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Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova told an Italian broadcaster Sunday that some of Serbia’s neighboring countries have closed their airspace to the plane scheduled to take Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to Belgrade for a meeting with officials on Monday, according to Russia’s state news agency TASS.
"The countries bordering Serbia have closed the only air route to the aircraft of Sergey Lavrov, who was to depart for Serbia. The Russian delegation was scheduled to hold talks in Belgrade, while the EU and NATO member-countries have closed their airspace," Zakharova said in an on-air broadcast of Italy’s La7 television.
Russian Ambassador to Bulgaria Eleonora Mitrofanova said that Bulgarian authorities refused to provide an air corridor for the Russian government aircraft, according to TASS.
"I can confirm that the Bulgarian authorities did not allow the flight of the plane with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on board, which should proceed to Serbia, through the airspace of their country," she said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he visited troops in some of the most heavily bombarded frontline positions Sunday.
In his nightly address, Zelensky said: "We were in Lysychansk and we were in Soledar."
Both places have been under heavy Russian attack for weeks, suffering missile, rocket and aerial bombardment.
"I am proud of everyone I met, shook hands with, communicated with and supported. Something was brought for the military, but I will not detail it," he said. "And I brought something from them -- to you. It is important: confidence and strength."
Earlier Sunday, Zelensky was in the southern city of Zaporizhzhia, where he said he'd met the mayors of some occupied towns.
"I met with Mariupol residents who managed to leave the city alive and with children. I met them in Khortytsia. Conditions are temporary but not bad," he said. "Each family had its own story, most without men. Someone's husband went to war, someone in captivity, and someone, unfortunately, died."
The Ukrainian military has reported another day of heavy fighting in the Donetsk region, especially on the northern approaches to the key city of Sloviansk.
The armed forces' General Staff did not acknowledge losing any territory but said Russian troops had resumed their offensive near Sviatohirsk, some 12 miles (20 km) north of Sloviansk, and had suffered losses. It said there had been further air strikes against Sloviansk. The city is located more than 300 miles east of the capital Kyiv.
Further east, the General Staff said Russian forces had tried to storm two districts (Bilohorivka and Mykolaivka), that, if lost by the Ukrainians, would put the city of Severodonetsk at risk of encirclement.
"The enemy suffered significant losses in manpower and equipment," the military said.
Local authorities reported the town of Bakhmut -- a lynchpin in Ukraine's defense of Donetsk and Luhansk -- had been shelled again. An agricultural machinery plant had been set on fire, they said.
Fighting in the south continues, with territory changing hands since a Ukrainian counter-offensive began a week ago.
The General Staff said the Russians were conducting an offensive in the area of Bila Krynytsia in the north of the Kherson region, a district recently retaken by Ukrainian forces. The head of the regional military administration, Oleksandr Vilkul, said Russian units had "retreated to previously occupied positions."
A grain storage silo was destroyed in the city of Mykolaiv, according to images from the area geolocated by CNN. The Operational Command South of the Ukrainian forces said "from the direction of the Black Sea and from the territory of Russia, the Black Sea coast of Mykolaiv region, ports and granaries were attacked by air-based cruise missiles."
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky paid tribute Sunday to Lithuanian filmmaker Mantas Kvedaravičius, who was killed by Russian forces in Mariupol in April.
Zelensky made his remarks in a taped address to the guests and participants attending the Lithuanian National Film Awards, "Sidabrinė gervė," in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius.
"It is important to bear the truth. It is important to support art that is for life, not for those who want to destroy that life," Zelensky said Sunday.
"Ukrainians will remember Mantas Kvedaravičius as a man who was just like that. He really deserves the Golden Swan. He valued life and always spoke out against what was life-threatening in his view -- and that was a very attentive view," Zelensky added.
When he was killed, Kvedaravičius was still in the process of making his film "Mariupolis 2," a documentary depicting life in the besieged city in the wake of the Russian invasion. The film, finished by his Ukrainian partner Hanna Bilobrova, was screened at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival on May 19 and 20.
In his Sunday remarks, Zelensky called on guests and participants of the "Sidabrinė gervė" festival "to be just as attentive’" and "support life."
"And remember Ukraine, Mariupol and the fact that this war that took Mantas' life. Russia's war against Ukraine, must end. End as soon as possible,” he stressed.
The film awards festival is held annually under the patronage of Prime Minister of the Republic of Lithuania Ingrida Šimonytė and broadcast live on Lithuanian national television.
Russian President Vladimir Putin reiterated that Moscow’s actions have nothing to do with the looming energy and food crisis in the world and again blamed economic and financial policies of the West for creating such a scenario.
Current and former energy officials tell CNN they worry that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in the wake of years of underinvestment in the energy sector have sent the world careening into a crisis that will rival, or even exceed, the oil crises of the 1970s and early 1980s.
US President Joe Biden has blamed Russia's invasion for domestic price hikes and global food supply shortages.
In an interview with state TV channel Rossiya-1, conducted Friday and aired in full Sunday, the Russian leader blamed the United States for "injecting large sums of money" into its economy as a means of combating the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, which led to inflation and an "unfavorable situation in the food market, because first of all, food prices went up."
Putin also blamed "the short-sighted policy of European countries, and above all the European Commission, in the energy sector" as another reason for the crisis in food and energy market.
“Among other things, the Europeans did not listen to our urgent requests to preserve long-term contracts for the supply of the same natural gas to European countries, and they also began to (terminate the contracts) … This had a negative impact on the European energy market: Prices crept up. Russia has absolutely nothing to do with it," he said.
As soon as gas prices went up, fertilizer prices "immediately increased, because some of these fertilizers are produced, including at the expense of gas. Everything is interconnected," Putin added.
"But we warned about this, and this has nothing to do with any military operation of Russia," Putin said.
The Kremlin said last week that Moscow is ready to make a “significant contribution” to avoid the food crisis through the export of grain and fertilizers, if the West lifts “politically motivated restrictions” on Russia.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met with soldiers on the frontline and internally displaced Ukrainians during a trip to Zaporizhzhia region on Sunday.
Zelensky "visited the frontline positions of the Ukrainian military," taking the opportunity to acquaint himself "with the operational situation on the frontline of defense," a statement from the Ukrainian Presidency said.
The president spoke with the soldiers, presenting them with state awards and thanking them for their service, according to the statement.
"I want to thank you for your great work, for your service, for protecting all of us, our state. I am grateful to everyone. I want to wish you and your families good health. Take care of yourselves," Zelensky told the frontline soldiers.
He also paid a trip to a sanatorium where internally displaced Ukrainians, forced to flee their homes, have been receiving shelter and medical care, according to a separate statement from the Ukrainian Presidency.
Some more context: Almost 12 million Ukrainians have been internally displaced by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Zelensky told lawmakers in Luxembourg on Thursday.
"I understand that everyone wants to return home. And this housing, no matter how comfortable it is, cannot be compared with your own home. There is nowhere better than home," Zelensky told the IDPs on Sunday.
IDPs who had traveled from the southern city of Mariupol recounted to the president the "tragic events they had to endure due to the Russian invasion, "appealing to him for help with recovering lost documents and issuing death certificates of relatives who died in the temporarily occupied territories, according to the statement.
Zelensky invited them to put forward suggestions for "legislative changes" that could be made to simplify the procedures for obtaining these documents.
He assured the IDPs that all those who have lost their homes will be provided with "comfortable housing," according to the statement.
Finally, Zelensky gave a gift to 8-year-old boy, Yehor Kravtsov, who kept a diary while living under shelling in Mariupol. Yehor, whose "Mariupol Diary" writings were published on social networks, shared his experiences of the city's bombing with Zelensky.
Serhiy Hayday, the head of the Luhansk region military administration, says there is "good news" from the city of Severodonetsk, which has been under Russian bombardment for weeks.
In a post on his Telegram channel, Hayday says: "Our Armed Forces have cleared up half of the city. Half of the city is really controlled by our defenders." Last week, Hayday said that Russian forces held about 80% of Severodonetsk, but Ukrainian forces have clawed back parts of the city in street fighting since then.
Hayday says he expects Russian forces to redouble their efforts to take the city in the next few days by using heavy artillery.
"They have no other tactics," he said "They cannot fight in another way."
Hayday said there are approximately 15,000 civilians still in Severodonetsk. "Now evacuation is impossible because of constant fighting," he said.
"Even though we officially stopped the evacuation, today, we managed to evacuate 98 people from Lysychansk together with the help of volunteers, the State Emergency Service and the National Police," he said.
Lysychansk is across the Siverskyi Donets river from Severodonetsk and is heavily defended by Ukrainian troops.
Wales’ men’s soccer team defeated Ukraine 1-0 on Sunday to secure a berth in the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Ukraine thought they had begun the game in perfect fashion as Oleksandr Zinchenko took a free-kick quickly after 3 minutes and found the back of the net — only for Spanish referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz to disallow the goal as the Manchester City player took the set piece before the whistle was blown.
Ukraine continued to dominate the early exchanges but were unable to capitalize, with Welsh goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey making a string of excellent saves. In the 34th minute, Gareth Bale’s free kick deflected off the head of Andriy Yarmolenko and into the goal to give Rob Page’s team the lead, which they took into the half-time break.
Both teams had good chances in the second half - Aaron Ramsey missing for Wales and Roman Yaremchuk for the visitors. In the end, one goal was enough for Wales to seal their spot at the forthcoming tournament.
As had been the case in Ukraine’s semifinal victory against Scotland last Wednesday, the build-up to the match was an emotional affair. Players and fans again sang the national anthem pridefully in unison as yellow and blue flags dominated the Cardiff City Stadium in Wales.
The Welsh FA handed out 100 tickets to Ukrainian refugees living in the area before the match as a gesture of solidarity. Ukraine manager Oleksandr Petrakov revealed on Saturday that the team had received a flag from their home country which they had hung in the dressing room.
The World Cup playoff final was due to be played in March but was postponed due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Wales qualified for the match by defeating Austria 2-1 on March 24.
Wales will join England, the United States and Iran in Group B.
It is only the second time the nation from the British Isles has qualified for the World Cup, and the first since 1958.
The 2022 FIFA World Cup takes place in Qatar from November 21 to December 18.