May 27, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Brad Lendon, Jeevan Ravindran, Laura Smith-Spark, Aditi Sangal and Adrienne Vogt, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, May 28, 2022
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2:28 p.m. ET, May 27, 2022

Officials rebut claims that Russian troops have surrounded the city of Severodonetsk in eastern Ukraine

From CNN's Kostan Nechyporenko

Ukrainian officials are denying that the city of Severodonetsk in Luhansk is surrounded, but have acknowledged that Russian forces hold one part of the city.

"The city is not cut off, and it is not surrounded. The fighting continues," said Serhiy Hayday, head of the Luhansk region's military administration, in a radio interview. The Russian army has "only entered the outskirts of the city," he claimed.

"This is a war, a war against a very powerful enemy, and in theory anything is possible," Hayday said when asked about the possibility of Russian troops gaining further ground in the city. "The higher military command sees this situation. But so far I can't say that in a day, two, three they will completely take over the area. No, most likely they won't."

"We have enough strength," he continued, while also cautioning that, "Maybe there will be a command to our troops even to retreat."

9:17 p.m. ET, May 27, 2022

Finnish foreign minister says "time frame is essential" as country seeks to join NATO

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto expressed optimism that “sooner or later, Finland and Sweden will be members of NATO” and said discussions with the Turkish government would continue as Ankara threatens to block the two nations from joining the defensive alliance.

In an interview with CNN in Washington, DC, Friday, Haavisto said he expected that the topic of Finland’s NATO membership and overcoming Turkey’s current opposition would come up in his conversations with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in his meeting later in the day, adding he was “quite confident” that other NATO countries had spoken with Turkey as well.

Delegations from Finland and Sweden – which both formally applied for NATO membership last week – traveled to Turkey earlier this week for talks on NATO accession. All current NATO members must approve new members.

Haavisto, who did not attend the talks, called it a “good meeting,” and said it lasted for five hours. Haavisto indicated that there are European and Finnish laws and policies in place that guide Finland’s actions on Turkey’s main demands – the designation the PKK as a terrorist organization, lifting arms export controls, the extradition of Kurdish militants that Turkey sees as terrorists. However, Turkish presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin said following the delegation’s visit that “if Turkey’s security concerns are not met with concrete steps, the process cannot progress.”

Haavisto said “there was an agreement to continue those discussions,” but a next round of talks has not yet been arranged.

“From our perspective, the time frame is essential, because we are, of course, looking forward to NATO Summit in Madrid,” which is at the end of June, “and we hope that during the NATO Summit, the new members would be welcomed, at least, and the NATO ‘Open Door Policy’ would be confirmed, but of course, this is up to each and every member state that they can also influence the process,” he said.

The decisions by Finland and Sweden to apply for NATO was a major shift prompted by Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Read more:

2:33 p.m. ET, May 27, 2022

US secretary of state and Ukrainian counterpart speak about war and food crisis for second time this week

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks at the State Department in Washington, DC, on May 26.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks at the State Department in Washington, DC, on May 26. (Jacquelyn Martin/AFP/Getty Images)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke on Friday with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba "to discuss continued U.S. security assistance to Ukraine as it defends its sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s brutal and unprovoked war," according to State Department spokesperson Ned Price. 

"The Secretary and Foreign Minister Kuleba shared updates on efforts to resolve the global food security crisis caused by President Putin’s invasion, noting that the Kremlin continues to weaponize food and spread false claims about US sanctions," according to a statement from Price.

This was their second call this week after speaking on Tuesday. 

Kuleba said on Twitter that he and Blinken discussed Ukraine's urgent need for supplies of heavy weaponry as well.

"I value his personal efforts to ensure a sustained U.S. and global support for Ukraine. Heavy weapons on top of our agenda, and more are coming our way. Ukraine and the U.S. work hand in hand to deliver our food exports despite Russia’s reckless blockade," Kuleba tweeted.

1:43 p.m. ET, May 27, 2022

Austrian chancellor says that Putin "assured" him prisoner exchanges will take place

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy, Barbara von Bulow and Anna Chernova

Chancellor of Austria, Karl Nehammer seen during a joint press conference in Prague, Czech Republic, on May 17.
Chancellor of Austria, Karl Nehammer seen during a joint press conference in Prague, Czech Republic, on May 17. (Tomas Tkacik/SOPA Images/Shutterstock)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has assured Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer that an exchange of prisoners will take place between Russia and Ukraine. 

The two leaders discussed the possibilities for prisoner exchanges during a 45-minute phone call on Friday, according to a statement of the call from the Austrian Chancellery. 

According to the chancellery, Putin "assured" the Austrian leader "that the efforts towards a prisoner of war exchange will be intensified," adding that he was "optimistic that such an exchange would be possible again soon."

Putin also told Nehammer that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) will "have free access to prisoners of war," asking for this access to also be granted to Russian prisoners of war in Ukraine. 

The Russian leader provided his Austrian counterpart with "an assessment of the situation the context of the ongoing special military operation to protect Donbas," the Kremlin said in a readout of the call, using a standard euphemism to refer to the invasion of Ukraine. 

They also discussed efforts to "ensure the safety of navigation in the waters of the Azov and Black Seas," the Kremlin said. 

"A thorough exchange of views was held on issues related to global food security. Vladimir Putin emphasized that attempts to make Russia responsible for the difficulties with the supply of agricultural products to world markets are groundless," according to the Kremlin. 

The Austrian Chancellery added that Nehammer did receive "positive signals" from Putin that a solution will be found to allow the export of Ukrainian goods through the seaports of the Black Sea. 

During the call, Russia's "commitment to comply with contractual obligations on natural gas supplies to Austria was reaffirmed," the Kremlin said. 

1:18 p.m. ET, May 27, 2022

Russians are repairing railways in northern Ukraine to sustain their supply routes, Ukrainian military says 

From CNN's Tim Lister

Ukraine's military said the Russians are trying to repair damaged railway lines inside northern Ukraine to sustain their supply routes.

In an update posted Friday, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said that "in order to improve the logistics of its troops, the enemy is trying to restore the damaged railway. 

"In particular, in the temporarily occupied territories of Kharkiv region, the occupiers are involving units of 29 separate railway brigades from Smolensk with special machinery and equipment for the repair of railway infrastructure," the update said.

The railway from Russia into the Kharkiv region and south to Izium is a critical supply line for the Russian offensive.

Elsewhere, the General Staff reported further heavy fire by Russian forces as they try to develop an offensive on Sloviansk, a city in Donetsk region, the update said. Russian assault operations were underway in several settlements around the city of Severodonetsk, where Ukrainian defenses have been under constant bombardment.

The updated added that Russian forces were also trying to disrupt Ukrainian supply lines from Bakhmut that support front-line troops in the Severodonetsk area but that their assaults on three settlements had been unsuccessful.

11:06 a.m. ET, May 27, 2022

Ukraine claims it shot down Russian fighter over southern region of Kherson

From Tim Lister and Victoria Butenko

The Ukrainian air force says one of its planes shot down a Russian Su-35 fighter over the southern region of Kherson on Friday.

It posted on Facebook that "at about 2 pm, a MiG-29 fighter of the Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine shot down a Russian Su-35 fighter in the sky over Kherson region."

While the Ukrainian air force contingent of Mig-29 fighters is aging, the arrival of spare parts from other countries allowed it to field more of the combat jets than it had before the Russian invasion, according to US officials. 

The Russian Ministry of Defense regularly claims that Ukrainian combat planes have been shot down, and the Ukrainian air force's current combat capability is difficult to gauge.

The Su-35 is a more capable and modern aircraft but the Russian air force has suffered some attrition of its fleet since the invasion began. 

11:04 a.m. ET, May 27, 2022

22 million tons of grain on hold as Russia blocks Ukrainian ports, Zelensky says

From CNN's Anastasia Graham-Yooll in London

A grain silo in the town of Sivers'k in the eastern Donbas region was destroyed by Russian shelling on May 25. The region has been under heavy attack.
A grain silo in the town of Sivers'k in the eastern Donbas region was destroyed by Russian shelling on May 25. The region has been under heavy attack. (Alex Chan/SOPA Images/Sipa USA/AP)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said nearly half of Ukraine’s grain export supply is currently held up as Russia continues to block the country’s main export routes through the Black Sea and Azov Sea, calling the situation a potential “catastrophe” for global food security.

Addressing an Indonesian foreign policy think tank in an online forum Friday, Zelensky said, “22 million tons of grain are kept in silos today. We cannot supply them to international markets where they are needed at this very point in time."

The Ukrainian president also said the UN estimates that famine might affect additional 50 million people this year were a “conservative” estimate, implying that the number of those affected will be greater. 

“Famine doesn’t come alone, it is always accompanied by political chaos that exacerbates the situation, ruins people’s lives, creating unsafe conditions for ordinary people," he said. "In July, when many countries will exhaust their stock of last year’s harvest, it will become obvious the catastrophe is truly coming."

The Ukrainian president also accepted an invitation to attend G20 Summit in Indonesia in November. He urged the hosts to include “only friendly nations,” implying Russia should be excluded from the summit in Bali.

10:25 a.m. ET, May 27, 2022

"Fierce defense" of Severodonetsk underway with 90% of housing damaged, local military official says

From CNN's Nathan Hodge

Smoke and dirt rise from the city of Severodonetsk, during shelling in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas, on May 26.
Smoke and dirt rise from the city of Severodonetsk, during shelling in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas, on May 26. (Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images)

About 90% of the city's housing stock had been damaged amid a "fierce defense" of the town, a local military official in the eastern Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk said Friday.

The city "held out through the night" under heavy Russian attack, Oleksandr Striuk, the head of the Severodonetsk military administration, said in a radio interview. But he acknowledged that Russian forces were continuing to press the offensive.

"Yesterday the fighting took place at the entrance to the city," he said. "Our military managed to stop the vanguard of the Orcs [a pejorative Ukrainian term for Russian troops] who were trying to break into the city. Severodonetsk is in fierce defense. The enemy is located on two-thirds of the city's perimeter, but the city is not surrounded."

The city had seen widespread destruction, Striuk said. 

"The Azot (Nitrogen) chemical plant is being shelled," he said. "There are dead among the civilian population and among employees of the enterprise. Ninety percent of the housing stock is damaged, 60% will have to be rebuilt."

Striuk said a Russian force that entered a hotel on the north of the city was expelled by Ukrainian forces, a claim that could not be immediately verified. Ukrainian officials previously said the hotel was not under their control. 

8:07 a.m. ET, May 27, 2022

It's 3 p.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

Russian forces are intensifying attacks in eastern Ukraine as they try to break down stubborn Ukrainian defenses — which Ukrainian officials admit are outnumbered and outgunned. Meanwhile, in a new report, legal experts accuse Russia of inciting genocide and intending to "destroy" Ukrainian people.

Here's the latest on Russia's war in Ukraine:

  • Frozen negotiations: Negotiations between Russia and Ukraine are currently frozen, the Kremlin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday, as he accused Kyiv of making “contradictory” statements that Moscow does not understand.
  • Report accuses Russia of genocide: Russia's actions in Ukraine provide enough evidence to conclude that Moscow is inciting genocide and committing atrocities intended to destroy the Ukrainian people, according to an independent legal report, signed by more than 30 leading legal scholars and genocide experts.
  • UK calls for more military support: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Friday that Russian President Vladimir Putin was making "slow" but "palpable" progress in the Donbas and urged more military support for Ukraine, such as the provision of Multiple Launch Rocket Systems.
  • No agreement on maritime corridors: A Ukrainian official said that "maritime humanitarian corridors" announced earlier this week by the Russian military had not been agreed by Ukraine and accused Russia of trying to shift blame on Ukraine for a global food crisis in "another lie."
  • Heavy fighting in Luhansk: Ukrainian officials reported continued heavy fighting in the Luhansk region, with a local military chief describing "fierce battles" for the city of Severodonetsk. Officials also described heavy shelling around Severodonetsk and neighboring Lysychansk, saying Russian forces had set the police station in Lysychansk on fire and damaged about 50 buildings in the area.
  • Russian bombardment: Ukraine's armed forces on Thursday acknowledged that Russian troops have made further advances in the eastern Donetsk region — capturing one district within 10 miles (about 16 kilometers) of the important town of Bakhmut. Ukrainian officials say that in recent days, the Russians have combined short-range ballistic missiles, multiple launch rocket systems, heavy artillery and tanks in a remorseless bombardment of towns and cities in Luhansk and Donetsk regions still under Ukrainian control. Several officials describe the situation as "very difficult" and admit Ukrainian units may have to fall back in some places.
  • Deadly attacks: Nine people were killed and 19 others injured in the northeastern city of Kharkiv on Thursday amid "dense shelling" of residential areas, according to a Ukrainian military official. Ukrainian forces were "holding their positions firmly and there is no question about possible seizure of Kharkiv city," the official said.
  • Removed to Russia: Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians have been processed through a series of Russian "filtration camps" in eastern Ukraine and sent into Russia as part of a systemized program of forced removal, according to four sources familiar with the latest Western intelligence — an estimate far higher than US officials have publicly disclosed.