What happened in the Russia-Ukraine war this week? Catch up with the must-read news and analysis

·5-min read
<span>Photograph: Pavel Byrkin/AP</span>
Photograph: Pavel Byrkin/AP

Every week we wrap up the must-reads from our coverage of the Ukraine war, from news and features to analysis, visual guides and opinion.

Xi visited Russia for the first time since the invasion

Vladimir Putin welcomed China’s proposals for peace in Ukraine at a joint press conference with Xi Jinping in Moscow – a plan the west has warned would allow the Kremlin to “freeze” its territorial gains in the country. Speaking at the Kremlin during a joint news conference after the second day of talks with China’s president, Xi Jinping, Putin said Beijing’s peace plan “correlates to the point of view of the Russian Federation” and that Ukraine’s western allies so far had shown no interest in it, Pjotr Sauer and Helen Davidson reported.

Traditional Russian wooden matryoshka dolls depicting Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin at a gift shop in central Moscow
Traditional Russian matryoshka dolls depicting Xi and Putin at a gift shop in central Moscow. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

From the moment Xi stepped off his Boeing 747 at Vnukovo airport in Moscow on Monday, it was clear that his visit was of huge importance to the Kremlin, Pjotr Sauer wrote. On his way to the five-star Chinese-owned Soluxe Hotel, Xi drove past a series of large billboards dedicated to his visit. Despite the visit, dialogue with Ukraine was still possible, Sauer wrote in a piece about the view from Kyiv.

Xi’s trip to Moscow didn’t impress the west – but his most important audience was at home, Amy Hawkins wrote in an analysis piece after the visit.

Fumio Kishida and Volodymyr Zelenskiy at a press conference after meeting in Kyiv
Fumio Kishida and Volodymyr Zelenskiy at a press conference after meeting in Kyiv. Photograph: Roman Pilipey/Getty Images

While Xi was being treated to an opulent state dinner in Moscow, 800km away Japan’s prime minister laid a wreath for the dead outside a church in the blasted Ukrainian town of Bucha, underscoring the division in Asia over Russia’s invasion.

“The world was astonished to see innocent civilians in Bucha killed one year ago,” Kishida said, after observing a moment of silence and bowing. “I really feel great anger at the atrocity upon visiting that very place here.”

The Ukrainian father who rescued his children from Moscow

Yevhen Mezhevyi struggled to hide his anger on Sunday when he saw footage of Vladimir Putin, the man who had overseen the deportation of his three children, visiting his home town of Mariupol. The 40-year-old single father is one of thousands of Ukrainian parents whose children have been abducted and transferred to Russia since Putin invaded last year – forced deportations that prompted the international criminal court (ICC) to issue an arrest warrant for the Russian president on Friday.

Mezhevyi’s children were taken while he was being held in jail by Russian-backed separatists for 45 days. Unlike the many parents who have no knowledge of their children’s whereabouts, his family has been reunited, after he undertook a risky journey over the border to rescue them. He told the story to Lorenzo Tondo.

The prosecutor for the ICC, Karim Khan, challenged the Kremlin to allow Ukrainian children abducted to Russia to return home, Patrick Wintour reported. “This is a moment of crisis,” Khan said. “I don’t think that is hyperbole … we need to have the stamina to deliver on justice.”

A family at war in the hell of Bakhmut

When the war in Ukraine began, Viktor Shulik, a 57-year-old headteacher from Popasna – a town in Luhansk, a 30-minute drive from Bakhmut – had been busy overseeing renovations to Popasna school No 1, for which they had won a grant from the state.

Popasna had been on the frontline since 2014 and was briefly occupied by Russian and Russia-backed forces. For eight years, the school looked out on to the frontline and was damaged twice by shelling. But Viktor, his wife, Valentyna, and three of their children – who all were also teachers – made a conscious decision to stay in order to, in their words, keep the territory as part of Ukraine. Isobel Koshiw and Anastasia Vlasova reported this story.

Kharkiv’s Russian missile cemetery

During the first few months of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the cruise missiles fired by Moscow at its neighbour remained embedded for days at a time in the buildings and streets of the north-eastern province of Kharkiv.

Then, one by one, officials working for Ukrainian prosecutors recovered, registered and catalogued them, before moving them to a fenced-off area in an industrial district of Kharkiv city that has become known as the “missile cemetery”. More than 1,000 explosives and the debris of rockets are lined up in rows, covering an area half the size of a football field, Lorenzo Tondo wrote.

Ukraine’s army calculates that Russia has fired more than 5,000 cruise missiles, in addition to countless artillery rockets, since the war began. A large number have fallen on Kharkiv.

An interview with the head of Nato

Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg
Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg: Putin is ‘planning for more war’. Photograph: Piroschka van de Wouw/Reuters

Vladimir Putin has no immediate plans for peace in Ukraine and so the west needs to brace itself to supply lethal aid to Kyiv for a long time to come, Nato’s secretary general has warned in an interview with the Guardian’s Dan Sabbagh.

Jens Stoltenberg said the Russian president was engaged in “a war of attrition”, and he wanted Nato members to agree that spending 2% of GDP on defence as a minimum at the alliance’s next summit, in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius.

The fierce fighting, currently centred around Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine, demonstrated Russia was willing “to just throw in thousands and thousands more troops, to take many casualties for minimal gains”, the Nato head said.

“President Putin doesn’t plan for peace, he’s planning for more war,” he continued, adding that Russia was increasing military industrial production and “reaching out to authoritarian regimes like Iran or North Korea and others to try to get more weapons”.