Attack on chemical plant in Sievierodonetsk criticised by Zelensky – as it happened (2022)

Key events

  • 31 May 2022Summary
  • 31 May 2022Catch up
  • 31 May 2022Russian troops control most of Sievierodonetsk
  • 31 May 2022Russia cuts gas supplies to Netherlands and firms in Denmark and Germany
  • 31 May 2022Summary
  • 31 May 2022Airstrike hits chemical plant in Sievierodonetsk, officials say
  • 31 May 2022Summary
  • 31 May 2022European Union press conference on Ukraine
  • 31 May 2022Ukraine to prosecute 80 suspected war criminals
  • 31 May 2022What’s next for Ukraine after Russia’s Donbas offensive?
  • 31 May 2022Mass civil legal action to seek compensation for Ukrainian war victims
  • 31 May 2022Today so far …
  • 31 May 2022Russian troops control 'around half' of Sievierodonetsk
  • 31 May 2022Two Russian soldiers sentenced to jail in Ukraine for war crimes
  • 31 May 2022EU sanctions package 'not enough' – Ukrainian official
  • 31 May 2022Russia's defence ministry claims bodies of fighters left in Azovstal were mined by Ukrainians
  • 31 May 2022Civilian evacuations 'not possible' in Sievierodonetsk due to fighting
  • 31 May 2022European Council to grant Ukraine €9bn for reconstruction
  • 31 May 2022Russia claims a third of Sievierodonetsk under its control
  • 31 May 2022EU backs 'landmark' Russian oil embargo
  • 31 May 2022Summary and welcome

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31 May 202204.51

As well as the claims about the Azovstal plant in Mariupol, the daily Russian operations briefing also claims that in the last 24 hours:

  • “An Su-25 aircraft of the Ukrainian Air Force was shot down in the Mykolaiv region.”
  • “36 units of weapons and military equipment were destroyed, including the Ukrainian battery of the Uragan multiple launch rocket system, the battery of the Grad multiple launch rocket system, two ammunition depots, and a fuel depot.”
  • “Russian air defence systems shot down six Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicles.”

None of the claims have been independently verified.

31 May 202204.49

Russia's defence ministry claims bodies of fighters left in Azovstal were mined by Ukrainians

Russia’s ministry of defence has issued its daily operational briefing and has claimed that Ukrainian forces that had been besieged in the Azovstal plant in Mariupol deliberately mined the bodies of their colleagues in order to create an atrocity.

The ministry offered no evidence in the update to support the claims, which reads:

During a survey in Mariupol of the underground structures of the Azovstal metallurgical plant, where the Nazis of the Ukrainian Azov formation who surrendered were hiding, Russian military personnel discovered an isothermal van.️

In a van with a broken cooling system, 152 bodies of dead militants and servicemen of the Armed Forces of Ukraine were stored. Let me remind you that before being taken prisoner, the Azov command publicly appealed to Zelenskiy to take the bodies of the dead so that the families could bury them in the territory controlled by the Kyiv regime.

However, no requests from Kyiv to receive the bodies of the dead from the Azovstal plant have been received. Moreover, during the inspection of the van, Russian sappers found four mines placed under the bodies of the dead Ukrainian servicemen. The cumulative mass of the explosive in them was sufficient to destroy all the remains of the bodies remaining in the van.

Based on the results of interrogations of captured Azov militants, it is known that the mining of the bodies was carried out on direct orders from Kyiv.

The purpose of the provocation is to accuse Russia of deliberately destroying the remains of the bodies and preventing them from being taken out for transfer to relatives in order to save the political ‘reputation’ of the Kyiv regime and Zelenskiy personally.

In the near future, the Russian side plans to hand over the bodies of Ukrainian militants and servicemen found on the territory of the Azovstal plant to representatives of Ukraine.

Attack on chemical plant in Sievierodonetsk criticised by Zelensky – as it happened (1)

There are some additional quotes from Latvia’s prime minister Krišjānis Kariņš from Brussels this morning. He said keeping the EU united was the prime goal. “The important news is that the EU is still united in its purpose; the purpose is to stop Russia’s aggressive war in Ukraine,” Reuters quotes Kariņš saying.

31 May 202204.12

We’ve been sent some pictures from yesterday, illustrating the conditions under which people where being evacuated from Kupiansk town.

Attack on chemical plant in Sievierodonetsk criticised by Zelensky – as it happened (2)
Attack on chemical plant in Sievierodonetsk criticised by Zelensky – as it happened (3)
Attack on chemical plant in Sievierodonetsk criticised by Zelensky – as it happened (4)
Attack on chemical plant in Sievierodonetsk criticised by Zelensky – as it happened (5)
Attack on chemical plant in Sievierodonetsk criticised by Zelensky – as it happened (6)

31 May 202204.07

Estonia’s prime minister Kaja Kallas has spoken in Brussels, telling reporters that the European Union should push ahead with a seventh package of sanctions against Russia, that included gas. She said: “I think that gas has to be in the seventh package but I am realistic as well. I don’t think it will be there.”

She described the oil ban agreed yesterday as “a fair compromise”.

Reuters reports she added: “This was the best we could get. Yesterday I was very sceptical that we would reach an agreement so that’s a positive thing that we did.”

Austria’s chancellor, Karl Nehammer, has already ruled out a gas embargo being on the table. He told reporters: “The gas embargo will not be a topic, German chancellor Olaf Scholz has made this clear as well. Russian oil is much easier to compensate. Gas is completely different.”

31 May 202204.04

Still with Turkey for a second, there is a quick snap on Reuters that Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov will visit Turkey with a military delegation next week on 8 June.

31 May 202203.55

Turkish complaints about Kurdish activity in European countries have been the driving force behind its opposition to Sweden and Finland’s proposed entry into Nato. The tension has increased slightly today, with Reuters reporting that the German and French ambassadors to Ankara were summoned to the Turkish foreign ministry to protest about events organised by Kurds in those countries.

Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, told the state-run Anadolu news agency the ambassadors were informed of Turkey’s discomfort with the events organised by the Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK), which is considered a terrorist organisation by Turkey, as well as by the US and the EU.

31 May 202203.50

There is more reaction coming in from EU leaders about the latest sanctions package proposals. Josep Borrell, the EU’s top diplomat, has said: “We are the most important client for Russia.”

Reuters reports he said the European Union deal to cut most of Russian oil imports would force Moscow to offer crude at a lower price to others. “The purpose is to make Russia have less financial resources to feed its war machine.”

31 May 202203.24

Civilian evacuations 'not possible' in Sievierodonetsk due to fighting

Ukraine is still in control of Sievierodonetsk city and its soldiers are fighting slowly advancing Russian troops, but evacuations of civilians are not currently possible, the head of the city’s administration has said.

“The city is still in Ukrainian hands and it’s putting up a fight... (but) evacuations are not possible due to the fighting,” Reuters reports Oleksandr Stryuk told Ukrainian television.

Earlier, Serhiy Haidai, governor of Luhansk, posted some additional details on Telegram. He told his followers:

The situation is extremely complicated – part of Sievierodonetsk is controlled by the Russians. They cannot move freely through the city – our fighters still remain in the settlement. The enemy is planning an operation to clear the surrounding villages. Wounded volunteers were taken out of Sievierodonetsk.

The current situation in Sievierodonetsk has not been independently verified.

31 May 202202.44

The UK’s ministry of defence has issued its daily assesement of the situation in Ukraine, saying that in order to pursue their likely objective of the complete occupoation of the Donbas, Russia has further challenging targets ahead of it. The assesment says:

Russia’s capture of Lyman supports its operational main effort, which likely remains the encirclement of Sieverodonetsk and the closure of the pocket around Ukrainian forces in Luhansk Oblast.

Heavy shelling continues, while street fighting is likely taking place on the outskirts of Sieverodonetsk town.

Routes into the pocket likely remain under Ukrainian control. Russia has achieved greater local successes than earlier in the campaign by massing forces and fires in a relatively small area. This forces Russia to accept risk elsewhere in occupied territory.

Russia will need to secure further challenging operational objectives beyond Sieverodonetsk, including the key city of Kramatorsk and the M04 Dnipro-Donetsk main road.

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