing security concerns.
I have not heard from him or anything about him," she said. "Last time we were in touch was on May 11."
She said the Ukrainian government had not provided any information on where her boyfriend might be.
"My boyfriend’s mother was contacted by the ICRC [the International Committee of the Red Cross], I can’t remember when exactly," she said. "They only told her he was alive, that’s it."
The ICRC has been involved in registering combatants leaving the Azovstal plant since May 17 -- partly to help prisoners of war keep in touch with their families. The organization has been working in Ukraine since 2014, when the war in Ukraine's Donbas region began.
Another wife of an Azovstal defender, Tetiana, said her husband managed to call her from an unknown number after the surrender and said some of his comrades were being held in a town in separatist-held Donetsk oblast. CNN agreed not to report her surname for the same reasons.
"His voice was calm and confident," she said. "He said that the conditions they were being kept in were OK. He said it might be possible in the future that they would be allowed to receive some packages."
Tetiana said she spoke with her husband for about 10 minutes, and that her husband said that he would try to call again.