What Happened on Day 95 of the War in Ukraine

Image

Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

KRAMATORSK, Ukraine — Ukrainian soldiers, seeking to spread Russian forces thin, launched a counteroffensive on Sunday in Kherson, the key southern city that Moscow considered so securely under its thumb that it had introduced the ruble.

Ukraine’s push in Kherson came as its forces were desperately battling to hold off Russia’s efforts to conquer and cut off a strategic strip of Eastern Ukraine that is central to Moscow’s struggling war effort, and it had the effect of expanding the battlefield.

The opening of the new front underlined that when it comes to territory in Ukraine, little is for keeps as each side tries to exploit the enemy’s shifting strategic vulnerabilities. That volatility promises to only increase as Ukraine receives more sophisticated long-range artillery, and soon possibly American missiles.

On Sunday, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, who has appealed for those weapons, sought to build morale by visiting the country’s northeast, near Kharkiv, which is still under shelling.

He praised Ukraine’s forces there for their success this month in pushing Russians back from the city’s outskirts and said in an address on Sunday night that “Kharkiv suffered terrible blows from the occupiers.”

The city, which endured months of shelling that killed many civilians and forced tens of thousands to flee, was struck again hours after the Ukrainian president left, according to Reuters. But in the long term, Mr. Zelensky said late Sunday, it is Russia that will pay the price.

“Russia has already lost not only the battle for Kharkiv, not only the battle for Kyiv and the north of our country,” he said. “It lost its own future and any cultural ties to the free world. They all burned down.”

Image

Credit…Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/EPA, via Shutterstock

The announcement of the Ukrainian counteroffensive — “Hold on, Kherson, we’re coming!” the military said Sunday morning on Twitter — signaled what may prove to be a new chapter in a war that has political, economic and humanitarian significance far beyond Ukraine’s borders.

Kherson, a port city in Ukraine’s agricultural heartland, was the first major city to fall as Russian forces swept north out of Crimea more than three months ago. After seizing it, Moscow used the city as a staging ground for operations across southern Ukraine.

But in recent weeks, Russian forces — stretched thin and taking heavy losses as they gain ground in the eastern Donbas region — have concentrated their efforts in the south on fortifying defensive positions. Satellite images have shown Russians scrambling to build fortifications in Kherson, where the shoots of an insurgency surfaced this month.

It was not clear if they were prepared for the Ukrainian counterattack.

The Ukrainian military headquarters said in a statement that its forces had broken through a Russian line of defense and pushed the Russians into less favorable terrain near the villages of Andriyivka, Lozove and Belihorka. The counteroffensive also sought to threaten Russia’s supply routes on bridges over the Dnipro River.

Ukraine had been telegraphing the counteroffensive for days, though it had said such a maneuver would require the Western artillery systems promised by the United States and other allies. It was unclear on Sunday what artillery Ukraine was using in its counteroffensive.

In a war that is increasingly becoming an arms race, powerful American-made howitzers reached Ukrainian forces this month, and Ukrainian troops recently received Harpoon anti-ship cruise missiles from Denmark. Ukraine’s defense minister, Oleksiy Reznikov, said they would be used to try to break Russia’s Black Sea blockade and to protect the port city of Odesa.

Image

Credit…Ivor Prickett for The New York Times

The Biden administration has also approved sending long-range multiple-launch rocket systems to Ukraine, a significant transfer that could hugely aid its defense.

With whatever hardware it has on hand, Ukraine seemed Sunday to be sending a message to Russia that it will not simply play defense in a battlefield of Russia’s choosing. Instead, Ukraine appears to be redrawing the map to include those places where diminished and hard-hit Russian forces have themselves dug into defensive positions.

Russia, after failing spectacularly to capture Kyiv, the capital, and Kharkiv, the second-largest city, has narrowed its focus on the 75-mile eastern frontline in the slender eastern Donbas region. It has devoted the bulk of its forces to pounding eastern Ukraine and capturing Sievierodonetsk, the last Ukrainian-controlled city in the Luhansk region, which is now at the heart of the conflict.

President Zelensky described the conditions in Sievierodonetsk over the weekend as “indescribably difficult.” Ukrainians call the route into the city from the west the “road of life,” as it is the only means to resupply their soldiers there. Russia has sought to cut that road off, and social media posts of burned Russian armored vehicles on the highway indicated they had at least briefly done so before being rebuffed.

Ukrainian military officials posted late Sunday on Facebook that Russia was “trying to gain a foothold on the northeastern outskirts of the city of Sievierodonetsk, conducting assault operations in the direction of the city center.”

Image

Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

Russia has been using long-range artillery to pound targeted towns into submission from a distance before surrounding and nibbling away at territory.

Russia has thermobaric warheads, a fearsome conventional weapon nicknamed the Heatwave, which send shock waves into bunkers and trenches. It has also claimed to have successfully test-fired a hypersonic Zircon cruise missile from the Barents Sea at a target more than 620 miles away. Hypersonic weapons, generally defined as those capable of flying at speeds over Mach 5 — five times the speed of sound — are at the center of an arms race among the United States, Russia and China.

As tactics, targets and weaponry in the conflict change, one constant is the human toll. The Ukrainian military said Sunday that Moscow had ordered hospitals in Crimea to stop treating civilians in order to care for wounded soldiers instead. The claim could not be independently verified.

Amid the loss of life and the destruction of civil society, European leaders are again calling for a cease-fire.

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia said in a statement from the Kremlin that he was “open to renewing dialogue with Kyiv.”

The statement described a call he had on Saturday with the leaders of France and Germany. According to the Kremlin, Mr. Putin said that Western weapons deliveries could lead to “a further destabilization of the situation,” and he renewed his demand that the West drop sanctions against Russia to ease the export of food and fertilizer.

Image

Credit…Ivor Prickett for The New York Times

President Emmanuel Macron of France and Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany said that any resolution of the war must be negotiated between Moscow and Kyiv “with respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” according to a statement from the office of the French presidency.

But Mykhaylo Podolyak, an aide to Ukraine’s president and envoy to peace talks held earlier in the three-month-long conflict, said in a post on Telegram over the weekend that Russia simply could not be trusted.

“Any agreement with Russia isn’t worth a broken penny,” Mr. Podolyak wrote. Until Russian troops withdraw from Ukraine, he said, “negotiations are being conducted by a separate ‘delegation’ on the front line.”

Austin Ramzy

May 29, 2022, 10:52 p.m. ET

May 29, 2022, 10:52 p.m. ET

Austin Ramzy

Reporting from Hong Kong

President Volodymyr Zelensky said he dismissed the head of security services in Kharkiv while visiting the region on Sunday. Mr. Zelensky accused the security chief, whom he did not name, of “thinking only of himself personally” and “not working to defend the city from the first days of a full-scale war.”

Anushka Patil

May 29, 2022, 9:39 p.m. ET

May 29, 2022, 9:39 p.m. ET

Anushka Patil

The European Council will continue talks over a ban on Russian oil, which has been stalled by Hungary, during a two-day summit in Brussels beginning on Monday. President Volodymyr Zelensky is set to join the summit via video link to discuss the situation in Ukraine.

Diego Ibarra Sanchez

May 29, 2022, 8:48 p.m. ET

May 29, 2022, 8:48 p.m. ET

Diego Ibarra Sanchez

Reporting from Lviv, Ukraine

Dariia Dmytriieva, 34, opened a sushi restaurant in Ukraine’s western city of Lviv with her husband three months after fleeing Mariupol. “We really liked living in Mariupol,” Dariia said. She and her husband, Stanislav Dmytriiev, 34, left the southern city when Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 and later made it to Lviv. “We decided not to give up, to set an example that life still goes on, even in these hard times,” Dariia said.

Image

Credit…Diego Ibarra Sanchez for The New York Times

Image

Credit…Diego Ibarra Sanchez for The New York Times

May 29, 2022, 8:16 p.m. ET

May 29, 2022, 8:16 p.m. ET

Juston Jones

After President Volodymyr Zelensky returned to Kyiv from a visit to the city of Kharkiv in the east, which he described as having “suffered terrible blows” from Russia, he used his nightly address to impress upon Ukrainians the value in being able to “just quietly walk the streets of your own city.” Being back in the capital had given him a sense of “freedom and peace,” and “that’s what we are fighting for,” he said in the address.

Ivor Prickett

May 29, 2022, 5:31 p.m. ET

May 29, 2022, 5:31 p.m. ET

Ivor Prickett

Reporting from Pokrovsk, Ukraine

Elderly and sick civilians, along with their children and carers, board a medical evacuation train operated by Doctors Without Borders in Pokrovsk, in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, on Sunday.

Image

Credit…Ivor Prickett for The New York Times

Cassandra Vinograd

May 29, 2022, 4:17 p.m. ET

May 29, 2022, 4:17 p.m. ET

Cassandra Vinograd

President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Russian strikes have destroyed “the entire critical infrastructure” of Sievierodonetsk in eastern Ukraine. Describing shelling there as “constant,” he said in an evening address that capturing the city was Russia’s “fundamental” objective and that “they don’t care how many lives they will have to pay.” He added that Ukraine was doing “everything” to repel the offensive.

Valerie Hopkins

May 29, 2022, 3:31 p.m. ET

May 29, 2022, 3:31 p.m. ET

Image

Credit…Nicole Tung for The New York Times

KHARKIV, Ukraine — They lie in white and black bags at 20 degrees below zero Celsius, but the stench is still overpowering. Filled with the bodies of 62 Russian soldiers, the bags are stacked in a refrigerated train car in a secret location on the outskirts of Ukraine’s second-largest city. A spry, elderly train worker spun open the vault-like door to reveal the bloodied bags as the scent hung in the damp air.

“We are collecting these bodies for sanitary reasons, because dogs have been eating them,” said a Ukrainian soldier who would only give his call sign, Summer. “Eventually we will return them to their loved ones.”

Summer said many of the bodies had been lying in the open for a month or longer before his unit found them. His two-man team works to identify the soldiers by their faces, tattoos and belongings. They also take a DNA swab from each corpse to determine whether any potential war-crimes suspects are among them.

In the gloom of the darkened car, a few traces of humanity, of the soldiers who once brought Russia’s war to Ukraine, can be made out. A pair of boots caked in mud peek out of one bag. Off in the corner, the collar of a camouflage jacket is visible through an opening, but not a face.

Summer’s colleague, who refused to use even his first initial because of the sensitivity of the topic, said they were the only two men in their unit tasked with finding and preserving the bodies of the enemy. He said identifications were possible about 50 percent of the time, while in other cases the corpses were too deteriorated. Most of the bodies had been found in villages around Kharkiv.

Image

Credit…Nicole Tung for The New York Times

“This is the best work in the world,” he said of the grim satisfaction to be found in collecting the corpses of the invader.

In recent weeks, the Ukrainian army successfully counterattacked Russian forces, pushing them further from Kharkiv and giving the city a sense of calm, at least until shelling resumed again on Wednesday.

When the Russians retreated, they left some of their fallen behind, and as Kharkiv inhabitants have begun returning tentatively to villages that had been in the line of fire, some have found the bodies in their homes or have stumbled across them elsewhere.

The train attendant sleeps in the wagon next door to the refrigerated car, keeping guard over the corpses. Colleagues have taken on similar duties in other cities, among them Kyiv, Zaporizhzhia and Dnipro, where other refrigerated wagons hold hundreds of bodies.

The Ukrainian authorities have complained that the Kremlin has been reluctant to engage on the subject of repatriating its dead.

Ukraine says 30,000 Russian soldiers have been killed since the invasion began on Feb. 24; those numbers are impossible to independently verify, and Russia rarely gives casualty tolls. Last week a British intelligence assessment put the estimated Russian losses at half that number. Thousands more Russians are missing or are being held by the Ukrainians, Western intelligence agencies estimate.

Image

Credit…Nicole Tung for The New York Times

Russia has not released casualty figures since late March, when it said 1,351 soldiers had died and 3,825 had been wounded. Estimates based on publicly available evidence suggest that well over 400 Russian soldiers were killed or wounded in one incident alone earlier this month in northeastern Ukraine.

Last week, for the first time since Russia invaded, President Vladimir V. Putin visited a military hospital in Moscow to visit wounded soldiers. Donning a white lab coat, he called everyone serving in Ukraine “heroes.” Mr. Putin also announced further compensation increases for people serving there, a sign he may be trying to tamp down bubbling public discontent over casualties. Russia also abolished upper age limits for signing a military service contract.

Ukraine has not shared its own military casualty information, but President Volodymyr Zelensky said last week at Davos that as many as 100 servicemen might be dying every day in the brutal fighting in the eastern Donbas region.

Allies of Ukraine have also been reluctant to comment on the casualties the country’s troops have sustained, but U.S. intelligence agencies estimated in mid-April that between 5,500 to 11,000 soldiers had been killed and more than 18,000 wounded.

One of the soldiers handling the Russian corpses in Kharkiv said he hoped Ukraine’s decision to safeguard Russia’s war dead may improve its chances of getting its own back from behind enemy lines.

“For me,” he said, “it is most important that we bring the bodies of our boys back to their families. So we treat these bodies respectfully.”

Cassandra Vinograd

May 29, 2022, 2:49 p.m. ET

May 29, 2022, 2:49 p.m. ET

Cassandra Vinograd

Russian forces are trying to gain a foothold on the northeast edge of Sievierodonetsk and are moving in the direction of the city center, Ukraine’s military said in its evening update. Russia has been battering Sievierodonetsk in hopes of capturing it, the last Ukrainian controlled city in the eastern Luhansk region.

May 29, 2022, 1:40 p.m. ET

May 29, 2022, 1:40 p.m. ET

Eduardo Medina

President Andrzej Duda of Poland said that he plans to increase defense spending because many Poles are “afraid of a Russian attack,” telling CNN that he hopes to increase his country’s troop numbers in the coming years.

Erika Solomon

May 29, 2022, 1:03 p.m. ET

May 29, 2022, 1:03 p.m. ET

Erika Solomon

Image

Credit…Diego Ibarra Sanchez for The New York Times

Image

Credit…Diego Ibarra Sanchez for The New York Times

Image

Credit…Diego Ibarra Sanchez for The New York Times

LVIV, Ukraine — The teacher sounded her words slowly, careful to show which syllable to stress: Eyebrow. Cheekbones. Hair.

The students, arranged in a semicircle around her, parroted them back. But they were not there to learn a foreign tongue: Aged 11 to 70, they were Ukrainians, in Ukraine, trying to master the official language of their own country.

Since Russia’s invasion, a number of language clubs have opened in cities in western Ukraine. Teachers and volunteers are reaching out to millions of displaced people who have fled to the relative safety of western cities like Lviv from the Russian-speaking east, encouraging them to practice and embrace Ukrainian as the language of their daily lives.

An estimated one in every three Ukrainians speaks Russian at home, according to researchers, and many of them — outraged by the violence of Russia’s invasion — are enthusiastically making the switch as a show of solidarity.

Ukraine’s large population of Russian speakers is a legacy of centuries of dominance by its more powerful neighbor, from the age of the Russian Empire to the rise of the Soviet Union. Though most are familiar with the Ukrainian language, the transition is not without trepidation for some like Anna Kachalova, 44, who grew up speaking Russian.

Language clubs offer an inviting space to build confidence. “I understand Ukrainian — I just can’t speak it,” Ms. Kachalova said.

Making the switch is important, she said, but the sudden transition to another language has been hard.

“It’s a psychological thing,” she said.

Matthew Mpoke Bigg

May 29, 2022, 11:16 a.m. ET

May 29, 2022, 11:16 a.m. ET

Image

Credit…Ukrainian Presidential Press Service, via EPA – Shutterstock

President Volodymyr Zelensky visited frontline troops in northeastern Ukraine on Sunday, marking a success for his forces who this month pushed Russian forces back from the outskirts of the country’s second-largest city, after months of shelling that killed many civilians and forced tens of thousands to flee.

Mr. Zelensky received an operational update on the situation in the city, Kharkiv, and presented awards to troops, according to a statement from his office.

“I want to thank each of you for your service,” Mr. Zelensky said. “You risk your life for all of us and our state.”

Kharkiv, which is close to the Russian border, was a focus of a two-pronged strategy by Moscow in the north of the country when it invaded on Feb. 24, aiming to seize the city as well as the capital, Kyiv. Within weeks, Ukrainian forces had repelled Russian troops from towns north of Kyiv, but widespread shelling of Kharkiv ended only this month.

Mr. Zelensky has largely remained in the capital since the war began, but has made several visits to towns north of Kyiv. Trips to other parts of the country have been rare.

Many civilians who fled from Kharkiv in the early weeks of the war have begun to return, but the city remains dangerous. Nine civilians were killed on Thursday when Russian forces shelled the city, including a 5-month-old baby and her father, according to Oleh Synehubov, the regional governor.

Nineteen other people were wounded, the governor said on Facebook, including the child’s mother, who remained in serious condition.

In recent weeks, Moscow has narrowed its war aims in the face of military setbacks, and has focused its energy and firepower on the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, where it already holds considerable territory.

Marc Santora

May 29, 2022, 10:37 a.m. ET

May 29, 2022, 10:37 a.m. ET

Marc Santora

Russia’s military said on Sunday that its forces destroyed a large-arms depot in central Ukraine. The Russian claims could not be independently verified. But both sides have suffered heavy losses in fierce fighting over the course of the war.

Matthew Mpoke Bigg

May 29, 2022, 10:30 a.m. ET

May 29, 2022, 10:30 a.m. ET

Image

Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

In ordinary times, there’s little that is remarkable about Ukraine’s route T1302, a stretch of pavement that cuts through farmland and small villages and connects two cities in the country’s southeast. With one of those cities now under an onslaught of Russian firepower, the road has taken on far greater significance, as a key to survival.

One regional governor even calls it the “road of life.”

Each day, Russian forces pummel route T1302 with artillery. Their goal is to cut the cord that runs northeast from the city of Bakhmut in Donetsk province for around 43 miles to the besieged city of Sievierodonetsk in the neighboring province of Luhansk and gives supplies a way in and fleeing residents a way out.

The road runs through the city of Lysychansk, which is also under attack, and across the Seversky Donets River before entering Sievierodonetsk on the river’s eastern bank. Russian artillery has pounded the city for weeks, shattering buildings and killing civilians.

“Sievierodonetsk is barely alive,” said Serhiy Haidai, the head of Ukraine’s military administration in Luhansk, adding that the city has become the epicenter of the war. He said that one woman died on Saturday and 13 high-rise buildings were damaged by shelling.

Russian forces also killed two civilians in fresh fighting on the highway, he said on Sunday, adding, in a post on the Telegram messaging app, that Ukrainian forces had successfully repulsed an enemy attack on the “road of life.”

In recent weeks, the battle for Sievierodonetsk has assumed an outsized importance in the four-month war. Russia’s failure to quickly capture the capital, Kyiv, in the early weeks of the conflict, or Ukraine’s second largest city, Kharkiv, has forced it to focus on the eastern Donbas region, where it has held significant territory since 2014.

Taking Sievierodonetsk would give Russia full control of Luhansk province, which along with neighboring Donetsk provinces makes up the Donbas. The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington think tank, described the battle for Sievierodonetsk as central to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia’s military objectives but a spurious goal that could ultimately serve as a turning point.

Mr. Putin is “now hurling men and munitions” at Sievierodonetsk “as if taking it would win the war for the Kremlin. He is wrong,” the institute said in a report on Sunday.

“When the battle of Sievierodonetsk ends, regardless of which side holds the city, the Russian offensive at the operational and strategic levels will likely have culminated, giving Ukraine the chance to restart its operational-level counter offensives to push Russian forces back,” the report said.

Since Friday, Russian forces have held the Mir hotel, which is in the northeast of Sievierodonetsk, as well as the nearby bus station, giving them a foothold in the city itself. Street battles with Ukrainian forces have ensued, compounding the misery for the city’s civilian population which, for weeks, has been cowering in basements or bomb shelters to avoid relentless shelling.

Pictures posted on Telegram show dozens of shattered apartment blocks.

But analysts say that Moscow’s assault began before the city was fully encircled. The failure to cut off Ukraine’s route T1302 is key to doing so.

Analysts say that Ukrainian forces will likely have to decide at some point to withdraw from Sievierodonetsk in order to preserve their forces, making it all the more imperative that the “road of life” remains open.

Matthew Mpoke Bigg

May 29, 2022, 9:21 a.m. ET

May 29, 2022, 9:21 a.m. ET

Matthew Mpoke Bigg

Reporting from Krakow, Poland

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine visited frontline positions in the Kharkiv region in the northeast of the country to present medals and show support to troops. Zelensky has made several brief trips outside of the capital, Kyiv, in the four months since Russia invaded.

Image

Credit…Ukrainian Presidential Press-Service, via AFP – Getty Images

Marc Santora

May 29, 2022, 7:42 a.m. ET

May 29, 2022, 7:42 a.m. ET

Marc Santora

Russian forces shelled a residential neighborhood in the southern city of Mykolaiv on Sunday morning, according to Ukrainian officials, who said dozens of civilians were injured. Hanna Zamazieieva, head of the Mykolaiv Regional Council, said that at least 32 people were wounded.

Marc Santora

May 29, 2022, 6:54 a.m. ET

May 29, 2022, 6:54 a.m. ET

Marc Santora

The Ukrainian military said on Sunday that hospitals in Crimea had been ordered by Moscow to stop treating civilians to attend to the needs of wounded soldiers. The claim could not be independently verified. Crimea was illegally annexed by Russia in 2014 and has been a key staging ground for the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

May 29, 2022, 6:07 a.m. ET

May 29, 2022, 6:07 a.m. ET

Ukraine has declared that it is mounting a counteroffensive to reclaim territory around the southern port city of Kherson, as Russia devotes the bulk of its forces to pounding eastern Ukraine and capturing Sievierodonetsk, the last Ukrainian controlled city in the Luhansk region.

Kherson was the first major city to fall as Russian forces swept north out of Crimea more than three months ago, and it has provided a key staging ground for Russian operations across southern Ukraine. In recent weeks, Russian forces — stretched thin and taking heavy losses as they gain ground in the eastern Donbas region — have concentrated their efforts in the south on fortifying defensive positions.

“Hold on Kherson,” the Ukrainian military said on Twitter on Sunday morning. “We’re coming.”

Ukrainian officials have for weeks telegraphed plans to launch a new southern counteroffensive threatening Russia’s supply routes into Kherson on bridges over the Dnipro River. But they said the maneuver would require the delivery of Western artillery systems that had been promised by the United States and other allies.

It was not clear if new weapons were having an effect in the fight to reclaim territory around Kherson. President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, who has appealed for those weapons, sought to build morale by making a rare journey outside Kyiv to visit the country’s northeast, near Kharkiv, which is still under shelling.

“I want to thank each of you for your service,” Mr. Zelensky told his forces on Sunday. “You risk your life for all of us and our state.”

The Biden administration has approved sending long-range multiple launch rocket systems to Ukraine, a significant transfer that could hugely aid the country, U.S. officials said on Friday. Mr. Zelensky has suggested an official announcement could come this week.

In other developments:

  • Russian forces are trying to gain a foothold on the northeast edge of Sievierodonetsk and are moving in the direction of the city center, Ukraine’s military said on Sunday evening. Russian forces also are pounding route T1302, which runs into the city. Route T1302 has been called the “road of life” given its critical role in getting supplies in and giving fleeing civilians a means of escape.

  • President Emmanuel Macron of France and Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany sought to revive diplomatic discussions during an 80-minute phone call on Saturday with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

  • Ukraine’s defense minister, Oleksiy Reznikov, said that sophisticated Harpoon anti-ship cruise missiles had arrived. He said the Harpoons came courtesy of Denmark and would be used to try to break Russia’s Black Sea blockade and to protect the port city of Odesa.

May 29, 2022, 5:23 a.m. ET

May 29, 2022, 5:23 a.m. ET

Image

Credit…Pool photo by Mikhail Metzel

The leaders of France and Germany urged President Vladimir V. Putin on Saturday to cease hostilities in Ukraine and hold direct talks with President Volodymyr Zelensky as soon as possible.

Renewing a diplomatic channel that saw heavy use in the days before Russia invaded Ukraine but failed to sway Mr. Putin, President Emmanuel Macron of France and Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany said that any solution to end the war must be negotiated between Moscow and Kyiv “with respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” according to a statement from the office of the French presidency.

The Kremlin said in a statement after the leaders talked that Mr. Putin “confirmed that the Russian side is open to renewing dialogue with Kyiv,” while blaming Ukraine for the current impasse in the peace talks.

According to the Kremlin, Mr. Putin also said that Western weapons deliveries could lead to “a further destabilization of the situation,” and he renewed his demand that the West drop sanctions for Russia to increase food and fertilizer exports.

Mykhaylo Podolyak, an aide to Ukraine’s president and envoy to peace talks held earlier in the now three-month-long conflict, said in a post on Telegram over the weekend that Russia simply could not be trusted.

“Any agreement with Russia isn’t worth a broken penny,” Mr. Podolyak wrote. “Is it possible to negotiate with a country that always lies cynically and propagandistically?” Until Russian troops withdrew from Ukraine, he said, “negotiations are being conducted by a separate ‘delegation’ on the front line.”

Mr. Zelensky, speaking to an Indonesian research institute on Friday, said that he did not look forward to speaking with Mr. Putin, but that negotiations would most likely be necessary to end the bloodshed.

“There are things to discuss with the Russian leader,” he said, according to Reuters. “I’m not telling you that our people are eager to talk to him, but we have to face the reality of what we are living through.”

Andrew E. Kramer

May 29, 2022, 3:27 a.m. ET

May 29, 2022, 3:27 a.m. ET

Image

Credit…Olga Maltseva/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

KRAMATORSK, Ukraine — The Ukrainian army has begun a counterattack along an area in southern Ukraine that had been relatively quiet in recent weeks, moving to keep the Russia’s military off balance even as it makes gains in eastern Ukraine.

The attack in the Kherson region, announced Saturday evening, broke through a Russian line of defense, the military headquarters said in a statement, although it was not possible to independently confirm Ukraine’s assertion.

The attack pushed Russian forces into more unfavorable terrain near the villages of Andriyivka, Lozove and Belihorka, the statement said.

Ukrainian officials have for weeks telegraphed plans to counterattack in the area to threaten Russia’s supply routes into Kherson on bridges over the Dnipro River. But it said the maneuver would require the delivery of Western artillery systems that had been promised by the United States and other allies.

Those weapons are now showing up at frontline positions in the war’s eastern theater but the military statement made no mention of their use in the announcement of the counterattack in the south.

After Russia’s failure earlier this year to capture Kyiv, the capital, and Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, the Russian military has focused its offensive on a slender, about 75-mile frontline in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region. Elsewhere, the Russian forces have mostly dug into defensive positions.

In the Donbas, Russia’s military last week captured two midsize towns, Svitlodarsk and Lyman. The most intense fighting revolved around the city of Sievierodonetsk, the easternmost city in the Donbas, which is still under Ukrainian control but surrounded on three sides by Russian forces.

Russian troops have been seeking to cut Ukrainian supply line into Sievierodonetsk from the west along a highway and several backroads that the Ukrainians call the “road of life,” since the route is the only means to resupply their soldiers in the city.

Social media posts on Saturday showed Ukrainian soldiers near burned Russian armored vehicles on the highway, indicating the Russian military had at least briefly controlled the highway before being rebuffed.

In another indication of how tenuous Ukraine’s hold on Sievierdonetsk has become, street fighting has been raging in the city for days after Russian forces broke into the city near a hotel on its northern outskirts, according to regional officials.

May 28, 2022, 7:30 p.m. ET

May 28, 2022, 7:30 p.m. ET

The New York Times

Image

Credit…US Navy

With the battlefield focus shifted to Ukraine’s east, both Russia and Ukraine took to showcasing the urgency and superiority of long-range weapons on Saturday.

Russian cruise missiles have caused heavy damage in Ukraine, and Ukrainian officials have been appealing for new long-range systems to bring to the fight.

On Saturday, Ukraine’s defense minister, Oleksiy Reznikov, said that sophisticated Harpoon anti-ship cruise missiles had arrived. He said the Harpoons came courtesy of Denmark and would be used to try to break Russia’s Black Sea blockade and to protect the port city of Odessa.

The U.S.-made Harpoons were pledged after a virtual meeting earlier this month of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, a group of dozens of countries that was formed to support Ukraine with military aid.

News that they had started to reach Ukrainian forces came as American officials said the Biden administration has approved sending long-range multiple launch rocket systems to Ukraine, a significant transfer that could hugely aid Ukraine’s defense of its territory in the Donbas region. Ukraine had been asking for the systems, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain agreeing on Friday that they should be supplied.

Mr. Reznikov confirmed delivery of the Harpoons on the same day that Russia’s defense ministry claimed to have successfully test-fired a hypersonic Zircon cruise missile from the Barents Sea at a target more than 620 miles away.

Hypersonics, generally defined as weapons capable of flying at speeds over Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound, are at the center of an arms race among the United States, Russia and China. Russia has frequently claimed successful test-fires of various ostensibly sophisticated new missiles, and has released images purportedly of Zircon cruise missile tests before.

Both Ukraine and Russia have deployed heavy artillery along the eastern front, with American-made howitzers reaching Ukrainian forces this month. The new, longer-ranged Western artillery are the most powerful and destructive of the many types now being provided by NATO countries. They fire three miles farther than the most common artillery system used by the Russian army in the Ukraine war, the Msta-S self-propelled howitzer — and 10 miles farther if shooting a precision, GPS-guided projectile.

According to Ukrainian and British officials, Russia has been using one of its most fearsome conventional weapons, a rocket artillery system nicknamed the Heatwave, in a systematic fashion. The system fires thermobaric warheads that send potentially lethal shock waves into bunkers or trenches. Such explosives, also called fuel-air bombs or vacuum bombs, scatter a flammable mist or powder that is then ignited and burns in the air.

May 28, 2022, 5:49 p.m. ET

May 28, 2022, 5:49 p.m. ET

Image

Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly address that Ukrainian forces were holding the defenses against heavy Russian assaults on the eastern cities of Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk, but acknowledged that they faced “indescribably difficult” conditions there.

Russian and Ukrainian forces have been locked in increasingly heavy street fighting in the area of Sievierodonetsk, a major railway hub in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region. Since giving up on a campaign to take Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, Russia has focused its efforts on capturing the Donbas, which borders Russian territory. Russian forces have been active in the region since 2014 in support of separatists.

With its recent advance on Sievierodonetsk, one of the most important cities still held by Ukraine in the area, Russia has edged closer to occupying the entirety of the Luhansk region.

Mr. Zelensky emphasized that the defense of eastern cities depended heavily on “a supply of weapons” — echoing the words of outgunned Ukrainian officials and soldiers on the ground who have struggled to hold back a ponderous, incremental advance by Russian forces backed by long-range artillery.

Russian guns pounded the city of Lyman for weeks before it fell in recent days, and Sievierodonetsk has increasingly been subjected to the same treatment. Better use of artillery and a deliberately slower tempo of operations has helped Russia advance in the region, according to analysts. In Sievierodonetsk, civilians have for weeks been forced to cower underground in basements or bomb shelters without consistent power, gas or water.

Mr. Zelensky also said that Russia targeted the Sumy region, in the northeast of the country, with missile strikes and that one person died and seven others were wounded in the southeastern city of Mykolaiv after it was hit by Russian shelling. He said that the shells landed in a residential area near a kindergarten.

In his remarks on Saturday night, Mr. Zelensky did not address a Kremlin statement that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia was “open to renewing dialogue with Kyiv.” The statement described a call Mr. Putin had on Saturday with the leaders of France and Germany, and came after an Italian proposal for a cease-fire and amid growing debate among Western leaders about what an end to the war might look like.

Diplomatic talks between Russia and Ukraine stalled this month, with both sides hardening their stance as they sought to make military gains.

Diego Ibarra Sanchez

May 28, 2022, 5:04 p.m. ET

May 28, 2022, 5:04 p.m. ET

Diego Ibarra Sanchez

Reporting from Lviv, Ukraine

Family members and friends of Yurii Kaniuk, 27, on Saturday mourned his death at his home town in Mykolaiv, in Ukraine’s Lviv region. Kaniuk was given a presidential medal for his courage and heroism while fighting for Ukraine. He was fatally shot on May 23 in Yakovlivka, a village in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.

Image

Credit…Diego Ibarra Sanchez for The New York Times

Image

Credit…Diego Ibarra Sanchez for The New York Times

May 28, 2022, 1:22 p.m. ET

May 28, 2022, 1:22 p.m. ET

The New York Times

Artillery shell craters highlighted the destruction wrecked on a solar power plant hit by Russian bombardment on Saturday in Merefa, southwest of Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine. The plant had been producing 2.5 megawatts of power, the plant’s manager, Vladimir Mihailovich, told Reuters.

Image

Credit…Ivan Alvarado/Reuters

Nadav Gavrielov

May 28, 2022, 12:47 p.m. ET

May 28, 2022, 12:47 p.m. ET

Nadav Gavrielov

Russia is fighting to encircle Ukrainian troops defending the cities of Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk, in eastern Ukraine, and reach the border of the Luhansk region, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Army said on Facebook. It also claimed Russian forces “retreated to previously occupied positions” after suffering losses during an offensive in the direction of Borivske, near Sievierodonetsk.

Andrew E. Kramer

May 28, 2022, 9:22 a.m. ET

May 28, 2022, 9:22 a.m. ET

Image

Credit…Pool photo by Evgeny Biyatov

KRAMATORSK, Ukraine — Russia has made liberal use of one of its most fearsome conventional weapons in the fighting in eastern Ukraine, according to Ukrainian military commanders, medics, British officials and videos from the battlefields.

The weapon, a track-mounted rocket artillery system nicknamed Solntsepek, or the Heatwave, fires thermobaric warheads that explode with tremendous force, sending potentially lethal shock waves into bunkers or trenches where soldiers would otherwise be safe.

“You feel the ground shake,” said Col. Yevhen Shamataliuk, the commander of Ukraine’s 95th Brigade, whose soldiers came under fire from Russia’s Heatwave weapon in fighting this month near the town of Izium.

“It’s very destructive,” Colonel Shamataliuk said. “It destroys bunkers. They just collapse over those who are inside.”

The United States and other militaries also deploy thermobaric warheads in missiles and rocket-propelled grenades. And Ukraine’s Army said on April 5 that it had fired Heatwave thermobaric rockets from a captured system back at Russian troops, intending to burn them with their own weapon, in fighting near Izium.

Thermobaric weapons are not banned, and they are not addressed in the Geneva Conventions, a series of international agreements that govern warfare. Russia’s military has deployed the Heatwave weapon in the war in Syria, but its use in Ukraine has become systematic, according to the Ukrainian military and video footage of strikes on towns in eastern Ukraine.

Such explosives, also called fuel-air bombs or vacuum bombs, scatter a flammable mist or powder that is then ignited and burns in the air. The result is a powerful blast followed by a partial vacuum as oxygen is sucked from the air as the fuel burns.

Ukrainian soldiers who have been caught in the explosions and survived suffered a mix of burns and concussions, said Sgt. Anna Federchuk, an ambulance medic based in Kramatorsk, in eastern Ukraine, who has treated casualties from Heatwave strikes.

“It’s a mixed diagnosis,” she said of the typical casualty from a Heatwave explosion. “The burns are deep and severe.”

The Russian weapon carries a box of rockets atop a tanklike tracked vehicle. It can fire single rockets or a terrifying volley. Still, like many Russian weapons deployed in the Ukraine war, the Heatwave system may not be as effective or decisive in combat as Russian military propaganda suggested it would be.

Developed in the 1980s and once viewed as an awesome and feared invention of late-Soviet military prowess, the Heatwave, formally known as a Tos-1 heavy flamethrower, has drawbacks.

With a range of only six miles, it must be driven close to the front to fire. There, it has been vulnerable to Ukrainian ambushes. In March, a drone video showed Ukrainian soldiers blowing up a Heatwave weapon during an ambush outside the Kyiv suburb of Brovary.

The strike on the vehicle sent its rockets sailing out into the Russians’ own column of armored vehicles, though it was unclear whether any were destroyed.

Their use near the front has also allowed Ukraine to capture some of the weapons. Videos have appeared online purporting to show Ukrainian tractor drivers towing captured Heatwave weapons away from the front. Ukrainian soldiers have claimed on social media to have seized five of the weapons systems as trophies.

Ukraine’s military has also said that the Russians have suffered friendly fire incidents with the Heatwave as it sprayed out highly destructive but unguided rockets.

“The leadership of the 97th Infantry Battalion expresses its satisfaction with the actions of the Russian occupiers,” the Ukrainian military said in a sarcastic statement on May 8 after what it said was a friendly fire strike in the Zaporizhzhia region that killed Russian soldiers. “Such actions are positively perceived and supported in every way by the Ukrainian military. We understand there is a tradition of cooking shish kebabs in May.”

Maria Varenikova contributed reporting.

Read More

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.