Russia-Ukraine updates: Russians, Ukrainians fight street by street in key city

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(NEW YORK) — Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “special military operation” into neighboring Ukraine began on Feb. 24, with Russian forces invading from Belarus, to the north, and Russia, to the east. Ukrainian troops have offered “stiff resistance,” according to U.S. officials.

The Russian military has since launched a full-scale ground offensive in eastern Ukraine’s disputed Donbas region, capturing the strategic port city of Mariupol and securing a coastal corridor to the Moscow-annexed Crimean Peninsula.

Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

May 31, 8:22 pm
US sending Ukraine ‘more advanced’ rocket systems, Biden says in op-ed

The U.S. will provide Ukraine with “more advanced rocket systems and munitions,” President Joe Biden confirmed in a New York Times op-ed published Tuesday.

The systems “will enable them to more precisely strike key targets on the battlefield in Ukraine,” he wrote.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned last week that providing more advanced rockets would be a new “unacceptable escalation” because they could hypothetically be used to strike within Russian territory.

But Biden told reporters Monday that the U.S. will not “send to Ukraine rocket systems that can strike into Russia,” and he and the administration are making efforts to emphasize that these new rocket systems will be used by the Ukrainians on the battlefield in their own country.

-ABC News’ Conor Finnegan

May 31, 8:21 pm
5.2 million kids need humanitarian help

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has left 5.2 million kids in need of humanitarian help, according to UNICEF.

At least 262 children have been killed and another 415 have been hurt since Feb. 24, UNICEF said.

Nearly two-thirds have been displaced, UNICEF said.

May 31, 2:09 pm
Chemical plant hit by Russian air strike, local official says

Russian air strikes hit a tank with nitric acid at a chemical plant in Severodonetsk, a city in eastern Ukraine, according to Luhansk’s regional governor, Serhiy Haidai.

Haidai is urging residents to stay inside and to wear protective face masks.

Haidai also said Russian forces have made significant gains and are in control of “most” of Severodonetsk.

He said about 60% of homes are completely destroyed and the city’s critical infrastructure is nearly completely destroyed. Ongoing shelling is preventing civilians from evacuating.

May 31, 11:43 am
EU to finalize ban of nearly 90% of Russian oil imports

The European Union Council plans to finalize a ban on nearly 90% of Russian oil imports by the end of 2022, European Commission President Ursula von Der Leyen said Tuesday at a joint press conference with EU Council President Charles Michel, following Monday’s special meeting of the European Council.

Von der Leyen said they will soon return to the issue of the remaining 10% of pipeline oil.

-ABC News’ Christine Theodorou

May 31, 8:23 am
Russia vows to ‘ensure unhindered passage’ of grain shipments if Ukraine de-mines waters

Russia’s top diplomat vowed Tuesday to “ensure unhindered passage” of grain shipments from Ukrainian ports to the Mediterranean Sea, if Ukraine removes the mines from its coastal waters.

“Ukrainian representatives should de-mine the coastal waters within Ukraine’s territorial sea, which have been mined,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a press conference. “If the de-mining problem is resolved — and we’ve been bringing the attention of our worried Western counterparts to this problem for many weeks — then the Russian Navy will ensure unhindered passage of those vessels in high seas to the Mediterranean and further on to their destination points.”

Since Russian forces invaded neighboring Ukraine on Feb. 24, the cost of grain, fuel and fertilizer has skyrocketed worldwide, worsening hunger crises. Russia and Ukraine produce a third of the world’s supply of wheat and barley, but Kyiv has been unable to ship exports due to Moscow’s offensive.

Lavrov, however, blamed the situation on Kyiv and the West.

“For longer than a month now, the Russian side has been taking measures to guarantee the unhindered export of Ukrainian grain by vessels that are currently stranded in Ukrainian ports,” Lavrov added. “Therefore, the initiatives concerning food security that have been voiced should be implemented bearing in mind that the Russian side has long guaranteed everything that depends on us. As for the Western countries that have artificially caused numerous problems by closing their ports to Russian vessels and cutting logistical and financial chains, they should certainly think hard whether it’s more important for them to advertise themselves taking advantage of food security problems, or take practical steps to resolve this problem. It’s for them to choose.”

May 31, 5:42 am
Up to 12,000 civilians may be trapped in fight for Severodonetsk

As Russian forces battle for control of a key eastern Ukrainian city, up to 12,000 civilians may be trapped in the crossfire, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).

“I am horrified to see Severodonetsk, the thriving city where we had our operational headquarters, become the epicentre of yet another chapter of the brutal war in Ukraine,” NRC Secretary-General Jan Egeland said in a statement Tuesday. “We fear that up to 12,000 civilians remain caught in crossfire in the city, without sufficient access to water, food, medicine or electricity. The near-constant bombardment is forcing civilians to seek refuge in bomb shelters and basements, with only few precious opportunities for those trying to escape.”

Over the past week, the Oslo-based humanitarian organization has been working with local Ukrainian partners to provide thousands of monthly food and hygiene parcels to civilians remaining in Severodonetsk and the greater Luhansk Oblast, according to Egeland. The city is the last still held by Ukrainian forces in Luhansk Oblast.

“But now the intensified fighting makes aid delivery impossible,” he added. “We cannot save lives under the hail of grenades.”

NRC has been operational in Ukraine since 2014, serving people affected by conflict in the Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts of eastern Ukraine’s war-torn Donbas region.

“Almost one hundred days since the war in Ukraine escalated, we have seen bombs destroy critical infrastructure across the country and reduce entire cities like Severodonetsk to rubble,” Egeland said. “More than 14 million men, women and children are displaced within Ukraine or sheltering in other countries with no idea when they will be able to safely return to their homes.”

May 31, 4:50 am
Russians, Ukrainians fight street by street in key eastern city

Russian and Ukrainian forces are believed to be fighting street by street on the outskirts of Severodonetsk, a key city in Ukraine’s east, the U.K. Ministry of Defense said Tuesday in an intelligence update.

“Russia’s capture of Lyman supports its operational main effort, which likely remains the encirclement of Sieverodonetsk and the closure of the pocket around Ukrainian forces in Luhansk Oblast,” the ministry said. “Heavy shelling continues, while street fighting is likely taking place on the outskirts of Sieverodonetsk town.”

After several days of fighting, the Russian military claimed Saturday to have fully seized the strategic town of Lyman, which serves as a railway hub in the Donetsk Oblast, west of Severodonetsk.

“Russia’s political goal is likely to occupy the full territory of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts,” the ministry added. “To achieve this, Russia will need to secure further challenging operational objectives beyond Sieverodonetsk, including the key city of Kramatorsk and the M04 Dnipro-Donetsk main road.”

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