August 7, 2022

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Ukraine news – live: Russian spy tried to infiltrate the Hague, claims Dutch intelligence

35 min read
Ukraine news – live: Russian spy tried to infiltrate the Hague, claims Dutch intelligence

A Russian spy used a fake identity to apply for an internship at the Hague, the Dutch intelligence service said.

Sergey Vladimirovich Cherkasov pretended to be a Brazilian national called Viktor Muller Ferreira to try to infiltrate the International Criminal Court (ICC) in April, according to the Netherlands.

Dutch intelligence agency chief Erik Akerboom said: “This was a long-term, multi-year GRU [Russia’s military intelligence service] operation that cost a lot of time, energy and money.”

The ICC had accepted the man for the internship, he also said. The Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD) said in a statement that the man was apprehended at an airport in the Netherlands, where he was declared to be an “undesirable alien” and put on the next flight back to Brazil, where he faces court proceedings.

Mr Akerboom said: “It clearly shows us what the Russians are up to – trying to gain illegal access to information within the ICC. We classify this as a high-level threat.”

ICC spokesperson Sonia Robla said: “The ICC takes these threats very seriously and will continue to work and cooperate with The Netherlands.”

Key Points

  • ‘Ukraine belongs in the European family,’ says Olaf Scholz

  • ‘A message of unity’: Macron, Scholz and Draghi in Kyiv for crunch Zelensky talks

  • Russian economy ‘won’t be as it was before’ after sanctions, says top banker

Russian secret agent ‘applied for internship at the Hague’

17:30 , Lamiat Sabin

A Russian spy used a false identity to apply for an internship and try to infiltrate the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Dutch intelligence service is claiming.

Sergey Vladimirovich Cherkasov made up the web of lies to try to enter the Netherlands as a Brazilian national to get the job at the Hague-based court in April, said the Dutch intelligence agency chief Erik Akerboom.

Read the full story here by Joe Middleton

Russian spy tried to infiltrate war crimes court, claims Dutch intelligence

‘Ukraine belongs in the European family,’ says Olaf Scholz

17:06 , Lamiat Sabin

The German government supports the possible integration of Ukraine and Moldova into the European Union in future, according to German chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Mr Scholz, along with his French and Italian counterparts, is in Kyiv on a solidarity visit.

Olaf Scholz, left, shakes hands with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky (Ludovic Marin/AP)

Olaf Scholz, left, shakes hands with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky (Ludovic Marin/AP)

He said his government supported granting the two eastern European countries official status as candidates for EU membership while still stressing that candidates had to fulfil clear criteria for accession.

Mr Scholz said: “Ukraine belongs to the European family.”

UK ‘very concerned’ about Navalny and urges Russia to release Putin critic

16:30 , Joe Middleton

The UK’s foreign secretary Liz Truss said she is “very concerned” about the whereabouts of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny and has urged Russia to release him after reports he was moved to a notorious high-security prison.

Navalny, 46, an outspoken opponent of Vladimir Putin, was earlier this week apparently transferred to the maximum security IK-6 prison in the Vladimir region village of Melekhovo, about 155 miles east of Moscow.

The facility is known for its strict inmate routines, which include standing at attention for hours, and has a notorious reputation within the Russian penal system, with allegations of torture and rape of inmates rife.

UK ‘very concerned’ about Navalny and urges Russia to release Putin critic

We want to see Ukraine part of the EU, says Italian prime minister

16:04 , Joe Middleton

Italian prime minister Mario Draghi said on Thursday the main message of his talks in Kyiv with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky and the leaders of France and Germany was that Italy wants to see Ukraine as a part of the European Union.

Speaking at a joint news conference in the Ukrainian capital, Draghi said he fully supported investigations into alleged war crimes in Ukraine.

“I want to say today that the most important message of my visit is that Italy wants Ukraine in the European Union. And it wants Ukraine to have candidate status and will support this position at the next European Council,” he said.

The EU holds a summit next week.

“We are at a turning point in our history. The Ukrainian people defend every day the values of democracy and freedom that underpin the European project, our project. We cannot wait. We cannot delay this process,” Draghi said.

He said that Italy wanted atrocities to stop in Ukraine and called for peace, but that “any diplomatic solution cannot be separated from the will of Kyiv”.

Macron condemns Russian ‘barbarism’ as he travels to Ukraine with Scholz and Draghi

15:29 , Joe Middleton

French president Emmanuel Macron denounced the “barbarism” of Russian attacks in Ukraine as he travelled to Kyiv on a landmark visit with other European leaders on Thursday.

Mr Macron was speaking from the devastated town of Irpin, the scene of alleged war crimes by Moscow troops during fighting earlier in the conflict.

He was visiting Ukraine alongside German chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian prime minister Mario Draghi. The French leader also praised the courage of Irpin residents and others nearby who had helped thwart Russia’s attempt to overrun the capital.

Macron condemns Russian ‘barbarism’ as he travels to Ukraine with Scholz and Draghi

Prague closes the door to more Ukrainian refugees because of overcrowding fears

15:06 , Joe Middleton

Mayor says he cannot allow more Ukrainians into the city because of a ‘duty not to allow the inhabitants of Prague to run out of places in schools or with doctors’.

Prague closes the door to more Ukrainian refugees because of overcrowding fears

Zelensky welcomes European leaders to Kyiv

14:40 , Joe Middleton

UK announces new wave of sanctions for Putin allies

14:10 , Joe Middleton

Britain has announced a new wave of sanctions against Putin allies and who have brought “untold suffering to Ukraine”.

The measures include the sanctioning of Russian Children’s Rights Commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova for her alleged involvement in the forced transfer and adoption of Ukrainian children.

Lvova-Belova has been accused of enabling 2,000 vulnerable children being violently taken from the Luhansk and Donetsk regions and orchestrating a new policy to facilitate their forced adoptions in Russia.

Foreign secretary Liz Truss said: “Today we are targeting the enablers and perpetrators of Putin’s war who have brought untold suffering to Ukraine, including the forced transfer and adoption of children.

“We will not tire of defending freedom and democracy, and keeping up the pressure on Putin, until Ukraine succeeds.”

The sanctions also hit Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church and Sergey Savostyanov, the deputy of the Moscow city Duma and member of Putin’s political elite.

Four Military Colonels from the 64th Separate Motorised Rifle Brigade, a unit known to have killed, raped, and tortured civilians in Bucha, have also been sanctioned for the Brigade’s role in Ukraine.

Members of the so-called ‘Salvation Committee for Peace and Order’ – an organisation collaborating with the Russian army to support the occupation of the Kherson Oblast, have also been sanctioned.

I don’t know if I’ll get jailed or killed’: Ex-Russian football captain condemns Ukraine war

14:01 , Joe Middleton

The former captain of Russia’s national football team fears he could be “jailed or killed” for speaking out against the “complete horror” of his country’s war against Ukraine.

Igor Denisov, 38, is the most prominent athlete who lives in Russia to address the conflict and call for an end to the violence that began when Vladimir Putin’s troops invaded Ukraine in February.

In an interview with sports journalist Nobel Arustamyan on YouTube, he said: “To me, this war is a catastrophe, a complete horror.”

‘I don’t know if I’ll get jailed or killed’: Igor Denisov condemns Ukraine war

Germany steps up calls to save energy as Russia reduces gas

13:40 , Joe Middleton

Germany‘s vice chancellor is stepping up an appeal for the country’s residents to save energy after Russia‘s Gazprom announced significant cuts in natural gas deliveries through a key pipeline.

State-owned Gazprom announced on Tuesday that it was cutting gas flows through the undersea Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Germany by 40%, then, a day later, announced a further cut that brings the overall reduction to about 60%.

In both cases, it cited a technical problem, saying that Canadian sanctions over the war in Ukraine prevented German partner Siemens Energy from delivering equipment that had been sent for overhaul. The German government rejected that reasoning, saying that maintenance shouldn’t have been an issue until the fall and the Russian decision was a political gambit to sow uncertainty and push up prices.

Germany steps up calls to save energy as Russia reduces gas

Former Canadian general who went to Ukraine to fight Russia charged with sexual assault back home

13:10 , Joe Middleton

A former Canadian general, who is currently in Ukraine fighting the Russian forces, has been charged with sexual assault back home.

Retired lieutenant general Trevor Cadieu has been charged with two counts of sexual assault related to an incident in 1994.

The senior Canadian military leadership approved Gen Cadieu’s request to retire from the military as of 5 April. He was facing allegations of sexual assault and has been under investigation by military police since September.

Maroosha Muzaffar reports.

Former Canadian general fighting in Ukraine charged with sexual assault

Irpin ‘a symbol of the unimaginable cruelty of the Russian war’, says Scholz

12:40 , Joe Middleton

The Ukrainian town of Irpin, like Bucha before it, has become a symbol of the “cruelty” of Russia’s war in Ukraine and its senseless violence, German chancellor Olaf Scholz said on a visit to the Kyiv suburb, adding that the war must end.

Scholz is visiting Kyiv with the French, Italian and Romanian leaders, where they are due to hold talks with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky.

“Irpin, like Bucha, has become a symbol of the unimaginable cruelty of the Russian war, of senseless violence,” Scholz wrote on Twitter. “The brutal destruction of this city is a warning: this war must end.”

Russian economy ‘won’t be as it was before’ after sanctions, says top banker

12:03 , Joe Middleton

The head of the Russian Central Bank warned Thursday that the country’s economy faces pressure from abroad that could persist indefinitely.

“It seems to me that it’s obvious to everyone that it won’t be as it was before,” Elvira Nabiullina said at a session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, an annual showpiece gathering aimed at investors.

“External conditions have changed for a long time indeed, if not forever,” she said.Russia was hit by a wide array of sanctions after the start of the Ukraine military operation, including major banks being cut off from the SWIFT international payment system and Western bans on flights. Hundreds of foreign companies have suspended operations in Russia or pulled out entirely.

The consequences of those actions have yet to be fully assessed.

Minister of economic development Maxim Reshetnikov told the same session that the prognosis is for Russia‘s gross domestic product to fall by 7.8% this year, but “in the last month, there’s been a wave of improving assessments and prognoses.”

Many Russian officials have tried to brush off sanctions by contending that Russian enterprises can step in to take over.

Government funding could help those efforts, but Finance Minister Anton Siluanov warned that such measures could be overdone.

“Now we hear, ‘Let’s get more funding, let’s invest more there’ … such budget medicine should not turn into a narcotic,” he said.

Kremlin urges EU leaders to not just discuss weapons with Zelensky

11:33 , Joe Middleton

The Kremlin said on Thursday it hoped the leaders of France, Germany and Italy would use their visit to Kyiv to discuss other subjects than the supply of weapons to Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said in a call with reporters that Emmanuel Macron, Olaf Scholz and Mario Draghi should use their time with Ukrainian president Vladimir Zelensky to take a “realistic look at the state of affairs”.

‘A message of unity’: Macron, Scholz and Draghi in Kyiv for crunch Zelensky talks

11:09 , Joe Middleton

French president Emmanuel Macron, German chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian prime minister Mario Draghi arrived in Kyiv on Thursday morning to send a “message of unity” and for talks with president Volodymyr Zelensky.

The trio travelled together on an overnight train provided by the Ukrainian authorities, and held lengthy meetings in the dining car until after midnight.

Upon arrival in Kyiv, Macron said: “It’s an important moment. It’s a message of unity we’re sending to the Ukrainians, of support, to talk both about the present and the future, since the coming weeks, as we know, will be very difficult.”

‘Unity’: Macron, Scholz, Draghi in Kyiv for crunch Zelensky talks

Massacres and war crimes have been committed in Irpin, says Macron

10:45 , Joe Middleton

French president Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday that massacres and war crimes had been committed in the Ukrainian town of Irpin.

He visited the town with German chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian prime minister Mario Draghi, prior to a meeting with Volodymyr Zelensky.

“It’s a heroic city, marked by the stigmata of barbarism,” Macron told reporters.

The leaders of Germany, France and Italy rode into Kyiv on an overnight train on Thursday in a joint demonstration of support for Ukraine, where officials were pleading for more and faster deliveries of Western arms to hold off Russia’s assault.

Footage of Scholz, Macron and Draghi’s night train ride to Kyiv

10:29 , Joe Middleton

‘The spokesperson of a devil’: Ukrainian UN ambassador attacks Russian counterpart

10:06 , Joe Middleton

Ukraine‘s ambassador to the United Nations (UN) has labelled his Russian counterpart “a spokesperson for the devil” for defending Moscow‘s unprovoked attack on his homeland.

Following a series of scathing public attacks on Putin’s envoy, Sergiy Kyslytsya told the Independent‘s Richard Hall that he has no pity for the man who sits across from him in the UN’s New York headquarters.

Acknowledging the Russian’s “very miserable” position at the heart of Putin’s regime, Kyslytsya said the scale of “human tragedy” unfolding in Ukraine is so great he is undeserving of empathy.

‘The spokesperson of a devil’: Ukrainian UN ambassador attacks Russian counterpart

France wants Ukraine victory that establishes total territorial integrity

09:38 , Joe Middleton

France wants a military Ukrainian victory against Russia that reestablishes the territorial integrity of the country, including Crimea that was seized by Russia in 2014, a French diplomatic source said on Thursday.

The source added it was up to the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to define what a military victory could be.

French president Emmanuel Macron, German chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian prime minister Mario Draghi arrived in Kiyv on Thursday on a joint trip to show their backing for Ukraine as it struggles to withstand a Russian assault.

Ukraine calls on allies for more weapons to ‘turn tide’ on Russia

09:00 , Joe Middleton

German, French, Italian leaders arrive in Kyiv

08:41 , Joe Middleton

French president Emmanuel Macron, German chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian prime minister Mario Draghi arrived in Kyiv on Thursday on a joint trip to show their backing for Ukraine.

The three travelled together overnight in a train used to transport high-profile visitors to Ukraine.

“It’s an important moment. It’s a message of unity we’re sending to the Ukrainians, of support, to talk both about the present and the future, since the coming weeks, as we know, will be very difficult,” Macron said as they arrived.

Romania’s president Klaus Iohannis will join them for talks with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky expected to touch on Kyiv’s bid to join the European Union as well as the war itself.

“We’re here, we’re focused, we will join president Zelensky to go to a war site where massacres have been carried out,” Macron said.

Asked why the visit was taking place now, an Elysee official said they had considered it was best to do it just before an EU summit next week that is due to discuss Kyiv’s bid to join the 27-nation bloc.

The European Commission is due to make a recommendation on Friday on Ukraine‘s status as an EU candidate, something the biggest European nations have been lukewarm about.

“A balance has to be found between Ukraine‘s natural aspirations to (join) the EU at a very special time, and attention to all the countries which already have candidate status and are stuck in the negotiation chapters and the fact that we must not destabilise the EU or fracture it,” the Elysee official said.

Zelensky is expected to push his visitors to send more arms to help his hard-pressed army withstand the Russian invaders.

‘The spokesperson of a devil’: Ukrainian UN ambassador attacks Russian counterpart

08:18 , Joe Middleton

Slovakia donates Mi-series helicopters and Grad rockets to Ukraine

08:05 , Joe Middleton

Slovakia has donated five Mi-series military helicopters and thousands of Grad multiple-rocket launcher rockets to Ukraine, its defence minister said on Thursday.

“Glad to confirm that thousands of #Slovak 122mm Grad rockets and 5 Mi series helicopters have been safely donated to #Ukraine armed forces,” Jaroslav Nad tweeted after a meeting of Nato and other western defence ministers in Brussels.

The shipment includes four M1-17 and one Mi-2 helicopter, he said, adding that those have already been replaced in the Slovak armed forces by US-made UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters.

A Nato member and Ukraine‘s western neighbour, Slovakia has strongly supported Ukraine‘s defence against Russia’s invasion. It has previously donated other military equipment and ammunition, including the S-300 air defence system.

The country has also agreed to sell eight new Zuzana 2 self-propelled howitzers to Ukraine.

German multiple rocket launchers to be delivered to Ukraine by July or August, says minister

07:40 , Joe Middleton

Three multiple rocket launchers that Germany pledged to Kyiv can be delivered in July or August after Ukrainian troops have been trained on the weapons, German defence minister Christine Lambrecht said on Thursday.

“The training on these multiple rocket launchers can begin at the end of June, meaning they can be delivered at the end of July or the start of August,” she told reporters as she arrived for a second day of talks with her Nato counterparts in Brussels.

Breaking: French president Macron, German chancellor Scholz and Italian PM Draghi on way to Ukraine

07:13 , Arpan Rai

French president Emmanuel Macron, German chancellor Olaf Scholz, and Italian prime minister Mario Draghi are on their way to Ukraine, officials from the French presidential officials said early on Thursday.

The three European leaders were seen en route Ukraine on a night train and are expected to meet Ukrainian authorities, according to the officials.

This symbolic visit to Ukraine by the three leaders comes at a time when fighting in Ukraine’s east has intensified, pushing Kyiv to asked for more weapons to combat Russian advances.

This visit – first such of three European leaders — has taken weeks to organise with the three leaders hoping to overturn criticism within Ukraine over their response to the war.

Situation in Donbas key city extremely difficult for Ukrainian troops, civilians, claims UK

07:00 , Arpan Rai

The British defence ministry has said that Ukraine has managed to pull out a major chunk of its combat troops in country’s east but the situation remains grim for fighters and civilians as all bridges leading to the region have been destroyed.

“All of the main bridges over the Siverskyy Donets River, which link the contested town of Sieverodonetsk and Ukrainian-held territory, have now highly likely been destroyed,” the defence ministry said on Thursday morning.

“Ukraine has probably managed to withdraw a large proportion of its combat troops, who were originally holding the town. The situation continues to be extremely difficult for the Ukrainian forces and civilians remaining east of the river,” the British MoD said in its latest intelligence update.

It added: “With the bridges highly likely destroyed, Russia will now likely need to either conduct a contested river crossing or advance on its currently stalled flanks to turn tactical gain into operational advantage.”

Russia’s combat force in the Donbas is highly likely operating in increasingly ad hoc and severely undermanned groupings, accordinf to the ministry.

“As claimed by the Ukrainian authorities, some Russian Battalion Tactical Groups (BTGs) – typically established at around 600 to 800 personnel – have been able to muster as few as 30 soldiers,” the ministry said.

For both sides fighting in contested towns, the ministry added that the “front line combat is likely increasingly devolving to small groups of troops typically operating on foot.”

“Some of Russia’s strengths, such as its advantage in numbers of tanks, become less relevant in this environment. This is likely contributing to its continued slow rate of advance,” the MoD said in the intelligence update.

Ukraine could achieve victory over Russia with right weapons, says top official

06:38 , Arpan Rai

Ukraine could defeat Russia in the ongoing war if it is supplied the right weapons, the country’s top defence official heading the war in southern region has said.

“It is clear that this will not end soon. But then again, if we are given all the weapons that we need, the counter-offensive could well be over by the end of the summer,” Ukraine’s major-general Dmytro Marchenko, who leads Ukraine‘s forces in Mykolaiv, told US-backed broadcaster Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Russia, US must discuss nuclear treaty extension, says Kremlin

05:56 , Arpan Rai

Russian spokesperson Dmitry Peskov has said that Moscow and Washington must discuss the extension of the START nuclear arms reduction treaty, reported RIA news agency on Thursday.

Mr Peskov said that Russia and the US should talk about the treaty extension as it was important for global security.

Russia’s military operation in Ukraine was no reason to avoid its discussion, Mr Peskov to RIA news agency in an interview.

New military package to Ukraine: Howitzers, artillery rocket systems and helicopters

05:38 , Arpan Rai

The US and European countries have pledged more weapons and military aid to Ukraine for backing the besieged country in its fight against Russian bombing and advances in the eastern Donbas.

Additionally, some European nations have also promised to supply aid to Ukraine after more than 45 nations came together in Brussels on Wednesday to discuss Ukraine’s security needs in defending itself against the Russian invasion.

Here’s what the fresh package to Ukraine includes:

— 18 howitzers and 36,000 rounds of ammunition

— 18 tactical vehicles to tow the howitzers

— Ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) that the US previously agreed to send

— Four tactical vehicles to recover equipment

— Spare parts and other equipment

— Two Harpoon coastal defense systems

— Thousands of secure radios, night vision devices, thermal sights and other optics

— Funding for training, maintenance, sustainment, transportation, and administrative costs

Mr Austin said other countries also agreed to send more aid:

— Germany will send three Multiple Launch Rocket Systems, which are very similar to the HIMARS. and guided munitions for the systems

— Slovakia will send helicopters and urgently needed rocket ammunition

— Canada and Poland will send artillery

Read the full story here:

Details of new military aid for Ukraine from US, allies

Russia unable to open schools in occupied Ukraine – Report

05:12 , Arpan Rai

Russia is facing difficulties in enforcing its rule in the territories it has occupied in Ukraine, according to the Institute for the Study of War.

“Russian authorities are continuing to face difficulties implementing their occupation agendas due to pro-Ukrainian pressure in occupied areas,” the latest report from the institute read.

It added that the Ukrainian Resistance Center has found unidentified “Ukrainian partisans targeted employees of the Russian Emergency Ministry in Mariupol on 9 and 11 June”.

The Center found that the Russian occupation authorities are “unable to open schools in occupied Berdyansk in Zaporizhzhia due to resistance from Ukrainian teachers, who are refusing to teach under Russian curricula.”

“Such pro-Ukrainian action will likely continue to disrupt Russian efforts to consolidate full-scale administrative control of occupied areas and Russian annexation agendas,” the institute said on Wednesday.

Zelensky thanks Biden for military aid: ‘Important for Donbas’

04:43 , Arpan Rai

Volodymyr Zelensky thanked Washington in his nightly address late on Wednesday and said that Ukraine will look forward to the military aid promised by Joe Biden.

“I had an important conversation with US President Biden today. The United States has announced a new strengthening of our defence, a new $1bn support package including coastal defence, artillery, modern rocket systems. We will be looking forward to it,” Mr Zelensky said.

He added: “I am grateful for this support, it is especially important for our defence in Donbas.

“I am also grateful for the leadership in mobilising the help of all partners. There is also a new package of humanitarian support for Ukraine – a quarter of a billion US dollars,” Mr Zelensky said.

Mr Zelensky said that he discussed the latest developments on the ground with Mr Biden. “We also discussed with President Biden the tactical situation on the battlefield and ways to accelerate our victory. Sanctions, politics, economic cooperation – we are preparing for new steps,” he said.

‘Majority of Azovstal defenders are held in Donetsk’

03:00 , Lamiat Sabin

Most of the Ukrainian defenders that had been holed up for months in the Azovstal steel plant are now in the Russian-occupied territory of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, according to a senior official.

Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council, reportedly said – according to news website Ukrayinska Pravda – that the situation is “very delicate” for the many hundreds of defenders captured by Russia after a months-long siege of Mariupol.

The partially destroyed Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol (REUTERS)

The partially destroyed Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol (REUTERS)

Mr Danilov said on Ukrainian television: “Not just our country is involved in these processes – there are international institutions that are helping in this.

“The main thing here is not to do any harm. There is a lot that should not be said. We will wait for existing agreements to be fulfilled, and all the men and women who are in captivity today, who have made it through Mariupol, are sure to return alive and well.

“I emphasise once again: the main thing here and now is not to take unnecessary steps so that the aggressor does not accuse us of disrupting certain things. This is a very delicate matter.

“There is information that they are in the Donetsk region. I emphasise once again: the number of people is not 100 or 200 people, it is much more. And that’s why we can’t say for sure that everyone is there.

“We can definitely say that the vast majority, maybe all, are in the Donetsk region.”

Americans told to not visit Ukraine after captures

02:00 , Lamiat Sabin

The White House is urging Americans not to travel to Ukraine after reports emerged that Russian forces had captured two US nationals that were fighting alongside Ukrainian defenders.

John Kirby, a National Security Council spokesperson, told reporters that if the reports are true, the US “will do everything we can” to get them back.

Robert Drueke, 39, and Andy Huynh, 27, were reportedly captured while fighting with Ukrainians in Kharkiv, and are said to be the first Americans to be taken prisoner by the Russians since the war began.

‘Americans fighting for Ukraine captured by Russia’

01:00 , Lamiat Sabin

Two American men who joined Ukrainian forces to fight against the Russian invasion have reportedly been captured.

They are believed to be the first Americans to be taken prisoner by the Russians since the war began.

Robert Drueke, 39, and Andy Huynh, 27, were allegedly captured while fighting with Ukrainians in Kharkiv.

Read the full story here by Graig Graziosi

Two Americans reportedly captured by Russian forces while fighting in Ukraine

Boris Johnson ‘hopes progress can be made on Ukraine grain export in days’

Wednesday 15 June 2022 23:30 , Liam James

Boris Johnson told Volodymyr Zelensky he hopes progress could be made in the coming days on getting grain shipments out of the country, the British prime minister’s office said following a call between the pair.

Ukrainian grain shipments have stalled since Russia‘s invasion and ports blockade, shooting global prices for grains, cooking oils, fuel and fertiliser upwards. Russia today said it would allow Ukraine to safely ship grain from its ports but refused to assist Kyiv in clearing mines from the Black Sea.

International allies have been at pains to facilitate the shipments.

A spokeswoman for Mr Johnson’s office said in a readout of his call with the Ukrainian president: “The pair discussed Russia’s unforgivable blockade of Ukrainian grain, and the prime minister said he hoped progress on the issue could be made in the coming days.”

‘I won’t apologise’: Angela Merkel defends relationship with Putin

Wednesday 15 June 2022 22:10 , Liam James

Former German chancellor Angela Merkel has said she has “nothing to apologise for” in her handling of Russia during her 16 years in office (Maryam Zakir-Hussain writes).

In her first major interview since leaving her post, Ms Merkel denied that she and others appeased Russian president Vladimir Putin, ultimately leading to the Ukraine invasion.

Speaking at the Berliner Ensemble theatre to German journalist Alexander Osang, she said: “I tried to work toward calamity being averted, and diplomacy was not wrong if it doesn’t succeed.

“I don’t see that I should say now that it was wrong, and so I won’t apologise.”

She called Putin’s invasion “a big mistake on Russia’s part” and said there was “no excuse” for the “brutal” attack, adding that “it is a matter of great sorrow” that her efforts “didn’t succeed” but she said, “I don’t blame myself now for trying”.

‘I won’t apologise’: Angela Merkel defends relationship with Putin

Biden announces new $1bn of weapons for Ukraine

Wednesday 15 June 2022 21:00 , Liam James

Joe Biden has now announced a further $1bn (£0.8bn) in weapons for Ukraine that sources familiar with the package said included anti-ship rocket systems, artillery rockets and rounds for howitzers.

In a phone call with Volodymyr Zelensky, Mr Biden said he told the embattled leader about the new weaponry.

“I informed President Zelensky that the United States is providing another $1bn in security assistance for Ukraine, including additional artillery and coastal defense weapons, as well as ammunition for the artillery and advanced rocket systems,” Mr Biden said in a statement after the 41-minute call.

The US last month approved $40bn in aid to Ukraine, $12.5bn of which is set for weapons.

Elsewhere, Washington has been pressing allies to increase their support for Ukraine. At a meeting of Nato defence ministers in Brussels today, US defence secretary Lloyd Austin urged his counterparts to pledge further supplies, saying: “We can’t afford to let up and we can’t lose steam. The stakes are too high.”

Ukraine ignores Russian ultimatum to surrender Sievierodonetsk

Wednesday 15 June 2022 19:50 , Liam James

Ukraine ignored a Russian ultimatum to surrender the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk today.

The Donbas city, now largely in ruins, has for weeks been the main focal point of the war.

Russia had told Ukrainian forces holed up in the Azot chemical plant there to stop “senseless resistance and lay down arms” from Wednesday morning, pressing its advantage in the battle for control of eastern Ukraine.

Ukraine says more than 500 civilians, including 40 children, remain alongside soldiers inside Azot. Moscow had said it would let civilians evacuate from the plant on Wednesday but Russian-backed separatists said Ukrainian shelling had scuppered the plan, which would have involved taking people out towards territory they control.

The mayor of Sievierodonetsk, Oleksandr Stryuk, said Russian forces were trying to storm the city from several directions but the Ukrainians continued to defend it and were not totally cut off, even though all its river bridges had been destroyed.

Serhiy Gaidai, governor of the Luhansk region home to Sievierodonetsk, said Ukraine’s army continued to defend the city and to stop Russian forces from taking its twin city Lysychansk on the opposite bank of the Siverskyi Donets river.

The fall of the two cities would leave all of Luhansk in Russian hands.

Grain ships should be able to avoid mines in Black Sea, says Turkey

Wednesday 15 June 2022 18:38 , Liam James

Ships carrying grain out of Ukraine could be guided around mines in the Black Sea in order to save time exporting food that has been trapped in the country for months, Turkey’s foreign minister said.

Russia today said it had offered “safe passage” for Ukrainian grain shipments but would not establish the routes for ships to navigate the mine-strewn waters off the Black Sea coast.

Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu earlier on Wednesday said it would “take some time” to de-mine Ukraine’s ports but a safe sea corridor could be established in areas without mines under a UN proposal, adding that Ankara was still awaiting Moscow’s reaction to the plan.

“Since the location of the mines is known, certain safe lines would be established at three ports,” Mr Cavusoglu said. “These [commercial] ships, with the guidance of Ukraine‘s research and rescue vessels as envisaged in the plan, could thus come and go safely to ports without a need to clear the mines.”

Global prices for grains, cooking oils, fuel and fertiliser have shot up since Russia’s invasion and blockade of Ukrainian ports. The UN is trying to broker a deal to resume Ukrainian grain exports and Russian food and fertiliser exports, which Moscow says are harmed by sanctions.

The UN has been “working in close cooperation with the Turkish authorities on this issue,” said UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric, and was grateful for them “working so constructively to find a solution to this problem.”

Biden expected to announce $1bn new weapons for Ukraine

Wednesday 15 June 2022 17:40 , Liam James

The US is expected as soon as this afternoon to begin announcing around $1bn (£0.8bn) worth of new weapons aid for Ukraine, including anti-ship rocket systems, artillery rockets, and rounds for howitzers, people familiar with the packages said.

Three people said Joe Biden will announce more than $350m worth of arms transfers, including more rockets for Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS) that had been sent to Ukraine and artillery rounds for M777 howitzers and spare parts.

A second package, anticipated to be more than $650m in size and funded using USAI, could include ground based Harpoon anti-ship missile launcher capabilities, secure radios, night vision and training.

The White House declined to comment.

Ukraine is pressing the US and other western nations for speedy deliveries of weapons in the face of increased pressure from Russian forces in the eastern Donbass region.

The US last month approved more than $40bn in aid to Ukraine, $12.5bn of which was earmarked for weapons and military supplies. Washington’s aid commitments, totalling roughly $54bn, is nearly triple the value of all EU countries combined – though eastern European countries Poland, Estonia, Latvia have committed a greater share of their GDP than the US.

Russia offers safe passage for Ukraine grain, not responsible for corridors

Wednesday 15 June 2022 16:50 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Russia can “provide safe passage” for Ukraine grain shipments from the country’s Black Sea ports, but is not responsible for establishing the corridors, Russia‘s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told reporters on Wednesday.

“We are not responsible for establishing safe corridors. We said we could provide safe passage if these corridors are established. Establish them. It’s obvious it’s either demine the territory, which was mined by the Ukrainians, or to ensure that the passage goes around those mines,” Nebenzia said.

U.S. puts sanctions on men tied to Russian ultranationalist group

Wednesday 15 June 2022 16:20 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

The United States imposed sanctions on Wednesday on two backers of an “ethnically motivated violent extremist group” called the Russian Imperial Movement, one of whom visited the United States to make connections with far-right and white nationalist groups.

The U.S. Treasury Department named the two as Stanislav Shevchuk, a Europe-based representative of RIM, who traveled to the United States in 2017 seeking connections with “extremist” groups, and Alexander Zhuchkovsky, a Russia-based supporter of RIM, who has used his Russia-based social media platform to fundraise and recruit for the group.

Since 2014, Zhuchkovsky has raised over 200 million rubles to purchase weapons and military equipment for RIM and other pro-Russian fighters in the Donbas in Ukraine and facilitated the travel of RIM fighters to the region, the Treasury said.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Zhuchkovsky has continued using his social media accounts and online payment methods to purchase military equipment and supplies for Russian fighters carrying out the invasion and fighting in the Donbas, it added.

German minister accuses Russia of finding excuse to cut Nord Stream 1 gas

Wednesday 15 June 2022 15:59 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Russia‘s justification for cutting the flow of gas through Nord Stream 1 is a pretext to sow uncertainty and drive up prices, Economy and Energy Minister Robert Habeck said after Gazprom said it was further reducing the pipeline’s capacity.

“We can currently buy the necessary quantities from the market, albeit at higher prices,” said Habeck in a statement on Wednesday, adding that supply was secure but that saving energy was the order of the hour.

“Of course we will take measures on a state level if needed,” he added.

Ukraine: Expert Mary Dejevsky answers your questions on Putin’s war

Wednesday 15 June 2022 15:32 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

In the week that Russia said its missiles had destroyed an ammunition warehouse for weapons donated by NATO alliance countries in Ukraine‘s western Lviv region, expert and Independent columnist Mary Dejevsky will be on hand to answer reader questions about the conflict as part of an ‘Ask Me Anything’ session.

Mary’s recent pieces have included Why Germany is right to be cautious over Ukraine, What awaits Ukraine when the fighting stops? and It’s time to be realistic about the war.

Put your questions to Mary this Friday 17 June at 2pm.

Expert Mary Dejevsky answers your questions on Ukraine and Russia

Turkey details U.N. plan for grain exports without need to de-mine Ukraine ports

Wednesday 15 June 2022 15:00 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Wednesday detailed a U.N. plan to create a sea corridor from Ukraine for grain exports, saying safe routes could be formed without needing to clear the mines around Ukrainian ports.

His comments appeared to mark a shift from an earlier proposal to de-mine Ukraine‘s ports, a move that Kyiv fears would leave it far more vulnerable to Russian attack from the Black Sea.

Speaking to reporters, Cavusoglu said it would “take some time” to de-mine Ukraine‘s ports and that a safe sea corridor could meanwhile be established in areas without mines under the U.N. proposal, adding that Ankara was still awaiting Moscow’s reaction to the plan.

“Since the location of the mines is known, certain safe lines would be established at three (Ukrainian) ports,” he said. “These (commercial) ships, with the guidance of Ukraine‘s research and rescue vessels as envisaged in the plan, could thus come and go safely to ports without a need to clear the mines.”

Kremlin says Putin, Xi agreed to boost ties in energy, finance

Wednesday 15 June 2022 14:42 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed in a phone call with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping to expand cooperation in energy, finance and industry as Moscow faces unprecedented Western sanctions over Ukraine, the Kremlin said on Wednesday.

“It was agreed to expand cooperation in energy, finance, industry, transport and other spheres, taking into account the global economic situation that has become more complicated due to the West’s illegitimate sanctions policy,” the Kremlin said in a readout of the leaders’ call.

Alexei Navalny: Russia ‘does not share concerns for his safety’, Putin’s spokesman says

Wednesday 15 June 2022 14:04 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

A Russian diplomat has said the Kremlin is not concerned for the safety of Vladimir Putin’s most high-profile critic, as his whereabouts remain unknown following a prison transfer.

Alexei Navalny, Russia’s most prominent opposition leader, was moved from his prison to an unknown location, a top aide said on Tuesday.

Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman – who two years ago claimed there was no Novichok and no one was following Navalny – said: “The Kremlin does not track Navalny’s whereabouts and does not share concerns for his safety.”

Read more here:

Alexei Navalny: Russia says it ‘does not share concerns for his safety’

Goodbye Lenin: Finland removes statue of Russian revolutionary as country seeks to join Nato

Wednesday 15 June 2022 13:42 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Finland has made the decision to move a controversial statue of Russian revolutionary Vladimir Ilyich Lenin from the streets to a museum.

The statue in Kotka, southeast Finland, has often been vandalised over the years- but has received heightened attention since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The monument was presented as a gift by Kotka’s twin city Tallinn in 1979, and was sculpted by Estonian artist Matti Varikin. At the time Estonia was part of the USSR.

Proposals submitted to the city and municipal councils stated that the statue was offensive to the memory of those who were killed in Soviet war crimes.

Read more here:

Goodbye Lenin: Finland removes statue of Russian as country seeks to join Nato

‘Largest ever’ methane leak detected at Russian coal mine

Wednesday 15 June 2022 13:20 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

A Russian coal mine has been named as the source of the biggest methane leak ever detected.

New satellite observations show Raspadskya mine, in central Russia’s Kemerovo Oblast, has 13 separate methane plumes leaking massive amounts of the explosive greenhouse gas in one of largest “ultra emission” events ever traced to a verified source.

Raspadskya is Russia’s largest coal mine and opened in 1973.

According to Canadian company GHGSat, which provides the UN with emissions data and works with the European Space Agency, the mine is leaking 90 tonnes of methane every hour.

Our environment correspondent Harry Cockburn has more:

‘Largest ever’ methane leak detected at Russian coal mine

Ukraine says Russia eyes a ‘vast area from Warsaw to Sofia’

Wednesday 15 June 2022 12:55 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged the European Union on Wednesday to let his country start on the road to membership of the bloc, warning that Russia‘s territorial ambitions stretched from Warsaw to Sofia.

In a speech to both chambers of the Czech parliament via a video link, Zelenskiy also called for more EU sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24.

“Russia is not interested only in our (cities of) Mariupol, Sievierodonetsk, Kharkiv and Kyiv. No, its ambitions are directed on a vast area from Warsaw to Sofia,” he said, without citing evidence for his assertion.

“As in the past, the Russian invasion of Ukraine is the first step that the Russian leadership needs to open the way to other countries, to the conquest of other peoples.”

The EU has adopted six rounds of sanctions against Russia, and Ukraine is seeking a seventh round to increase pressure on Russia to end the war.

The European Commission is expected to announce a decision on Ukraine‘s request for candidate status this week ahead of an EU summit next week. Having candidate status would be a preliminary step in a long process to accession.

“To grant Ukraine candidate status now is to prove that European unification is real and that European values really work and are not just indicated in certain documents,” Zelensky said.

He said the Czech people – following Nazi German occupation during World War Two and decades of Soviet domination after the war – knew how compromise ends and what comes of concessions to tyranny.

“The person who wants to seize everything will never stop at taking only part of what they want,” Zelensky said.

Chinese president tells Putin all sides should work to resolve Ukraine crisis

Wednesday 15 June 2022 12:24 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Chinese President Xi Jinping told Russian President Vladimir Putin during a phone call on Wednesday that all parties should work towards resolving the crisis in Ukraine “in a responsible manner,” Chinese state broadcaster CCTV reported.

China has refused to condemn Russia‘s actions in Ukraine or call them an invasion, and has urged a negotiated solution.

In their call, Xi reiterated China’s willingness to help resolve the situation.

China and Russia have grown increasingly close in recent years, and in February, Putin and Xi signed a wide-ranging strategic partnership aimed at countering U.S. influence and said they would have “no ‘forbidden’ areas of cooperation”.

On Friday, Russia and China opened a new cross-border bridge in the far east which they hope will further boost trade as Moscow reels from sweeping Western sanctions imposed over its actions in Ukraine.

Death sentences of British fighters in Ukraine a warning to ‘soldiers of fortune’, Russia says

Wednesday 15 June 2022 11:55 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Death sentences handed down to British fighters by pro-Moscow seperatists should serve as a warning to “soldiers of fortune fighting for Ukraine”, Russia has said.

Aiden Aslin, 28, and Shaun Pinner, 48, were found guilty of taking action towards violent seizure of power at a court in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) last week.

A third man, Moroccan national Saaudun Brahim, was convicted alongside them, Tom Barnes writes.

Speaking on Wednesday, Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said their sentences would set a “clear example to other soldiers of fortune fighting for Ukraine”.

UK fighters’ death sentences a warning to ‘soldiers of fortune’, Russia says

Zelensky seeks tighter sanctions on Russia

Wednesday 15 June 2022 11:23 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy urged the European Union on Wednesday to tighten sanctions on Russia, warning that Russian forces could attack other countries after invading his own country.

In a speech to both chambers of the Czech parliament via a video link, Zelenskiy reiterated calls for the EU to allow Ukraine to start on the road to membership of the 27-nation bloc by giving it candidate country status.

“As in the past, the Russian invasion of Ukraine is the first step that the Russian leadership needs to open the way to other countries, to the conquest of other peoples,” he said.

Kremlin says communication is essential in relations with U.S.

Wednesday 15 June 2022 10:52 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

The Kremlin said on Wednesday that communication remains “essential” in relations with the United States, amid tensions over Russia‘s continuing war in Ukraine.

But Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters in a call that such communication could only be conducted on a basis of mutual respect and benefit.

Man arrested at Gatwick airport on suspicion of spying ‘for Putin regime’

Wednesday 15 June 2022 10:27 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

A man has been arrested by counter-terror police on suspicion of spying.

The suspect, in his 40s, was detained by the Metropolitan Police at Gatwick Airport in West Sussex on Monday evening.

The man is accused of spying in Britain for Russian president Vladimir Putin and was due to get an outbound flight when he was arrested, according to The Sun.

My colleague Chiara Giordano has more:

Man arrested at Gatwick airport on suspicion of spying ‘for Putin regime’

Up to 1,200 civilians may be in plant in eye of Ukraine battle, separatist says

Wednesday 15 June 2022 10:24 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Up to 1,200 civilians may be holed up in the shelters of the Azot chemical plant in the eastern Ukrainian city where one of the fiercest battles of the war has been raging between Russian and Ukrainian forces, a Russian-backed separatist said.

Russian forces are trying to grind down Ukrainian resistance in the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk, part of a wider push to drive Kyiv’s forces out of two separatist regions which Russia backs and has recognised as independent states.

Russian-backed separatists said Ukrainian forces sought to disrupt a humanitarian corridor out of the sprawling ammonia factory founded under Soviet leader Josef Stalin to a separatist-controlled town, the RIA news agency reported.

“About 1,000 to 1,200 civilians of Sievierodonetsk may still be on the territory of the Azot chemical plant,” Rodion Miroshnik, an official in the Russian-backed self-styled separatist administration of the Luhansk People’s Republic, said on Telegram.

Mr Miroshnik said the civilians are in part of the plant that is still controlled by Ukrainian forces, which he said numbered up to 2,000 people including Ukrainian and foreign fighters.

Ukraine says the number of civilians at the plant is closer to 500.

France’s Macron: Ukraine President will have to negotiate with Russia at some point

Wednesday 15 June 2022 09:50 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Wednesday that Ukraine would have to hold talks with Russia at some point, in order to try and bring an end to the war between the two countries.

“The Ukrainian President and his officials will have to negotiate with Russia,” said Macron, while on a visit to Romania and Moldova.

Macron arrived in Romania on Tuesday for a three-day trip to NATO’s southern flank including Moldova before possibly heading to Kyiv on Thursday on a visit with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, two diplomatic sources said.

Macron has been criticised by Ukraine and eastern European allies for what they perceived as his ambiguous backing for Ukraine in the war against Russia.

Russia says it has destroyed warehouse for Nato weapons in Ukraine

Wednesday 15 June 2022 09:34 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Russia has said its missiles destroyed an ammunition warehouse for weapons donated by NATO alliance countries in Ukraine‘s western Lviv region.

The defence ministry said some of the ammunition was to be used for U.S.-produced M777 howitzers, a type of artillery weapon.

Reuters was not able to independently verify the report.

Macron toughens tone on Russia before possible Ukraine visit

Wednesday 15 June 2022 09:16 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

President Emmanuel Macron voiced a tougher line on Russia on Wednesday after visiting French and allied troops at a NATO base in Romania, seeking to assuage concerns in Ukraine and among some European allies over his previous stance towards Moscow.

Macron arrived in Romania on Tuesday for a three-day trip to NATO’s southern flank including Moldova before possibly heading to Kyiv on Thursday on a visit with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, two diplomatic sources said.

“We will do everything to stop Russia‘s war forces, to help the Ukrainians and their army and continue to negotiate,” he told French and NATO troops at a military base in Romania.

“But for the foreseeable future, we will need to protect, dissuade and be present,” he said.

Macron has in recent weeks repeatedly said it was vital not to “humiliate” Russia so a diplomatic solution could be found when fighting ended and he has continued to keep communication channels open with the Kremlin open, riling more hawkish allies.

France leads a NATO battle group in Romania of about 800 troops, including 500 French troops alongside others from the Netherlands and Belgium. Paris has also deployed a surface-to air missile system.

Vladimir Putin’s military assault continues in face of near-unanimous international condemnation

Wednesday 15 June 2022 08:55 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Russia’s long-feared invasion of Ukraine continues to rage following Vladimir Putin’s announcement of his “special military operation” against the country in the early hours of 24 February, the Russian leader declaring, groundlessly, a need to “demilitarise and de-Nazify” the neighbouring state after eight years of fighting in the Donbas.

As Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky leads by example from the streets of Kyiv, tirelessly rallying the international community for support, his people mount an impressive resistence, holding back Russia’s armed forces as best they can, writes Thomas Kingsley and Joe Sommerlad.

Why did Russia invade Ukraine?

‘Scorched earth’: Russian forces push back Ukrainians in battle for key city

Wednesday 15 June 2022 08:40 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Russia has blown up the last bridge to Sievierodonetsk, cutting off the embattled east Ukrainian city which is now largely occupied by the Kremlin’s troops.

Serhiy Haidai, the governor of Ukraine’s Luhansk region, and Oleksandr Stryuk, the city’s mayor, confirmed the developments on Tuesday, saying Ukrainian soldiers were now fighting from its industrial outskirts.

The invading forces had pushed the Ukrainian army back through its “scorched earth method and heavy artillery”, Mr Haidai said.

My colleague Rory Sullivan has more:

‘Scorched earth’: Russian forces push back Ukrainians in battle for key city

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