Ukraine Situation Report | 27 May 2022
The past week has seen a significant escalation of Russian military operations in the eastern Donbas region. The twin cities of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk, located on either side of the Siverskyi Donets river, have suffered extremely heavy bombardment in recent days. The mayor of Severodonetsk, Oleksandr Stryuk, said that at least 1,500 people have been killed in the city since the start of the Russian invasion and that 60 percent of residential buildings have been destroyed. He said that around 12,000 people remain trapped in the city and the options for evacuations are extremely limited. The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said that the Russians are likely to completely encircle the twin cities in the coming days. Russian-backed separatists also claim to have taken control of the city of Lyman in the Donetsk region; although this has not yet been verified, Oleksiy Arestovych, adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, appeared to concede that Lyman had fallen to pro-Russian forces.
While the bulk of the Russian strikes has been concentrated in eastern Ukraine, in the central city of Dnipro 10 people were killed and 35 others wounded in three missile strikes early on Friday morning. Local officials said the missiles were fired from the Rostov region of Russia and targeted a National Guard base. Shelling has also killed nine people and wounded 19 others in Ukraine’s second-city of Kharkiv to the north-east. In a late-night address on Thursday, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the victims in Kharkiv were all civilians and included a five-month-old child and her father.
During the last week, there have also been several reports of Russian strikes in other parts of Ukraine. Last weekend the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said the Russian army shelled Semenivka, Bleshnya and Hirsk in the northern Chernihiv region and conducted missile strikes in the Zhytomyr and Poltava regions. On Monday Russian shelling was reported in Boyaro-Lezhachi and Tovstodubovo in the northern Sumy region, while to the south artillery shells have hit positions in the Zelenodolsk community in the Kryvyi Rih district of Dnipropetrovsk region and several positions in and around the city of Mykolaiv.
Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko announced on Thursday that battalion tactical groups were being sent to the southern border with Ukraine. “A new front has opened and we can’t fail to pay attention to it,” said Lukashenko at a press conference. He said he had ordered a new military command to defend the country. Belarus is a key ally of Russia, and the country was used by Moscow when it launched its invasion into northern Ukraine in February.
Ukraine needs to “face the realities” and speak to Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to his Ukrainian counterpart. “There are things to discuss with the Russian leader. I’m not telling you that to me our people are eager to talk to him, but we have to face the realities of what we are living through,” Zelensky said, adding that Russia was not showing any desire to engage in talks. The Ukrainian president also reiterated calls on the West to do more to support his country, including increasing sanctions and sending more advanced weapons to his forces, which are heavily outnumbered in the eastern Donbas region. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Zelensky that more armoured vehicles, drones and anti-tank weapons would be sent to Ukraine, adding that the UK would follow the US and reopen its embassy in Kyiv next week. US officials said that President Joe Biden is considering sending M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) to Ukraine, although there are concerns that it could escalate the conflict if it is used to target positions inside Russia. The HIMARS can fire both artillery rockets and missiles with a range of up to 300km.
Ukraine’s president has also criticized remarks by former US secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, who suggested that Ukraine should cede some of its territories to Russia in exchange for a peace agreement. “Mr Kissinger emerges from the deep past and says that a piece of Ukraine should be given to Russia so that there is no alienation of Russia from Europe. It seems that Mr Kissinger’s calendar is not 2022, but 1938, and he thought he was talking to an audience not in Davos, but in Munich of that time,” said Zelensky.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Moscow would be willing to assist with dealing with global food shortages in return for the West removing sanctions on Russia. Putin reportedly made the offer during a call to Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi. The UK foreign minister, Liz Truss, responded to the news by accusing Putin of “trying to hold the world to ransom.” The blockade of Ukrainian ports by Russian forces is preventing supplies of grain and other products from leaving the country. The UK transport secretary, Grant Shapps, claimed that the blockade (and resulting food shortages) could cause more deaths than the war itself. Shapps said that the UK was working with its European partners on possible solutions, which could include sending warships to the Black Sea. Turkey has also said that it is negotiating with Kyiv and Moscow to open a corridor via the Bosphorus to allow grain exports to resume.
Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin met with President Zelenskyy in Kyiv this week before visiting Irpin and Bucha. Finland applied to join NATO earlier this month along with neighbouring Sweden. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan continues to warn that he will block their applications after he claimed that both countries were harbouring “terrorists,” referring to members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is outlawed in Turkey. French President Emmanuel Macron spoke to Erdogan this week and urged him to drop his threat to veto Finland and Sweden’s bid to join the alliance.