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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5:01 a.m. ET, May 27, 2022

Continued heavy fighting in Ukraine's Luhansk region, officials say

From CNN's Nathan Hodge

Pro-Russian troops drive an armored vehicle past destroyed residential buildings in the town of Popasna in Luhansk region, Ukraine, on May 26.
Pro-Russian troops drive an armored vehicle past destroyed residential buildings in the town of Popasna in Luhansk region, Ukraine, on May 26. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

Ukrainian officials on Friday reported continued heavy fighting in the Luhansk region, with a local military chief describing "fierce battles" for the city of Severodonetsk.

In televised remarks, Oleksandr Striuk, head of the Severodonetsk city military administration, said: "There have been fierce battles for the city. We have a hot spot, the Mir hotel. On May 26 [Thursday], an enemy sabotage and reconnaissance group entered the Mir Hotel. The [Ukrainian] Armed Forces resisted."

A pro-Russian Telegram channel said Russian forces had entered the hotel, which is in the north of Severodonetsk, and that street fighting was underway.

Serhiy Hayday, the head of the Luhansk regional military administration, said a Ukrainian operation to retake the hotel was underway on Friday, but added: "We are not yet in control of the hotel. But we are working to drive out the ruscists [Russian fascists]."

Hayday also described heavy shelling around Severodonetsk and neighboring Lysychansk as Russian forces pushed from the direction of the towns of Purdivka and Shchedryshchevo, saying it had set the police station in Lysychansk on fire and damaged about 50 buildings in the area.

A man walks near the remains of a missile in the city of Lysychansk, in eastern Ukraine, on May 26.
A man walks near the remains of a missile in the city of Lysychansk, in eastern Ukraine, on May 26. (Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images)

"Residents of Severodonetsk have already forgotten what it is like when the city is silent for at least half an hour," Hayday said.

"Russians are harassing residential neighborhoods continuously. On May 26, four residents of Severodonetsk were killed by enemy shells in the old districts of the city. Two of them died at the same time near one high-rise building. There is damage to the housing stock; 11 apartment buildings and one private house damaged."

2:26 a.m. ET, May 27, 2022

Leading experts accuse Russia of inciting genocide in Ukraine and intending to "destroy" Ukrainian people

From CNN's Ivana Kottasová

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 the first independent report into allegations of genocide in that country.

The legal report, signed by more than 30 leading legal scholars and genocide experts, accuses the Russian state of violating several articles of the United Nations Genocide Convention. It warns there is a serious and imminent risk of genocide in Ukraine, backing the accusations with a long list of evidence including examples of mass killings of civilians, forced deportations and dehumanizing anti-Ukrainian rhetoric used by top Russian officials.

The report was put together by New Lines Institute for Strategy and Policy, a US-based think tank, and the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights which is based in Canada, and is set to release on Friday, with the authors sending copies to parliaments, governments and international organizations around the world. An advance copy of the report has been shared exclusively with CNN.

"We assembled top legal experts from around the globe who then examined all the evidence and they came to the conclusion that the Russian Federation bears responsibility for breaches of the Genocide Convention in Ukraine," Azeem Ibrahim of the New Lines Institute told CNN. Ibrahim visited Ukraine in March to gather evidence for the report.
"This is a very thorough and detailed examination of extensive evidence," he said. "What we have seen so far is that this war is genocidal in its nature, in terms of the language being used and the manner in which it is being executed. That's very, very clear."

Read more:

12:00 a.m. ET, May 27, 2022

It's 7 a.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.

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

  • 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.
  • Genocide claims: Russia's actions in eastern Ukraine reflect "an obvious policy of genocide," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Thursday. "The current offensive of the occupiers in Donbas can make the region uninhabited," he said.
  • US weapons supplies: The Biden administration is preparing to step up the kind of weaponry it is offering Ukraine by sending advanced, long-range rocket systems that are now the top request from Ukrainian officials, multiple officials say. The White House is leaning toward sending the systems as part of a larger package of military and security assistance, which could be announced as soon as next week.
  • War crimes trial: Two captured Russian soldiers pleaded guilty in a court in central Ukraine on Thursday to "violating laws and customs of war conducted with preliminary group conspiracy." Oleksandr Bobykin and Oleksandr Ivanov are accused of firing rockets from Russia’s Belgorod region toward Kharkiv on Feb. 24.
  • Oil price spikes: Brent crude oil climbed on Thursday to more than $117 a barrel — the highest level since late March — signaling more pain for drivers. Investors are watching nervously as European officials attempt to reach an agreement on phasing out Russian oil, a step that would further scramble energy flows.
  • Germany's gas pledge: Germany is working "flat out" to end its reliance on Russian gas imports, the country's Chancellor said Thursday, adding there was "no doubt" that both Berlin and the EU would end their dependence on energy imports from Moscow.
10:11 p.m. ET, May 26, 2022

Zelensky says Russian action in Donbas is "an obvious policy of genocide"

From CNN's Hira Humayun 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during his evening video message on Thursday May 26.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during his evening video message on Thursday May 26. (Office of President of Ukraine)

Russia's intensified offensive in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region reflects "an obvious policy of genocide," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly address on Thursday.

"The current offensive of the occupiers in Donbas can make the region uninhabited," Zelensky said. "They want to burn Popasna, Bakhmut, Lyman, Lysychansk and Severodonetsk to ashes. Like Volnovakha, like Mariupol."

In cities closer to the Russian border like Donetsk and Luhansk, Russian forces "gather everyone they can to fill the place of those killed and wounded in the occupation contingent," Zelensky said.

"All this, including the deportation of our people and the mass killings of civilians, is an obvious policy of genocide pursued by Russia."

Zelensky said putting pressure on Russia "is literally a matter of saving lives" and that every delay, dispute or proposal to "appease" Russia leads to "new killed Ukrainians" and new threats to everyone on the continent.

8:43 p.m. ET, May 26, 2022

9 killed, including baby, in "dense shelling" of Kharkiv residential areas

From CNN's Tim Lister

A damaged residential building is seen in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on May 26.
A damaged residential building is seen in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on May 26. (Sergey Kozlov/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

Nine people, including a 5-month-old baby, were killed in Kharkiv on Thursday amid "dense shelling" on residential areas near the city center, according to Oleh Synyehubov, head of the Kharkiv region military administration.

Among those killed was “a family who was simply walking down the street — a man was holding his five-month-old baby in his hands, whom he died holding. (The) mother of this baby is severely wounded and is now in the hospital,” Synyehubov said.

He also described the artillery used, and said the targeting of residential areas in Ukraine's second-largest city could only be for the purpose of “terrorizing” local residents.

"The enemy shelled with MLRS SMERCH and URAGAN and with artillery, modification of which is being established now by our military experts. According to the available data. the shelling was conducted from the North of the oblast, where our troops are holding their positions and slowly pushing the enemy away to the borders. This was a solely residential area, so the aim of this shelling could only be terrorizing the local residents," he said. 

The official added it was the Shevchenkivskyi and Kyivskyi districts of Kharkiv that were “densely shelled.” He said in addition to those killed, 19 were injured, among them a 9-year-old child.

“As of now our armed forces holding their positions firmly and there is no question about possible seizure of Kharkiv city,” he said.
8:37 p.m. ET, May 26, 2022

US is preparing to approve long-range rocket systems as it becomes Ukraine's top request

From CNN's Natasha Bertrand, Jim Sciutto, Alex Marquardt and Tim Lister

The Biden administration is preparing to step up the kind of weaponry it is offering Ukraine by sending advanced, long-range rocket systems that are now the top request from Ukrainian officials, multiple officials say.

The administration is leaning toward sending the systems as part of a larger package of military and security assistance to Ukraine, which could be announced as soon as next week.

Senior Ukrainian officials, including President Volodymyr Zelensky, have pleaded in recent weeks for the US and its allies to provide the Multiple Launch Rocket System, or MLRS. The US-made weapon systems can fire a barrage of rockets hundreds of kilometers — much farther than any of the systems Ukraine already has — which the Ukrainians argue could be a gamechanger in their war against Russia.

Another system Ukraine has asked for is the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, known as HIMARS, a lighter wheeled system capable of firing many of the same types of ammunition as MLRS.

Russia has in recent weeks pummeled Ukraine in the east, where Ukraine is outmanned and outgunned, Ukrainian officials have said.

The Biden administration waivered for weeks, however, on whether to send the systems, amid concerns raised within the National Security Council that Ukraine could use the systems to carry out offensive attacks inside Russia, officials said.

Read more:

8:12 p.m. ET, May 26, 2022

Russia is depopulating parts of eastern Ukraine, forcibly removing thousands across the border

From CNN's Katie Bo Lillis, Kylie Atwood and Natasha Bertrand

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.

After being detained in camps operated by Russian intelligence officials, many Ukrainians are then forcibly relocated to economically depressed areas in Russia, in some cases thousands of miles from their homes, and often left with no means of returning, sources said.

Although some Ukrainians have voluntarily entered filtration camps to try to escape the fighting by entering Russia, many have been picked up against their will at check points and in bomb shelters. After spending an average of around three weeks at the camps —  where sources and eyewitnesses say they are held in inhuman conditions, interrogated and sometimes tortured — some are sent across the border into Russia and given state documentation.

Read more:

8:39 p.m. ET, May 26, 2022

Ukrainian military acknowledges modest loss of territory in Donetsk region

From CNN's Julia Kesaieva and Tim Lister

Destroyed houses are seen after Russian shelling in Donetsk region of Soledar, Ukraine, on Tuesday, May 24.
Destroyed houses are seen after Russian shelling in Donetsk region of Soledar, Ukraine, on Tuesday, May 24. (Andriy Andriyenko/AP)

Ukraine's armed forces have acknowledged that Russian forces have made further advances in the Donetsk region — capturing one district within 10 miles (about 16 kilometers) of the important town of Bakhmut.

In an operational update Thursday, the armed forces' general staff said that while several Russian efforts to advance had been thwarted, "in the directions of Pokrovsky and Klynove, the enemy has partial success, capturing the village of Midna Ruda."

Midna Ruda is some 10 miles (about 16 kilometers) southeast of Bakhmut, which has come under heavier artillery fire in the last week. Bakhmut is on a key resupply route for Ukrainian units on the frontlines, which would potentially be cut off by further Russian advances. 

"In the Donetsk direction, the enemy is shelling our troops, launching missile strikes, conducting surveillance, and increasing air support," the general staff said.

The general staff also said that other Russian efforts to push west towards the Donetsk region border had been repulsed. It said the Russians continued to bombard Ukrainian troops south of the town of Lyman, much of which fell into Russian hands Tuesday. Video Wednesday showed the Russian flag flying above the town's municipal offices. 

Meanwhile, in the south: The general staff said that Russian units in the Zaporizhzhia region were being reinforced by Soviet-era T62 tanks, which appear to have been brought out of storage.

Separately, the Ukrainian military released video and quotes from soldiers operating the US M777 howitzers. They praise its accuracy and range, with one saying, "The enemy feels the effectiveness of our artillery every day and every hour. We are doing everything possible and impossible to suppress and eliminate the enemy and give our infantry a chance for a counteroffensive to liberate our territories."

CNN's Kostan Nechyporenko contributed reporting to this post.

8:18 p.m. ET, May 26, 2022

Russians intensify attacks against vastly outnumbered Ukrainian forces across Donetsk and Luhansk

From CNN's Tim Lister 

This video footage, published by Ukraine's Armed Forces, shows the devastating impact of shells from a Russian TOS-1A hitting Ukrainian positions near Novomykhailivka in the Donetsk region on May 26.
This video footage, published by Ukraine's Armed Forces, shows the devastating impact of shells from a Russian TOS-1A hitting Ukrainian positions near Novomykhailivka in the Donetsk region on May 26. (Armed Forces of Ukraine/Cover Images/Reuters)

Russian forces are applying a wide array of weapons across several fronts in eastern Ukraine as they try to break down stubborn Ukrainian defenses, which are outnumbered and outgunned, according to Ukrainian officials.

Several of those officials describe the situation as "very difficult" and admit Ukrainian units may have to fall back in some places.

In recent days, Ukrainian officials say, 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.

The National Police of Ukraine said that civilians were killed in attacks on 13 settlements in Donetsk, with several towns not previously targeted suffering damage. Russian forces seem to be broadening the number of towns they are shelling as they try to destroy Ukrainian defenses and supply lines. 

Their chief objective appears to be taking Sloviansk, which has seen an increase in shelling in recent days. Mayor Vadym Liakh said half the city is now without water, and there will be "no gas supply until the heating season."

A growing number of Ukrainian officials describe the military situation in dire terms, although Russian advances on the ground have been modest.

Fedir Venislavskyi, a member of Ukraine's parliament who is on the National Security Committee, described the situation as "difficult."

He told Ukrainian television that "the hottest spots are Severodonetsk and Lysychansk. The enemy is trying to encircle our troops."  

The twin cities in Luhansk are almost entirely destroyed, but Ukrainian troops are still present. Nearly 15,000 civilians are estimated still to be in Severodonetsk.