May 30, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Andrew Raine, Brad Lendon, Rob Picheta and Hafsa Khalil, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, May 31, 2022
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11:58 p.m. ET, May 29, 2022

Russian ship arrives in Syria with more grain allegedly stolen from Ukraine

From CNN's Tim Lister

New satellite imagery shows that a Russian freighter full of grain allegedly stolen from Ukrainian farms has arrived in the Syrian port of Latakia -- its second trip within four weeks.

The new images -- provided by Maxar Technologies -- show the bulk carrier Matros Pozynich at Latakia on May 27.

It is one of three ships that have been loading grain in the Crimean port of Sevastopol since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It was last seen in Sevastopol on May 19 and subsequently tracked transiting the Bosphorus strait and south along the Turkish coast. It's estimated that the ship can carry about 30,000 tons of grain. 

The Matros Pozynich's sister ship has also loaded grain at Sevastopol in the last two weeks. 

Some context: CNN has previously reported that convoys of trucks have been seen carrying grain from farms and silos in southern Ukraine into Crimea. Ukrainian authorities estimated earlier this month that Russian forces in occupied areas had seized more than 400,000 tons of grain. 

The grain thefts are threatening this year's harvest in Ukraine -- which is one of the most important grain-producing countries in the world.

For Russia, grain is an attractive commodity. The price of wheat is about $400 a ton on world markets and has moved sharply higher this year.

1:56 p.m. ET, May 30, 2022

Ukraine's military says it's made advances in the southern Kherson region

From CNN's Tim Lister and Yulia Kesaieva 

The Ukrainian military says it has begun a counter-offensive against Russian forces in the south and has claimed significant advances in the direction of Kherson.

Serhii Hlan, a deputy who sits on the Kherson region council, said on Saturday Ukrainian forces "continued offensive operations and pushed the enemy back 9 kilometers (5 miles) in the Beryslav district."

Hlan also claimed that Ukrainian units "broke the enemy grouping into two parts and actually encircled the enemy grouping in Davidiv Brid." 

Davidiv Brid has been on the front lines for weeks and became an escape route for civilians trying to leave Kherson, often under fire.

The Ukrainian military published video of artillery strikes, purportedly against Russian positions. It said on Facebook that "the artillery war continues."

"Ukrainian soldiers chase and burn the occupiers' equipment on the lands of Kherson and Mykolaiv regions," it said. "Kherson hold on, we're close!"

There is no independent evidence of the Ukrainian advances.

mpossible to leaveHlan said that now "it's impossible to leave the Kherson region," as exits are being blocked by Russian forces.

Russian forces continue to shell Ukrainian towns and villages in the Mykolaiv region, according to Ukrainian officials. They said there had been strikes against several communities but reported no injuries. The town of Bereznehuvate had been hardest hit, they said.

Some context on the fighting in southern Ukraine: Russia appears to be consolidating its gains in the south and attacking further afield in places like Mykolaiv, which is close to the front line but remains under Ukrainian control.

The Institute for the Study of War, a US-based think tank, assessed that Russian forces have "continued to fortify and equip their positions throughout southern Ukraine in an effort to retain permanent control over the territory."

11:56 p.m. ET, May 29, 2022

Zelensky visits Kharkiv's front line, in northeast Ukraine

From CNN's Victoria Butenko in Kyiv and Bex Wright in Hong Kong

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky visited the "front line positions" of the Ukrainian military and met with soldiers during a trip to the Kharkiv region, his office announced on Sunday.

"I want to thank each of you for your service. You risk your life for all of us and our state. Thank you for defending Ukraine's independence. Take care of yourself," he said.

During the visit, Zelensky got an operational update on the situation there, and visited destroyed administrative and residential buildings in the city.

He also chaired a meeting with regional officials, including military leaders and the Kharkiv mayor.

The head of the Kharkiv regional military administration, Oleg Synegubov, said that 31% of the region's territory is currently occupied, and 5% has been "liberated" back into Ukrainian hands.

"We are not yet able to fully inspect some of the liberated settlements, conduct full-fledged demining and begin rebuilding critical infrastructure, as shelling continues. Where we can do it remotely, we do it," Synegubov said.

Synegubov added that 2,229 high-rise buildings have been damaged in Kharkiv, including 225 which were completely destroyed. In the northern and eastern districts of Kharkiv, 30.2% of the total housing stock has been damaged or destroyed.

Zelensky discussed plans for reconstructing the city, by building modern housing equipped with bomb shelters.                                                     

"We have to find funds, credit lines. The state must ensure this in terms of guarantees, and the leaders of cities and regions must find great projects and money," Zelensky said.

11:56 p.m. ET, May 29, 2022

Turkey's President says talks with Sweden and Finland on NATO bids did not happen "at the desired level"

From Yusuf Gezer in Istanbul

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrives for a ceremony in Ankara, Turkey on May 16.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrives for a ceremony in Ankara, Turkey on May 16. (Burhan Ozbilici/AP)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday that talks last week with Sweden and Finland regarding their NATO membership did not happen "at the desired level."

"Unfortunately, the talks held by our delegation with Finland and Sweden were not at the desired level," Erdogan said while speaking to reporters on his plane following a trip to Azerbaijan, according to Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency. 

Ibrahim Kalin, a spokesman for Erdogan, said on Friday after meeting with Swedish and Finnish delegations that Turkey is "not under time pressure to solve this issue until that summit."

"We are determined to ensure that the process moves forward on a solid basis and that it progresses depending on the steps taken to meet Turkey's security concerns," Kalin said.

Some background: Finland and Sweden formally applied to join NATO earlier this month, driven by Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The decision represents a setback for Moscow, with the war in Ukraine triggering the kind of enlargement of the alliance that it invaded Ukraine to prevent.

Accession of new states, however, requires consensus among existing members -- and that's where Ankara comes in.

Turkey, which joined the alliance three years after it was established in 1949 and has the group's second largest army, has said it won't support the bids unless its demands are met.

Erdogan accused the two countries of harboring members of the separatist militant Kurdistan's Workers Party, also known as PKK. The PKK, which seeks an independent state in Turkey, has been in an armed struggle with that country for decades and has been designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

Erdogan has repeatedly asserted that both countries are effectively supporting terrorists.

"We cannot say 'yes' to the countries supporting terrorism to join NATO," Erdogan said in remarks published by the Turkish government.

Erdogan to speak with Putin and Zelensky on Monday: Meanwhile, the Turkish government said Erdogan will hold separate phone calls with his Russian and Ukrainian counterparts on Monday to encourage the parties to maintain channels of dialogue and diplomacy to bring peace to Ukraine.

"I will have phone calls with both Russia and Ukraine on Monday. We will continue to encourage the parties to use the channels of dialogue and diplomacy," Erdogan told reporters.