Russia-Ukraine war: What happened today (May 31)

As Tuesday draws to a close in Kyiv and in Moscow, here are the key developments of the day:

The Russian ground offensive continued on the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk. Russian forces have seized half the city “in a frenzied push,” the mayor told The Associated Press. Local leadership said Russian troops hit a nitric acid tank at one of the city’s chemical facilities. Russia’s military suggested the Ukrainian forces were to blame, saying that’s who still controlled the area during the explosion.

Ukraine’s military claimed some gains in its counter-offensive in the southern Kherson area, under Russian control. Russian state media, meanwhile, reported that Kherson was preparing to potentially formally join the Russian Federation. Ukrainian military officials accused enemy forces of cutting the fiber optic connections between Kherson and the rest of Ukraine, disrupting mobile internet for residents. Russia denied this, accusing Ukrainian leadership of undermining alleged local pro-Russian sentiment.

European Union leaders agreed to ban most oil imports from Russia. The move is part of the bloc’s newest sanctions package on Moscow, which had been held up by Hungary and other member states that rely heavily on Russian oil. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the embargo would apply to around 90% of oil imports from Russia to the EU by the end of this year. Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban forced the EU to accept a ban solely on sea shipments of Russian oil. Pipeline deliveries, which are critical to Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, won’t be affected by the ban.

Over 3,000 Russian soldiers have been confirmed killed in action in Ukraine, says a new report by the independent Russian website IStories. The report — based on local news coverage, social media postings and confirmations from families of the dead — said it verified a total of 3,043 deaths from the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine. The last official numbers published by Russia’s Defense Ministry confirmed 1,351 deaths on March 25. Western intelligence services have placed Russian losses between 7,000 and 15,000, even as Ukrainian officials have claimed much higher totals.

Thirty-two media workers have died while covering the war, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said. Speaking in his nightly address, the president noted that French journalist Frédéric Leclerc-Imhoff became the latest victim on Monday, when an armored evacuation vehicle came under enemy fire in the eastern Luhansk region. Media workers killed in the Ukraine war have also included Brent Renaud, Oleksandra Kuvshynova, Vira Hyrych and many others.

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Earlier developments

You can read more daily recaps here. For context and more in-depth stories, you can find more of NPR’s coverage here. Also, listen and subscribe to NPR’s State of Ukraine podcast for updates throughout the day.

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