The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Russians push to encircle Ukrainian troops, Pentagon says

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said on May 26 that the war in Ukraine, which has continued for more than three months, has felt like “one long, long day, nonstop." (Video: Reuters)

Russians are attempting to surround Ukrainian forces defending key towns — and appear to have seized the northeastern part of Severodonetsk — as they make slow progress in eastern Ukraine, the Pentagon said Thursday.

A senior U.S. defense official said Russian forces, which have recently scaled down ambitions and shifted to smaller objectives, are working on an “encirclement effort” meant to cut Ukrainian forces off from any reinforcement, including from additional supplies of Western weapons. As attacks continues to ravage the eastern Donbas region, Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar warned Thursday that “fighting has reached its maximum intensity.”

Meanwhile, Russia said it will open ports on the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov to let foreign ships through, but that Western governments must cancel their sanctions for exports of Ukrainian grain to resume. British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has accused Russia of “weaponizing hunger” and said Thursday that sanctions should not be lifted, as Russian blockades of seaports in Ukraine, one of the world’s largest grain exporters, fuel fears of a global food crisis.

Here’s what else to know

  • The Pentagon estimates that as the war enters its fourth month, Russian forces have lost about 1,000 tanks, which are either destroyed or inoperable; about 350 artillery pieces; three dozen fighter-bomber aircraft; and more than 50 helicopters.
  • Russia’s economy is growing dependent on poor substitutes under the weight of Western sanctions, with shortages stirring memories from the Soviet Union.
  • The Kremlin announced a plan to raise Russia’s pension and minimum wage by 10 percent to tackle rising living costs. Putin also noted that the ruble has strengthened significantly against the dollar in recent months.
  • As Finland looks to join NATO, Prime Minister Sanna Marin met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv and visited the capital’s destroyed suburbs.
  • The Washington Post has lifted its paywall for readers in Russia and Ukraine. Telegram users can subscribe to our channel.