Live: Macron, Scholz ask Putin for ‘serious, direct negotiations’ with Zelenskyy

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Russian President Vladimir Putin Putin chairs a meeting of the State Council in the Kremlin on 25 May 2022

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German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron had an 80-minute telephone conversation with Vladimir Putin on Saturday. 

The two asked for an immediate end of hostilities and the withdrawal of Russian troops, and telling the Russian president he should hold serious negotiations with his Ukrainian counterpart.

While Moscow claims to have taken the strategic town of Lyman and the fighting for Sievierodonetsk continues to rage, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that Russia should not think that it will be holding the cities as they will eventually return to Ukraine. 

Follow Saturday’s developments as they unfold in our blog below, or watch our live coverage in the player above:

09:20

Saturday’s key events:

    German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron held a telephone conversation with Vladimir Putin on Saturday, calling for “serious direct negotiations” with Kyiv.

    “The Donbas will be Ukrainian”, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a speech on Friday night, commenting on Russian claims of taking control of Lyman and attempts to seize Sievierodonetsk.

    Kyiv fears a repeat of the horrors of Mariupol as a Russian offensive in the eastern Donbas region makes progress amidst intense fighting. 

    Boris Johnson said Russia is making ‘palpable’ progress in eastern Ukraine, despite the cost to the Russian military. Continuing to support Ukraine militarily was “absolutely vital,” the British PM stated.

    In Lithuania, ordinary citizens rallied around a donation drive to buy a Bayraktar drone for the Ukrainian forces, with most of the money collected within three days, organisers said.

    The Moscow branch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church announced on Friday that it was breaking with Russia, declaring its “full independence” from Russian spiritual authorities — a historic move.

    Nearly 3 million Ukrainian refugees have left the countries bordering Ukraine, where they flocked after the Russian invasion, to move to other non-neighbouring European countries, according to the UNHCR.

15:16

Find a diplomatic solution to the war, Scholz and Macron tell Putin

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron called for “serious direct negotiations” with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in a telephone conversation with Vladimir Putin on Saturday.

During an 80-minute meeting with the Russian president, the two leaders “insisted on an immediate ceasefire and a withdrawal of Russian troops,” a statement from the German chancellery said.

Macron and Scholz “called on the Russian president to hold serious direct negotiations with the Ukrainian president and to find a diplomatic solution to the conflict”.

13:49

Norway’s oil and gas sales surge, prompting allegations of making a profit from Ukraine war

Europe’s frantic search for alternatives to Russian energy has dramatically increased the demand — and price — for Norway’s oil and gas.

But the continent’s second-biggest natural gas supplier is now fending off accusations that it is profiting from the war in Ukraine.

Read more here:

Norway’s energy sales growth spurs accusations of profiting from war

12:33

Former President Poroshenko blasts decision banning him from leaving Ukraine

The former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on Saturday he had been refused permission to leave the country for a trip to Lithuania, blasting the decision as breaking the “political ceasefire” in the midst of a Russian invasion.

Poroshenko, Ukraine’s president from 2014 to 2019, now heads the European Solidarity, the second-largest party in the Rada and the main opposition to the current leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy, with whom he has a fierce rivalry.

According to his press service, Poroshenko “was refused permission to cross the border into Ukraine” when he was due to take part in the NATO parliamentary assembly in Vilnius and had received “all formal permissions to leave the country” as a permanent member of the Ukrainian delegation.

The former president was also due to hold talks in Vilnius with Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda and a group of Lithuanian and European MPs. He was then supposed to travel to Rotterdam in the Netherlands for a summit of European parties.

The turmoil in Ukrainian politics had ceased since Russia invaded the country on 24 February, with most political forces uniting in defence of the country. Eleven parties deemed pro-Russian have been banned.

11:24

Ukraine fears Donbas cities might suffer same fate as Mariupol as Russian offensive escalates

The advance of Russian forces in eastern Ukraine’s industrial Donbas region raised fears that cities in the region would undergo the same horrors inflicted on the people of Mariupol in the weeks before it fell.

The fighting Friday focused on two key cities — Sievierodonetsk and nearby Lysychansk — the last areas under Ukrainian control in Luhansk, one of two provinces that make up the Donbas, where Russia-backed separatists have already controlled some territory for eight years. 

Authorities say 1,500 people in Sievierodonetsk have already died since the Russian invasion began three months ago. Russia-backed rebels also said they’d taken the railway hub of Lyman.

Read more here:

Kyiv fears ‘Mariupol repeat’ as Russian forces escalate Donbas attacks

10:42

Lithuanians collect donations to buy Bayraktar drone for Ukrainian army

Hundreds of Lithuanians are chipping in together to buy an advanced military drone for Ukraine in its war against Russia in a show of solidarity with a fellow former Soviet Union country.

Some €3 million have been raised in just three days — out of the €5m needed — largely in small amounts, according to Laisves TV, a Lithuanian internet broadcaster that launched the drive.

Read more here:

Lithuanians organise donation drive to buy Bayraktar drone for Ukraine

10:00

Any agreement with Russia impossible to trust, Ukrainian official says

Ukrainian presidential adviser and peace talks negotiator Mykhailo Podolyak said on Saturday that any agreement with Russia cannot be trusted and Moscow can only be stopped in its invasion by force.

“Any agreement with Russia isn’t worth a broken penny, Podolyak wrote on the Telegram messaging app. “Is it possible to negotiate with a country that always lies cynically and propagandistically?”

Russia and Ukraine have blamed each other for peace talks failing, with the last known face-to-face negotiations on 29 March.

09:51

Zelenskyy: ‘Donbas will be Ukrainian’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke defiantly Friday in two speeches about his country’s ultimate victory over Russian forces in both the most pressing battle in eastern Ukraine and the war, generally.

“Ukraine is a country that has destroyed the myth about the extraordinary power of the Russian army — an army that supposedly, in a few days, could conquer anyone it wants,” he told Stanford University students by video.

“Now Russia is trying to occupy the entire state but we feel strong enough to think about the future of Ukraine, which will be open to the world.”

Later, in his nightly video address, Zelenskyy reacted to Russia’s capture of the eastern city of Lyman, the Donetsk region’s large railway hub north of two more key cities still under Ukrainian control, and its attempt to encircle and seize the city of Sievierodonetsk, one of the last areas under Ukrainian control in Luhansk.

“If the occupiers think that Lyman or Sievierodonetsk will be theirs, they are wrong,” the Ukrainian president said in his nightly video address. “The Donbas will be Ukrainian.”

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