UK national Aiden Aslin, captured by Russian forces in Ukraine

Tuesday’s Coverage: Zelenskiy — Ukrainian Defenders “Standing Strong” in East

Source: Institute for the Study of War


In its latest sanctions package, Canada has banned export of services to Russian oil, gas, and chemical industries.

Among the 28 sectors banned from working with the Russian energy sector are technical and management consultants and advertising and public-relations agencies.


Commentators on Russian State TV discuss the executions of UK nationals Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner, or their use as bargaining chips to lift sanctions on Moscow.


Ukrainian forces have pulled back to the outskirts of Sievierodonetsk in eastern Ukraine after another Russian bombardment on the devastated city.

Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai said it made no sense for Ukrainian special forces to stay inside Sievierodonetsk when Russia was levelling the area with shelling and air strikes. He said that “the fighting is still going on” and “it is impossible to say the Russians completely control the city”.

Regional leaders said earlier that Ukrainian forces might have to redeploy to stronger positions.


Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio has said after a virtual conference of Mediterranean countries, Germany, and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization:

I want to say clearly: we expect clear and concrete signals from Russia, because blocking grain exports means holding hostage and condemning to death millions of children, women and men.

Lebanon’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Abdallah Bou Habib added, “Concerned parties…must be pressured to allow the safe export of grains and other commodities without any delay….The world cannot continue to be at the mercy of military crises in Europe or other regions of the world.”

Responding to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statements during a trip to Turkey, Ukraine Foreign Ministry spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko tweeted:


While Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has been in Ankara discussing Turkey’s proposal to lift the Russian blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, Moscow’s proxies in southern Ukraine have shipped stolen grain to Russian-occupied Crimea.

Russian State outlet Interfax, quoting officials in the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia region, said the first transport — an 11-wagon train — had left Melitopol.

Asked by a Ukrainian journalist in Turkey about the Russian thefts, Lavrov replied, “You [Ukrainians] are always so preoccupied with what you can steal and from where.”

Meanwhile, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy reported on a phone call with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz:


IBM is winding up its operations in Russia.

The computer firm announced in early March that it had suspended all business in the country because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

IBM head Arvind Krishna said in a statement on Tuesday, “As the consequences of the war continue to mount and uncertainty about its long-term ramifications grows, we have now made the decision to carry out an orderly wind-down of IBM’s business in Russia….This process will commence today and result in the separation of our local workforce.”


Russia’s oil exports are up but its revenues are down because of large discounts that Moscow is having to give Asian buyers, reports Bloomberg.

Russian seaborne rose in the week to June 3, reaching their highest level since late April. A total of 38 tankers loaded 27.6 million barrels from export terminals, up 10% from the previous week.

But Russia’s price has fallen 27% since April. So in the week to June 3, revenues fell by 5% to $162 million.

On June 2, the European Union agreed a phased cutoff of imports of Russian oil by December, with exemptions for Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic via a land pipeline.

Taking advantage of the discounts, India’s ports raised their intake of Russia oil to about 660,000 barrels a day in May, up from about 270,000 barrels a day in April.


Moscow’s Chief Rabbi, Pinchas Goldschmidt, has fled Russia after he was pressed to support Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine — including the claim that it is for “de-Nazification”.

Journalist Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt, related by marriage to the Chief Rabbi, broke the news on Tuesday: “Can finally share that my in-laws, Moscow Chief Rabbi @PinchasRabbi & Rebbetzin Dara Goldschmidt, have been put under pressure by authorities to publicly support the ‘special operation’ in Ukraine — and refused.”

Goldschmidt said in early May that he was in Israel because of his father’s hospitalization and did not know when he would return to Russia.

He added on Sunday that he could not go further in public comment on the Russian invasion, in order to ensure the “survival” of Russia’s 500,000-member Jewish community.


Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has restated that any settlement must include “Russia’s full de-occupation of our territory”.

Zelenskiy told London’s Financial Times that the Russians must withdraw from “all” areas, including Crimea — seized by Moscow in 2014 — and the Russian proxy areas of eastern Ukraine.

At the end of March, in the last face-to-face discussions, Ukraine tabled a 15-page proposal which included a 15-year consultation period over Crimea.

The Russians refused to negotiate on the basis of the document, and Ukraine’s position toughened amid the Russian destruction of Mariupol and revelations of war crimes by Russian troops against Ukrainian civilians.


The World Bank has approved $1.49 billion of additional financing for Ukraine, taking pledged support to more than $4 billion.

The latest funds will help pay wages for government and social workers. It is supported by financing guarantees from the UK, the Netherlands, Lithuania, and Latvia.

Meanwhile, the US has put further pressure on Russia’s ability to raise funds, banning American money managers from buying any Russian debt or stocks in secondary markets.


Ukraine will not be able to export more than 2 million tons of grain each month, about a third of the pre-invasion amount, as long as Russia blockades Black Sea ports.

Taras Kachka, Ukraine’s trade representative, said the European Union needs to build warehouses and extend railway tracks across the Ukrainian border to move more wheat and other commodities, amid a global food crisis spurred by Vladimir Putin’s war.

We are already using to the maximum the current possibilities for supply and it still very low, that is below 2m tonnes per month. In order to increase it we need to construct additional entry points to the EU, the additional lines to cross the border, deeper into both markets.

Kachka said that even if Russia suddenly lifted the Black Sea blockade, it will take six months to clear Russian and Ukrainian mines.

Turkey has offered help with de-mining, but Ukrainian officials are concerned that this could leave Odesa and other key ports open to Russian attack. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said there must be assurances that Russian vessels will not be allowed to use safe corridors.

The Kremlin put up another obstacle to the Turkish plan, with spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying all ships must be searched by “our military” for weapons.

On Monday, European Council President Charles Michel told the UN Security Council that the Russian blockade is a “stealth weapon against developing countries”.

He noted that Russian forces are stealing grain from occupied areas “while shifting the blame onto others”, prompting Russia’s Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia to walk out of the session.

In Turkey on Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov insisted, “To solve the problem, the only thing needed is for the Ukrainians to let vessels out of their ports, either by demining them or by marking out safe corridors, nothing more is required.”


Ukrainian forces continue to hold out against the Russian assault on the levelled city of Sievierodonetsk in eastern Ukraine.

Russia has tried to regain the initiative after a Ukrainian counterattack last weekend reclaimed 20% of the city, leaving it almost evenly split.

Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai said Tuesday that tough street battles continue: “The situation constantly changes, but the Ukrainians are repelling attacks.”

He added that the nearby city of Lysychansk is being “totally destroyed”: “Russian shelling has intensified significantly over the past 24 hours. They are using scorched-earth tactics.”

Haidai noted that a school and market had been hit and a college building destroyed.

Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk are the last major areas held by Ukraine in the Luhansk Oblast. Having failed in the initial phases of Vladimir Putin’s invasion, with withdrawal from the north, Russian forces have concentrated their offensive on seizing the area.

Between 10,000 and 15,000 civilians, of Sievierodonetsk’s pre-war population of about 100,000, are trapped in the city.

About 800 of them are sheltering in a chemical factory, according to a lawyer for the facility’s owner Dmytro Firtash.

Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu insisted on Tuesday that Moscow’s forces hold 97% of the Luhansk oblast.

But UK military intelligence cast doubt on the claim, saying that Russia still could not surround Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk and that “its progress in the area has stalled over the last week”.

ORIGINAL ENTRY: As Russia moves more than 1,000 Ukrainian POWs to Russian territory, with show trials imminent, Moscow’s proxy officials are threatening the execution of two captured UK nationals.

The officials from the “Donetsk People’s Republic” in eastern Ukraine said the trial has opened against Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner, captured fighting alongside Ukrainian defenders of the post city of Mariupol in the south. Prosecutors announced that the men face the death penalty for “terrorism” and for fighting as “mercenaries” against Vladimir Putin’s invasion.

Aslin, Pinner, and Moroccan national Ibrahim Saadun were displayed in a courtroom cage in a video released on pro-Kremlin social media channels on Tuesday.

“Do you know the information in your indictment?” an interpreter asked Aslin, 28, and Pinner, 48. Both men said yes.

Aslin’s family said in a statement:

This is a very sensitive and emotional time for our family, and we would like to say thank you to all that have supported us.

We are currently working with the Ukrainian government and the Foreign Office to try and bring Aiden home. Aiden is a much-loved man and very much missed, and we hope that he will be released very soon.

Russian forces paraded Aslin and Pinner on TV soon after their capture in mid-April, using the men to declare the defeat of “foreign mercenaries” supporting Ukraine’s resistance.

UK Justice Minister Dominic Raab cautiously said on a London radio channel on Monday:

In relation to that case, I don’t know all the details, but of course we would expect the laws of armed conflict to be respected, and we will make sure that we will make all the representations.

I know the Foreign Office will be looking at making sure all those representations are made.

Russia Confirms Deportation of Ukraine POWs

Citing a “law enforcement source”, Russian State outlet TASS announced the deportation of more than 1,000 Ukrainian POWs to Russia.

The fighters surrendered in Mariupol, the destroyed city on the Sea of Azov, after more than 12 weeks of resistance against Russian bombardment, siege, and ground assaults.

See also Ukraine War, Day 87: Defense of Mariupol Ends

The source pledged more deportations “later on”: “Investigators also plan to send a number of other captives to Russia in the future, following a series of face-to-face confrontations.”

Russian officials said last month, as the defenders finally left the Azovstal steel plant, that they held more than 1,700. They announced transfer to a “pre-trial detention center” in the Russian proxy area of eastern Ukraine.

See also Ukraine War, Day 84: Russia’s Show Trials of Surrendered Azovstal Fighters?