U.S. may send long-range rocket systems to Ukraine; Russia captures more villages in Donbas

This has been CNBC's live blog covering updates on the war in Ukraine. [Follow the latest updates here.]

Biden slams Putin at Annapolis commencement
Biden slams Putin at Annapolis commencement

Russian forces are making incremental progress in Ukraine's eastern Donbas, recently capturing several villages as they attempt to surround Severodonetsk, a city in the Luhansk Oblast. Heavy Russian artillery strikes over Severodonetsk have sparked fears that it could be the next Mariupol.

Severodonetsk and Lysychansk are the only parts of the Luhansk region in the Donbas still under Ukrainian government control.

Meanwhile, U.S. President Joe Biden's administration is considering sending advanced, long-range weapons systems to Ukraine, according to sources cited by CNN. The White House also expects Russia to default on its sovereign debt.

US wins latest legal battle to seize Russian yacht in Fiji

The 106m-long and 18m-high super luxury motor yacht Amadea, one of the largest yacht in the world is seen after anchored at pier in Pasatarlasi for bunkering with 9 fuel trucks, on February 18, 2020 in Bodrum district of Mugla province in Turkey.
Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The United States won the latest round of a legal battle to seize a $325-million Russian-owned superyacht in Fiji, with the case now appearing headed for the Pacific nation's top court.

The case has highlighted the thorny legal ground the U.S. finds itself on as it tries to seize assets of Russian oligarchs around the world. Those intentions are welcomed by many governments and citizens who oppose the war in Ukraine, but some actions are raising questions about how far U.S. jurisdiction extends.

Fiji's Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal by Feizal Haniff, who represents the company that legally owns the superyacht Amadea. Haniff had argued the U.S. had no jurisdiction under Fiji's mutual assistance laws to seize the vessel, at least until a court sorted out who really owned the Amadea.

Haniff said he now plans to take the case to Fiji's Supreme Court and will apply for a court order to stop U.S. agents sailing the Amadea from Fiji before the appeal is heard.

As part of its ruling, the appeals court ordered that its judgment not take effect for seven days, presumably to give time for any appeals to be filed.

The U.S. argues that its investigation has found that behind various fronts, the Cayman Islands-flagged luxury yacht is really owned by the sanctioned Russian oligarch Suleiman Kerimov, an economist and former Russian politician.

— Associated Press

Italy's Draghi pledges support to Zelenskyy, discusses possibility of opening ports

Italian Premier Mario Draghi spoke by phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelesnkyy, assuring him of "the support of the Italian government in coordination with the European Union.″

Draghi's office said the leaders also discussed the prospects for opening Ukrainian ports to allow grain exports "to help combat the food crisis that is threatening the world's poorest countries."

Draghi spoke Thursday with President Vladimir Putin in a bid to reach an agreement to open the ports, and Zelenskyy expressed his appreciation for Italy's commitment to work on a possible solution. Draghi noted after speaking to Putin that many millions of tons of grain risk rotting in Ukrainian ports if there is no agreement to allow their passage.

— Associated Press

Blinken, Finnish foreign minister discuss Finland's NATO bid

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto discussed Finland's bid to join NATO during a meeting in Washington.

Finland and Sweden have both moved to become members of the military alliance during Russia's brutal invasion of Ukraine. They will need to win approval from all 30 NATO members, including a skeptical Turkey.

Haavisto said the countries "are now in an open direct and constructive dialogue process to clarify all issues" related to Turkey's concerns.

Blinken said the United States fully supports the NATO bids.

— Jacob Pramuk

Blinken discusses military support, food aid with Ukrainian foreign minister

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba deliver remarks after a NATO foreign ministers meeting, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium April 7, 2022. 
Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba spoke about U.S. military support for Ukraine and efforts to resolve a food crisis sparked by Russia's invasion, the State Department said.

The Biden administration is poised to send more weapons and humanitarian aid to Ukraine in the coming months after Congress passed a nearly $40 billion assistance package.

The diplomats discussed the food shortages triggered by blockades of Ukrainian ports, and noted that the "Kremlin continues to weaponize food and spread false claims about U.S. sanctions," State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a written statement.

"The Secretary reemphasized that the United States and its Allies and partners will continue to coordinate closely to support Ukraine and to address the global consequences of the Kremlin's war of choice," Price said.

— Jacob Pramuk

Officials demine bodies of water in the Kyiv region

The State Emergency Situations Ministry of Ukraine demines a body of water in the village of Gorenka in the Kyiv region. The area was shelled by Russian artillery in March.

An employee of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine is inspecting the lake with the help of a drone in Kyiv, Ukraine on May 27, 2022.
Oleg Pereverzev | Nurphoto | Getty Images
Demining on water bodies of Kyiv region in Kyiv, Ukraine on May 27, 2022.
Oleg Pereverzev | Nurphoto | Getty Images
Demining on water bodies of Kyiv region in Kyiv, Ukraine on May 27, 2022.
Oleg Pereverzev | Nurphoto | Getty Images
Ukrainian bomb disposal experts and de-mining teams clear a lake and field of unexploded munitions and mines in Horenka suburb on May 27, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine.
Christopher Furlong | Getty Images
Demining on water bodies of Kyiv region in Kyiv, Ukraine on May 27, 2022.
Oleg Pereverzev | Nurphoto | Getty Images
Demining on water bodies of Kyiv region in Kyiv, Ukraine on May 27, 2022.
Oleg Pereverzev | Nurphoto | Getty Images

— Getty Images

At least 4,031 civilians killed in Ukraine since Russia invaded, UN says

Relatives of Mykhailo Romaniuk, 58, who was shot dead on his bicycle on March 6, help to bury his coffin at a cemetery in Bucha, on April 19, 2022, during the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Yasuyoshi Chiba | AFP | Getty Images

At least 4,031 civilians have died in Ukraine since Russia invaded its neighbor on Feb. 24, the United Nations said.

The toll includes 261 children killed.

The UN has also recorded 4,735 civilian injuries in the conflict so far.

Most of the deaths were recorded in the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions, where Russia has focused its assault in recent weeks. At least 2,274 people have died in those areas, according to the UN.

— Jacob Pramuk

Biden rips Putin, says Russian leader has 'NATO-ized' Europe

US President Joe Biden addresses the US Naval Academys Class of 2022 graduation and commissioning ceremony at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Maryland, on May 27, 2022.
Mandel Ngan | Afp | Getty Images

U.S. President Joe Biden said that Russian President Vladimir Putin's war in Ukraine has bonded European nations together against Moscow and galvanized Western allies to recommit to NATO.

Not only is Putin "trying to take over Ukraine, he's literally trying to wipe out the culture and identity of the Ukrainian people," Biden said. "Attacking schools, nurseries, hospitals, museums, with no other purpose than to eliminate a culture. A direct assault on the fundamental tenets of rule-based international order."

Biden, who spoke from a graduation ceremony at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, recalled his recent conversations with Finnish and Swedish leaders before both nations decided to apply to join the military alliance.

Putin "NATO-ized all of Europe. And all of this is illustrative of a foreign policy that was built around the power of working together with allies and partners," Biden said. "To amplify our strength to solve problems, to project our power beyond what we can do alone and to preserve stability in an uncertain world."

Thomas Franck

Zelenskyy speaks with Italy's Draghi about unblocking Ukraine's wheat exports

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy held a phone call with Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, during which the Italian leader affirmed his support for Ukraine and discussed the country's wheat exports, the halting of which has triggered fears of a global food crisis.

Ukraine is one of the world's top exporters of wheat and other important agricultural produce and provides more than 80% of the wheat and grain that feeds several Middle Eastern and African countries.

Because of Russia's invasion, farmers are under fire and critical ports and logistical corridors for trade have been blocked. Kyiv is now pushing for Western allies' help in unblocking the ports and guaranteeing safe passage for Ukrainian shipping vessels.

"We expect further defense support from our partners. Raised the issue of fuel supply. Ways to prevent the food crisis were discussed. We have to unblock (Ukraine's) ports together," Zelenskyy said in a tweet.

— Natasha Turak

UK PM Boris Johnson says Ukraine should get more long-range rocket systems

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Ukraine should be supplied with long-range multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) to fight against Russia's steady incursion into the Donbas. But he did not make a commitment to send the powerful rocket system, which Kyiv has been urgently asking for.

The MLRS would allow Ukrainian forces "to defend themselves against this very brutal Russian artillery, and that's where the world needs to go," Johnson said in an interview with Bloomberg.

The remarks came as Ukrainian forces lose ground in some parts of east Ukraine in the face of a heavy Russian artillery onslaught.

Russian forces were "continuing to chew through ground" in the Donbas region, making "slow, but I'm afraid palpable, progress," Johnson added. The forces have surrounded the strategically important city of Severodonetsk, the furthest-east city under Ukrainian control.

— Natasha Turak

Sweden's foreign minister pushes back on Turkey's accusations of terrorist support

Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde criticized the narrative, voiced by Turkey's government, that Sweden supports the Kurdish militant separatist group the PKK. That accusation by Turkey is a key issue standing in the way of its support for Sweden and Finland's accession to NATO.

Linde rejected the idea in a tweet, saying, "Incorrect information that Swedish politicians in democratic assemblies represent the terrorist organisation PKK. These are serious allegations that have no basis. Violence, terrorism and extremism have no place in our democratic society."

Turkey's leadership accuses Sweden of supporting the PKK, which has carried out numerous attacks in Turkey and which Sweden has designated a terrorist organization since 1984. Sweden does support other Kurdish political organizations but says they are unrelated to the PKK, while Ankara says they are one and the same.

— Natasha Turak

Turkey's foreign minister demands that Sweden and Finland cut support to 'terrorism' before joining NATO

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu arrives for a two day NATO foreign ministers meeting in Berlin, Germany May 14, 2022. 
Michele Tantussi | Reuters

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu remained staunch on his demands to Sweden and Finland following meetings with those countries' delegations in Ankara earlier this week.

Speaking to reporters at a press conference, Cavusoglu said, "A concrete step needs to be taken regarding Turkey's concerns. They have to cut the support given to terrorism."

He was referring to what Ankara says is the Nordic countries' support for Kurdish militant separatist organization the PKK, which the countries deny they support. The issue, and opposing definitions over what constitutes a PKK member and a terrorist, are at the center of Turkey blocking Sweden and Finland's NATO membership bids.

Ascension for a new NATO member requires consensus approval from all member states.

After the countries' delegations met, a spokesperson for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan did indicate there was optimism about the lifting of an arms embargo by Sweden and Finland that was imposed on Turkey in 2019.

— Natasha Turak

Russia's war is 'genocidal,' says independent report by scholars and genocide experts

Evidence shows that Russia is inciting genocide in Ukraine intended to "destroy" the Ukrainian people, an independent report signed by more than 30 leading legal scholars and genocide experts said.

The report was the first to investigate allegations of genocide committed by Russian forces in Ukraine. It cited examples of mass killings and rapes of civilians, dehumanizing language by Russian officials to describe Ukrainians, and mass deportations.

"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," Azeem Ibrahim, a director at the U.S.-based think tank New Lines Institute for Strategy and Policy, said.

That think tank in produced the report in conjunction with the Canada-based Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights.

(WARNING - GRAPHIC CONTENT) Experts in protective suits arrange human remains pouches on the ground during the exhumation of dead bodies from another mass grave where civilians killed by Russian invaders are buried, Bucha, Kyiv Region, northern Ukraine. 
Anatolii Siryk | Future Publishing | Getty Images

The report's authors described a "genocidal pattern of destruction" and "consistent and pervasive atrocities against Ukrainian civilians collectively," citing the mass graves, executions, and destruction of hospitals, shelters and other civilian facilities in numerous parts of the country.

Ibrahim urged countries to act, saying, "Every country that is a signatory to the Genocide Convention, and that's 151 countries including the Russian Federation, every country has to do whatever it can to put a stop to this, otherwise they will also be in breach of the convention."

CNBC has contacted Russia's foreign ministry for comment.

— Natasha Turak 

Russian artillery hits central Kharkiv, nine people killed: Regional governor

Russian artillery strikes hit the center of Kharkiv, Ukraine's second largest city, for the first time in a week and killed nine people, its governor said. The strikes came as Russian forces intensify their bombardment of cities all over Ukraine's east.

Paramedics and emergency workers carry a man wounded in shelling in Kharkiv on May 26, 2022, on the 91st day of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Sergey Bobok | AFP | Getty Images

The governor of Kharkiv, Oleh Synehubov, posted to Telegram to say that doctors were providing all necessary assistance to all Kharkiv residents who were injured.

"The enemy continued to shell the settlements of Kharkiv region at night. A boarding school in Lyubotyn was damaged as a result of enemy shelling. Chuguiv was also shelled at night. Dwelling houses were damaged," he said.

"I emphasize once again that it is impossible to relax in any case," the governor also said. "The enemy acts insidiously and purposefully strikes at civilians. Do not be on the streets unnecessarily and do not ignore air alarms."

— Natasha Turak

Russia has the 'upper hand' in Donbas fighting: Ukrainian military official

A view shows Ukrainian positions being hit by shelling from a Russian TOS-1A, on a field near Novomykhailivka, Donetsk region, Ukraine in this still image taken from an undated video seen on social media May 25, 2022 and obtained by REUTERS May 27, 2022. 
Social Media | Reuters

A Ukrainian military official admitted that Russian forces are gaining ground in the fighting in the Donbas, as Ukrainian forces fell back in from some of their positions there.

Oleksiy Gromov, a member of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, said during a briefing in Kyiv that Russia had the "upper hand both in aviation and in artillery," but that domestic forces were "trying with all our might to change the situation," according to news agency Interfax.

Just 5% of the Luhansk region remained in Ukrainian control, down from roughly 10% just over a week ago, Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Haidai said. He added that Ukrainian forces were retreating in some areas.

— Natasha Turak

UK's Boris Johnson calls Putin a 'crocodile'

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in Sochi, Russia May 23, 2022. 
Ramil Sitdikov | Sputnik | Reuters

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke about the difficulty of reaching a negotiated settlement with Russian President Vladimir Putin over the war in Ukraine.

"How can you deal with a crocodile when it's in the middle of eating your left leg? What's the negotiation? That is what Putin is doing," Johnson said in an interview with Bloomberg Friday.

"We desperately need it to end. The world needs it to end," he said, suggesting a way for the Russian leader to save face so that he could exit Ukraine. "The one way that it can end is for Putin to accept that the 'denazification of Ukraine' has taken place and that he's able to withdraw with dignity and honor."

Putin launched the war on the false premise of "denazifying" Ukraine, a democratic country with a Jewish president. Ukrainian officials reject the idea that Putin would withdraw from the country if given concessions like ceded territory, arguing that it would only embolden him to go further.

— Natasha Turak

Russian forces capture several villages in the Donbas

This photograph taken on May 25, 2022 shows a general view of a destroyed building after a strike in Kramatorsk in the eastern Ukranian region of Donbas.
Aris Messinis | AFP | Getty Images

Russian forces have captured several villages in the Donbas north-west of Popasna, as they make gradual progress in their efforts to surround Severodonetsk and Lysychansk, the U.K.'s Ministry of Defense wrote in its daily intelligence update on Twitter.

"Russia is pressuring the Severodonetsk pocket although Ukraine retains control of multiple defended sectors, denying Russia full control of the Donbas," it wrote.

The invading forces have also likely brought 50-year-old T-62 tanks out of storage, the U.K. ministry wrote, in order to support troops in the south tasked with occupying parts of southern Ukraine.

"The T-62s will almost certainly be particularly vulnerable to anti-tank weapons and their presence on the battlefield highlights Russia's shortage of modern, combat-ready equipment," the post said.

— Natasha Turak

Officials say the U.S. is preparing to approve sending long-range rocket systems to Ukraine

A Multiple Launch Rocket System shoots during an artillery live fire event on March 4, 2020. The U.S. is preparing to enhance military aid to Ukraine by sending advanced, long-range rocket systems that are now the top request from Ukrainian officials, CNN cited multiple officials.
Christof Stache | Afp | Getty Images

The U.S. is preparing to enhance military aid to Ukraine by sending advanced, long-range rocket systems, according to CNN, which cited multiple officials.

The Biden administration is considering 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, CNN reported.

Ukrainian officials, including President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, have requested for the U.S. and its allies to provide them with the Multiple Launch Rocket Systems.

Those systems can fire numerous rockets from an extensive distance away — much further than any of the systems Ukraine already has, CNN reported. Ukraine argues it could be a gamechanger in its war against Russia, according to the report.

The Biden administration has been hesitant to send the systems over the National Security Council's concerns that Ukraine may use the systems to carry out offensive attacks on Russia, said CNN, citing officials.

The officials also added the administration is concerned that sending heavy weaponry to Ukraine might be viewed by Russia as a provocation that could prompt retaliation against the U.S., CNN reported.

— Chelsea Ong

U.S. defense official says Russia is making 'incremental progress' in Donbas

A Ukranian serviceman looks into a crater and a destroyed home in the village of Yatskivka, eastern Ukraine on April 16, 2022. Russia is making "incremental progress" in Donbas after little progress was made through its earlier two tactics, a senior U.S. defense official said in a briefing.
Ronaldo Schemidt | Afp | Getty Images

Russia is making "incremental progress" in Donbas after little progress was made through its earlier two tactics, a senior U.S. defense official said at a briefing.

"We assess that Russia has made some incremental gains in its push towards Sloviansk and Kramatorsk; not a lot but, but some incremental gains," he said, referring to two cities in the northern portion of Donetsk Oblast.

The Donbas refers to two eastern Ukrainian regions of Luhansk and Donetsk — two Russian-backed "People's Republics". Russian officials have said their new main objective is the "complete liberation" of the t of Luhansk and Donetsk.

Russia is trying to encircle the Donbas region by pinching off the far-eastern regions of Ukraine, the defense official said. However, no new advances by Russian troops were made in the Donetsk region, the official added.

— Chelsea Ong

White House expects Russia to default on its debt, sees limited effect on global economy

People line up near Euro and U.S. dollars rates to ruble sign board at the entrance to the exchange office on May 25, 2022 in Moscow, Russia. Russia moved closer to a default on Wednesday after the U.S. Treasury let a key sanctions exemption expire.
Konstantin Zavrazhin | Getty Images

The Biden administration expects Russia to default on its sovereign debt, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.

Moscow "will likely fail to meet its obligation and face default, an enduring sign of their status as a pariah in the global financial system," she said. Jean-Pierre added that the White House expects "minimal" effect on the global economy because Russia has "already been isolated financially" by a wave of sanctions.

When the U.S. sanctioned the Russian central bank earlier this year, it allowed an exception for Russia to pay its bondholders through U.S. banks. The Treasury Department lifted the carveout this week, raising the prospect of a default.

— Jacob Pramuk

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