May 28, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Simone McCarthy, Joshua Berlinger, Laura Smith-Spark, Adrienne Vogt and Joe Ruiz, CNN

Updated 0406 GMT (1206 HKT) May 29, 2022
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2:59 p.m. ET, May 28, 2022

74-year-old forced to flee eastern Ukrainian city: It's "better they kill me"

As Russia pummels the eastern city of Severodonetsk with heavy shelling, authorities are moving to evacuate the remaining neediest civilians of neighboring Lysychansk.

For 74-year-old Ekaterina, it is almost unimaginable that she is leaving her home, a one-room apartment she shares with her husband.

"I didn't collect any of my things. I don't know where I will live. It's better they kill me," she said, crying, via translated remarks. "You know, I have nowhere to hide. We have one room. I lie opposite the shelling. In the last minute, I thought if I'm going to suffer like this, better they kill me."

After she and her husband get into authorities' vehicle, she asks, "when is this grief going to end?"

Elsewhere in Lysychansk, CNN's Nick Paton Walsh met a large family with young children that is staying put, despite the shelling. Children play on swings outside as blasts can be heard in the background. They cook on an outdoor stove and spend nights in their basement.

Many people in the Luhansk region have ties to Russia, with relatives in both countries.

"I don't understand this war," one older man told Paton Walsh.

At a cemetery in the city, there are three types of mass graves: In one, dirt has been poured upon the bodies of an estimated 160 people whose families cannot bury them yet; in another, white body bags have the names of the dead collected daily written on them; and the third is empty in preparation for even more dead.

Watch CNN's reporting here:

12:20 p.m. ET, May 28, 2022

1 dead in Mykolaiv shelling, according to Ukrainian regional administration

From CNN's Nathan Hodge

At least one person is dead after shelling in the southeastern Ukrainian port city of Mykolaiv, the regional state administration said Saturday. 

Mykolaiv is under Ukrainian government control, but is not far from the front lines of fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces. It is about 60 kilometers (37 miles) away from Kherson, which has been under Russian control since the early days of the invasion.

"On Saturday morning, May 28, occupying troops of Russia once again fired at the city of Mykolaiv," according to a statement. "And again the blow fell on residential areas. One person died on the spot. At least 6 civilians are also known to be injured."

The statement said at least two rounds landed in the courtyards of residential high-rises, damaging several buildings.

"Mykolayiv city was shelled again this morning," according to a previous statement. "The Russians hit the yard of a residential area, 20 meters away from a kindergarten. There are injured people due to the shelling."

12:04 p.m. ET, May 28, 2022

It's 7 p.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

Russian forces are seeking to encircle the defenders of the Luhansk city of Severodonetsk -- the last major Ukrainian stronghold in the region -- as Moscow's troops continue to press their offensive in the east of the country while outnumbered Ukrainian forces attempt to hold them off.

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

  • Ukrainian military says Severodonetsk "not cut off:" Serhiy Hayday, the head of Luhansk's regional military administration, said on Saturday the key eastern Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk was "not cut off," as Russian troops press a concerted offensive in the Luhansk region. Hayday said intense Russian shelling was underway in Severodonetsk, an industrial center which is the last major stronghold of Ukrainian control in Luhansk. Ukrainian forces are fighting to stave off an apparent effort by Russian forces to encircle the defenders of Severodonetsk, while Russian troops make advances from several directions.
  • France and Germany's leaders urge Putin to agree to a ceasefire: The leaders of Germany and France held a phone call with Vladimir Putin on Saturday, in which they pressed the Russian President to agree to an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine and withdraw Russia's troops from the country, German officials said. A statement from the French presidential office, the Elysee Palace, said: "Any solution to the war must be negotiated between Moscow and Kyiv." The two leaders also urged Putin to lift the blockade of Odesa to allow the export of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea in order to avoid a world food crisis, according to the statement.
  • Putin signs law scrapping upper age limit to enlist in Russian military: The Russian President has signed a law scrapping the upper age limit for Russians and foreigners to join the military as contract service members, according to Russian state news agency TASS. Russia’s State Duma passed the bill on Wednesday but Putin's signature was needed for it to become law. Previously, citizens aged 18 to 40 and foreigners aged 18 to 30 could enlist in the Russian military.
  • Zelensky and UK PM discuss global food crisis: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke by phone on Saturday morning to discuss several issues related to the war in Ukraine, Zelensky tweeted. Among the matters the two discussed was the growing global food supply crisis, which has been exacerbated by Russia's blockade of Ukrainian ports. Zelensky said Friday that some 22 million tons of grain meant for export were sitting in silos, as Russia is blocking export routes through the Black Sea and Azov Sea.
  • Kharkiv district shelled, says regional official: Russian forces have shelled a district of the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, the regional military governor said in a statement Saturday. Oleh Syniehubov, head of Kharkiv regional military administration, said the Kyiv district of Kharkiv city had been subjected to Russian shelling over the past 24 hours, and that several shells hit the suburb of Mala Danylivka overnight -- with no casualties. A 65-year-old woman was killed by Russian fire in the village of Slatyne, he added. Ukrainian troops have in recent weeks pushed back Russian forces from around Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city. But it has remained in range of some Russian weaponry.

 

11:45 a.m. ET, May 28, 2022

Ukrainian Orthodox Church breaks ties with Moscow's Patriarch Kirill over his support for war

From CNN's Nathan Hodge, Oleksandra Ochman and Josh Pennington

Russia's Patriarch Kirill conducts a service in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, on October 27, 2019.
Russia's Patriarch Kirill conducts a service in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, on October 27, 2019. (Sergey Pivovarov/Reuters/File)

A branch of Ukraine's Orthodox church has broken ties with Russia's Patriarch Kirill over the Russian spiritual leader's support for the war in Ukraine, deepening a rift between the Moscow church and other Orthodox believers.

Leaders of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), which had been formally subordinate to the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church, held a council Friday in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. In a statement, the council said it "condemns the war as a violation of God's commandment 'Thou shalt not kill!'" and urged the governments of Ukraine and Russia to pursue a path of negotiation.

But the council also had criticism for Patriarch Kirill -- who has given his support to the invasion of Ukraine and has put his church firmly behind Russian President Vladimir Putin -- and said it had opted for the "full independence and autonomy" of the Ukrainian church.

A large part of the Orthodox community in Ukraine has already moved to establish independence from Moscow. That movement took on further momentum in 2018, after Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople -- a Greek cleric who is considered the spiritual leader of Orthodox believers worldwide -- endorsed the establishment of an independent Orthodox Church of Ukraine.

The Russian Orthodox Church and the Moscow Patriarchate, which has become closely entwined with the Russian state under Putin's rule, responded by cutting ties with Bartholomew.

The Orthodox Church of Ukraine, which has allegiance to Bartholomew, is separate from the UOC, which made its announcement Friday. But the emergence of a church independent of Moscow has also infuriated Putin, who has made restoration of the so-called "Russian world" a centerpiece of his foreign policy and has dismissed Ukrainian national identity as illegitimate.

The UOC council's statement on Friday said the war had been devastating for members of the church.

"During the three months of the war, more than 6 million citizens of Ukraine were forced to leave the country. These were mainly Ukrainians from the southern, eastern, and central regions of Ukraine. A large majority of them are faithful children of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church," the statement read. "It is necessary to further develop the mission abroad among Orthodox Ukrainians to preserve their faith, culture, language and Orthodox identity."

10:28 a.m. ET, May 28, 2022

France and Germany's leaders urged Putin to agree to a ceasefire in a Saturday phone call

From CNN's Stephanie Halasz

The leaders of Germany and France held a phone call with Vladimir Putin on Saturday, in which they pressed the Russian President to agree to an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine and withdraw Russia's troops from the country, German officials said.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron spoke with Putin for 80 minutes “on their initiative,” according to the German government's press office.

“The German chancellor and the French president urged an immediate ceasefire and a withdrawal of Russian troops. They called on the Russian president to engage in serious direct negotiations with the Ukrainian president and to find a diplomatic solution to the conflict,” the German government news release said.

A statement from the French Presidential office, the Elysee Palace, said: "Any solution to the war must be negotiated between Moscow and Kyiv."

In the call, Macron and Scholz also called for the release of about 2,500 Azovstal defenders who have been taken as prisoners of war by Russian forces, the French readout said, in a reference to Ukrainian forces who were captured after defending the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol for weeks.

In addition, the two leaders urged Putin to lift the blockade of Odesa to allow the export of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea in order to avoid a world food crisis, according to the statement.

Some context: Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday that negotiations between Russia and Ukraine were frozen. He also accused Kyiv of making “contradictory” statements that Moscow did not understand.

A day earlier, Peskov said Moscow expected Kyiv to accept the status quo and meet its territorial demands, following remarks by former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger that appeared to suggest Ukraine has to agree to give up Crimea and much of the Donbas region to Russia.

In a May 23 interview with Reuters, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak ruled out agreeing to a ceasefire with Russia and said Kyiv would not accept any deal with Moscow that involved ceding territory.

8:28 a.m. ET, May 28, 2022

Zelensky and UK PM discuss global food crisis

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke by phone Saturday morning to discuss several issues related to the war in Ukraine, Zelensky tweeted.

Among the matters the two discussed was the growing global food supply crisis, which has been exacerbated by Russia's blockade of Ukrainian ports. Zelensky said Friday that some 22 million tons of grain meant for export were sitting in silos, as Russia is blocking export routes through the Black Sea and Azov Sea.

Ukraine and Russia together are responsible for about 14% of global wheat production, according to Gro Intelligence, an agricultural data analytics firm. The two countries supply about 29% of all wheat exports.

7:58 a.m. ET, May 28, 2022

Russian forces have shelled Kharkiv district, says regional military governor

From CNN's Nathan Hodge

Russian forces have shelled a district of the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv in recent hours, the regional military governor said in a statement.

Oleh Syniehubov, head of Kharkiv regional military administration, said the Kyiv district of Kharkiv city had been subjected to Russian shelling over the past 24 hours, and that several shells hit the suburb of Mala Danylivka overnight -- with no casualties.

A 65-year-old woman was killed by Russian fire in the village of Slatyne, he added.

Ukrainian troops have in recent weeks pushed back Russian forces from around Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city. But it has remained in range of some Russian weaponry. 

"Fighting continues in the region," Syniehubov said. "In the Kharkiv direction, the enemy is trying to hold its ground and prevent further advance of Ukrainian troops."

Syniehubov said Ukrainian troops had shot down a Russian Ka-52 combat helicopter in the Kharkiv region, a claim that could not be immediately verified. 

8:18 a.m. ET, May 28, 2022

Putin signs law scrapping upper age limit to enlist in Russian military, says Russian state media

From CNN's Manveena Suri in New Delhi

Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives to watch the Victory Day military parade at Red Square in Moscow on May 9.
Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives to watch the Victory Day military parade at Red Square in Moscow on May 9. (Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP/Getty Images/File)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a law scrapping the upper age limit for Russians and foreigners to join the military as contract service members, according to Russian state news agency TASS.

Russia’s State Duma passed the bill on Wednesday but Putin's signature was needed for it to become law.

Previously, citizens aged 18 to 40 and foreigners aged 18 to 30 could enlist in the Russian military.

The changes were drafted by the head of the State Duma Defense Committee, Andrei Kartapolov, and his first deputy, Andrei Krasov. According to TASS, they believe the abolition of an upper age limit will attract specialists in areas such as medical support, engineering and communications.

The explanatory note to the draft law also notes that the use of high-precision weapons and military equipment requires specialists and they gain the experience by the age of 40 to 45.

The changes in law come amid serious Russian casualties in Ukraine, where Moscow is waging what it euphemistically calls a "special military operation."

Russia also has a system of military conscription. The Kremlin initially said draftees would not serve in Ukraine but subsequently acknowledged they were serving in combat

6:06 a.m. ET, May 28, 2022

It's 1 p.m. in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

Russia is intensifying its offensive in the Luhansk and Donbas regions as heavy shelling continues in the key industrial city of Severodonetsk. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says Donbas faces a "very difficult" moment.

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

  • Ukrainian military says Severodonetsk "not cut off:" Serhiy Hayday, the head of Luhansk's regional military administration, said on Saturday the key eastern Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk was "not cut off," as Russian troops press a concerted offensive in the Luhansk region. Hayday said intense Russian shelling was underway in Severodonetsk, an industrial center which is the last major stronghold of Ukrainian control in Luhansk. Ukrainian forces are fighting to stave off an apparent effort by Russian forces to encircle the defenders of Severodonetsk, while Russian troops make advances from several directions.
  • Russian-occupied Kherson: The Russian-occupied region of Kherson has closed its borders to surrounding Ukrainian areas, according to Russian state media. The deputy head of the Russian-installed administration in Kherson, Kirill Stremousov, said Kherson’s border crossings with the Ukrainian regions of Mykolaiv and Dnipropetrovsk are closed, while travel from Kherson to Crimea or the Russian-controlled areas of Zaporizhzhia remains possible.
  • Supply lines: Ukraine's military said the Russians are mobilizing railway brigades with special machinery to repair damaged railway lines inside northern Ukraine to sustain supply routes. The railway from Russia into the Kharkiv region and south to Izium is a critical supply line for the Russian offensive.
  • Weapons aid: US defense officials said they were "mindful and aware" of Ukraine's request for advanced, multiple-launch rocket systems, but decisions were yet to be made. CNN reported Thursday that the Biden administration is preparing to send MLRS systems as part of a larger package of military and security assistance to Ukraine, which could be announced as soon as next week.
  • Russia successfully tests its Zircon hypersonic cruise missile: Russia successfully tested its Zircon hypersonic cruise missile over a distance of 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) on Saturday, according to its Ministry of Defense. The missile was fired from the waters of the Barents Sea towards a “target in the White Sea” -- a southern inlet on Russia’s northwest coast -- as part of a broader test of new weapons, according to a ministry statement. Video of the test shared by the ministry showed the Zircon missile being fired at a steep trajectory from Russia’s Admiral Grigorovich-class frigate at sea.