“This should not happen, it must not start again”, declared, this Monday, May 30, the head of French diplomacy, Catherine Colonna, after going to an Orthodox church in Boutcha, where were exposed on a wall of photos of abuses committed by the Russians.
For their part, the member countries of the European Union are meeting for a new summit concerning the conflict in Ukraine. Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian head of state, must speak during this meeting organized in Brussels, which must determine a new package of sanctions with regard to the Russian aggressor. On the ground, kyiv ensures that it is on its way to retaking the symbolic city of Kherson, conquered from the start of the offensive launched on February 24th.
The French Foreign Minister arrived in Ukraine on Monday. And before meeting with President Zelensky and his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, “to discuss in particular the blocking of grain and oilseed exports from Ukraine, which raises real risks of food insecurity”, she wished travel to the battered town of Boutcha, where massacres of civilians are blamed on Russian troops. “This shouldn’t happen, it mustn’t happen again,” she said, before adding that France was “alongside the Ukrainians, with its friends, its allies”, and that it was going do everything possible “for peace to return”.
She also returned to France’s contribution to the investigation of alleged war crimes, French gendarmes having been sent on the spot to set up a procedure for examining and identifying bodies alongside Ukrainian investigators. “We responded first. The gendarmes stayed for a few weeks, they left enough to work on and then a second team arrived,” she said, saying she hoped that “the legal procedures could be completed as quickly as possible. possible so that families can see their loved ones resting in graves.”
Catherine Colonna is the first highest-ranking French official to visit Ukraine since the Russian attack began on February 24.
“Kherson, hold on, we are close!”, Proclaims the Ukrainian staff on its Facebook page. Ukraine claims to regain ground in the region of Kherson, a city strategically located in the south of the country, near the mouth of the Dnieper on the Black Sea. In its situation update published overnight from Sunday to Monday, the Ukrainian army thus ensures that it is advancing towards the villages of Andriyivka, Lozove and Bilohirka, close to the objective. No comment from the Russian side was initially made regarding these claims by kyiv of “construction of defensive lines” by Russian troops around Kherson.
This Ukrainian offensive on Kherson, on the 96th day since the start of the Russian invasion, comes as the new authorities of the city, appointed by the Kremlin, have already expressed the wish to be attached to Russia, which announced that it would allow residents to apply for a Russian passport via “a simplified procedure”.
The Ukrainian president is due to speak this Monday at the start of the European summit, by videoconference from kyiv. New sanctions against Moscow are on the menu of this meeting of the Twenty-Seven. In addition to the oil embargo, the sanctions package aims to exclude Russian banks from the international financial system Swift, aid to Ukraine of up to nine billion euros in 2022.
This address by President Zelensky comes the day after his high-profile visit on Sunday to Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second city, in the northeast of the country. An unprecedented release since the Russian invasion at the end of February. “We will defend our land to the end. They have no chance,” he said on Sunday, meeting soldiers in the field, in bulletproof vests and fatigues, and visiting the rubble of buildings. destroyed in Kharkiv.
Attempts at mediation between Moscow and kyiv have stalled. Again this weekend, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz had a telephone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin, urging him to start “serious direct negotiations” with kyiv.
Russian forces, which withdrew from the Kharkiv region, continued their advance this weekend towards the key cities of Severodonetsk, relentlessly shelled, and Lyssychansk, its twin city, in the Donbass. Located on either side of the Siversky Donets River, they are threatened with encirclement by Russian forces and pro-Russian separatists, who seek to establish complete control over the Donbass mining basin. The leader of the Russian republic of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, had claimed on Saturday evening to have taken control of Severodonetsk, a city which had 100,000 inhabitants before the war.
Its mayor, Olexander Stryuk, warned of the worsening health situation in his city, which has been deprived of electricity for more than two weeks and emptied of its inhabitants. The “constant bombardments” greatly complicate the supply, especially of drinking water, to the thousands of inhabitants still there.
In Brussels, on the eve of the EU summit, representatives of the Twenty-Seven discussed on Sunday a new proposal which would temporarily exempt a key oil pipeline for Hungary from a gradual EU embargo on Russian oil, in order to try to lift the blockage on their 6th package of sanctions against Moscow. These new sanctions are currently blocked by Hungary, a landlocked country without access to the sea and dependent on the oil sent from Russia by the Druzhba pipeline, which supplies it with 65% of its consumption.
At the same time, Westerners continue to review their defense policies in the face of the Russian threat. NATO Deputy Chief Mircea Geoana said on Sunday that the Alliance was no longer bound by its former commitments to Moscow not to deploy its forces in Eastern Europe.
In the Founding Act on relations between NATO and Russia, signed 25 years ago, the Russians had “undertaken not to attack the neighbors, that is what they are doing, and to hold regular consultations with NATO, which they do not do”, he recalled. According to him, the Founding Act “simply does not work, because of Russia”, and NATO no longer has “any restrictions” to acquire a “robust posture on the eastern flank”.