Russia-Ukraine war: Head of Russian hypersonic missile lab arrested for treason

·27-min read
Andrei Shiplyuk heads the hypersonics laboratory at the Novosibirsk Institute of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics, according to the institute's website, and has in recent years coordinated research to support the development of hypersonic missile systems. - Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP
Andrei Shiplyuk heads the hypersonics laboratory at the Novosibirsk Institute of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics, according to the institute's website, and has in recent years coordinated research to support the development of hypersonic missile systems. - Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP

One of Russia’s top hypersonic missile scientists has been arrested for treason in Siberia.

Alexander Shiplyuk may have been working on Vladimir Putin’s top-secret hypersonic missiles when he was arrested.

He was a director at the Siberian branch of the Russian Academy of Science’s Institute of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics and is the third top Russian scientist based in Novosibirsk to be arrested for treason in the past six weeks.

Police arrested Anatoly Maslov, a physicist specialising in aerodynamics, and Dmitry Kolker, a maths professor and laser specialist, for passing state secrets on to China in June. They were flown to the Lefortovo interrogation centre in Moscow.

Kolker died within two days of arriving at Lefortovo. He had been receiving treatment for advanced pancreatic cancer in Novosibirsk.

The TASS news agency reported that after his arrest FSB intelligence agents searched the offices of Mr Shiplyuk, a career scientist who worked his way up from trainee to be appointed a director of the Russian Academy of Science’s Institute in Novosibirsk in 2015.

"This was connected with our director Alexander Nikolaevich Shiplyuk. He was arrested. He is charged with the same thing as Maslov, treason," said Vasily Fomin, head of the Institute.

Mr Shiplyuk is quoted online discussing coating for hypersonic missiles and how science can be used to help update the Russian military in a project called Army-2020. One online photo showed Mr Shiplyuk posing next to a tank.

Russia’s war in Ukraine has stalled but Mr Putin has still boasted that his new hypersonic Zircon anti-aircraft carrier missile is "unstoppable"” and that a new nuclear missile called Satan-2, which is armed with 14 warheads, is the most dangerous weapon in the world.

Russian officials have said that both missiles will be ready to be fired at enemy targets by the end of the year.

Follow the latest updates below.

06:10 PM

What we learnt today

  • A leading Russian hypersonic missile expert has been arrested on suspicion of treason, according to the state-controlled TASS news agency.

  • Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin Friday that he hoped to open a "different page" in ties between Ankara and Moscow.

  • Three grain ships left Ukrainian ports while the first inbound cargo vessel since Russia's invasion was due in Ukraine later in the day to load.

  • Ukraine's southern frontline city of Mykolaiv will impose an unusually long curfew from late Friday to early Monday morning as authorities try to catch people collaborating with Russia, the region's governor said.

  • Rights group Amnesty International on Friday said it fully stood by its accusations that Ukraine was endangering civilians by establishing bases in residential areas to counter the Russian invasion, after a report that prompted a furious response from Kyiv.

06:00 PM

British Ministry of Defence gives assessment

The MoD has released its daily assessment of the situation on the ground in Ukraine.

05:38 PM

Kherson leader not in coma says Russia

The deputy head of the Russian-installed administration in Ukraine's occupied Kherson region on Friday denied reports that the administration's head, Volodymyr Saldo, had suffered a stroke and was in a coma.

In a statement on Telegram, Kirill Stremousov said the reports were "part of Ukraine's information war against Russia", although he confirmed that Saldo was ill and said he was "resting".

Volodymyr Saldo (2nd L) and Kirill Stremousov (L) visit a passport centre in Kherson  - Stringer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Volodymyr Saldo (2nd L) and Kirill Stremousov (L) visit a passport centre in Kherson - Stringer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The Russian state-run broadcaster RT had previously reported that Saldo, a former mayor of the city of Kherson who was appointed to head the region of the same name when Russian troops overran it in early March, was in a coma and on life support.

The region is part of a swathe of Ukraine that Russia has occupied, extending north and eastward from the annexed Crimean peninsula along the north shore of the Sea of Azov to the Russian border.

05:21 PM

Ukraine could start exports of new wheat crop via ports in September

Ukraine could start exporting wheat from this year's harvest from its sea ports in September under a landmark deal brokered by Turkey and the United Nations, Ukraine's first deputy minister of agriculture said today.

Ukraine hopes in several months to increase shipments of grain through the route to between 3 million and 3.5 million tonnes per month from 1 million tonnes expected in August, the official, Taras Vysotskiy, said.

Such volumes will allow Ukraine to receive enough funds so it does not have to reduce its sowing plans, the official added.

05:05 PM

Ukraine signs €200m loan agreement with Italy

Ukraine has signed a 200 million euro loan agreement with Italy and the funds will go to the state budget to finance teacher salaries, the Ukrainian finance ministry said on Friday.

The ministry said in a statement that Italy would provide funds for 15 years at a zero interest rate, helping the Ukrainian government maintain financial stability despite a sharp fall in budget revenue amid growing spending caused by more than five months of Russian invasion.

04:40 PM

Russian Paralympians must wait for decision

A decision on the participation of Russia and Belarus at the Paris 2024 Paralympics will be taken in November but the ongoing war in Ukraine means their ban from the Beijing 2022 winter Paralympics remains in place, the president of the International Paralympic Committee said on Friday.

Aleksei Bugaev from Russia during a training session at the Yanqing National Alpine Skiing Centre in Yanqing, China -  ENNIO LEANZA/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Aleksei Bugaev from Russia during a training session at the Yanqing National Alpine Skiing Centre in Yanqing, China - ENNIO LEANZA/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Athletes from Russia and Belarus were barred from competing in the Chinese capital on the eve of the Paralympics in March over Russia's invasion of Ukraine, for which Belarus has been a key staging area.

IPC President Andrew Parsons said the final decision for Paris 2024 rested with the IPC General Assembly to be held some time in November but the ongoing war would make it difficult at this moment to take a different decision. A date and location of the General Assembly have not yet been announced.

04:25 PM

Sub-Saharan Africa will be hardest hit by grain shortage

The United States' ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield has said that Russia's invasion of Ukraine will cause 40 million people to become food insecure and that sub-Saharan Africa will be hardest hit.

The United States has secured $4.5 billion for food security at the G7 summit, of which it has contributed $2.76 billion, she added.

Africans "don't want to be pressured to pick a side" in a repeat of the Cold War but need to know the facts, she said.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations - AP Photo/John Minchillo
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations - AP Photo/John Minchillo

04:08 PM

Brussels accuses Russia of inventing excuses to cut gas

EU sanctions against Russia do nothing to prevent the delivery of pipeline turbine, an EU spokesman said Friday, accusing Moscow of fabricating an excuse to cut off gas supplies.

Russian energy giant Gazprom said on Wednesday that the delivery of a turbine needed to keep gas flowing to Europe via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline was "impossible" due to international sanctions

But Eric Mamer, spokesman for the European Commission, dismissed this and accused Moscow of using energy supplies as a lever to blackmail Europe over its opposition to the invasion of Ukraine.

"There is nothing in the sanctions that prohibits the turbine, the Siemens turbine that is currently meant to go to Russia, to go there," Mr Mamer told reporters.

"Anything else that is being said on the issue is purely and simply wrong, and anything that the Russians are saying on this is basically an excuse not to not to provide gas to the European Union."

04:01 PM

Russia bans Western investors from selling banking and energy stakes

Russia has banned investors from so-called unfriendly countries from selling shares in key energy projects and banks until the end of the year, stepping up pressure in the sanctions stand-off with the West.

Western countries and allies, including Japan, have piled financial restrictions on Russia since it sent troops into Ukraine in late February. Moscow retaliated with obstacles for Western businesses and their allies leaving Russia, and in some cases seized their assets.

The decree, signed by President Vladimir Putin and published today, immediately bans investors from countries which supported sanctions on Russia from selling their assets in production sharing agreements (PSA), banks, strategic entities, companies producing energy equipment, as well as in other projects, from oil and gas production to coal and nickel.

03:45 PM

More grain leaves Ukraine

Three bulk carriers loaded with grain set sail from Ukraine today under a landmark deal to free up shipments brokered by Turkey, as its leader met his Russian counterpart for talks on Moscow's invasion of its neighbour.

Months of efforts by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan saw Moscow and Kyiv agree in Istanbul last month to resume the shipments from Ukrainian ports in a bid to relieve a global food crisis caused by the assault launched in February.

The government in Kyiv said on social media that two ships carrying Ukrainian maize - the Maltese-flagged Rojen and the Turkish Polarnet - had set off from Chornomorsk while the Panama-flagged Navistar departed from Odessa.

The Rojen leaves port - STR/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock 
The Rojen leaves port - STR/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

03:12 PM

Amnesty says 'fully stands by' report on Ukraine criticised by Kyiv

Rights group Amnesty International on Friday said it fully stood by its accusations that Ukraine was endangering civilians by establishing bases in residential areas to counter the Russian invasion, after a report that prompted a furious response from Kyiv.

Amnesty "fully stands by our research," the organisation's Secretary General Agnes Callamard told AFP in emailed comments. "The findings... were based on evidence gathered during extensive investigations which were subject to the same rigorous standards and due diligence processes as all of Amnesty International's work," she added.

02:21 PM

Erdogan says hopes talks with Putin will open 'different page' in ties

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin Friday that he hoped to open a "different page" in ties between Ankara and Moscow.

"I believe that (today's meeting) will open a whole different page in Turkish-Russian relations," Erdogan said at the start of talks in Russia's Black Sea city of Sochi.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan - Vladimir Putin meeting in Sochi -  Murat Kula/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Recep Tayyip Erdogan - Vladimir Putin meeting in Sochi - Murat Kula/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

01:56 PM

Erdogan arrives in Russia

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has arrived in Sochi, southern Russia, for talks with Vladimir Putin.

The pair are expected to discuss ties between their two nations, including the potential for increased economic and trade deals.

According to Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov, Putin and Erdogan will also touch upon the issues of grain export from Ukraine.

Last month both leaders met in Tehran. Then, on July 22, they agreed on a deal to resume important grain exports from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports.

The UN and Turkey brokered the deal in Istanbul.

01:28 PM

Zelensky: Donbas is 'hell' for Ukrainian troops

After five months of fighting, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy this week described the pressure his armed forces were under in the eastern Donbas region as "hell".

Moscow is seeking to control the largely Russian-speaking Donbas, comprised of Luhansk and Donetsk provinces, where pro-Moscow separatists seized territory after the Kremlin annexed Crimea to the south in 2014.

Zelenskiy spoke of fierce fighting around the town of Avdiivka and the fortified village of Pisky, where Ukraine has acknowledged its Russian foe's "partial success" in recent days.

Russia's TASS news agency cited separatist forces as saying Russian and pro-Russian forces had taken full control of Pisky. They also said that fighting was taking place in the city of Bakhmut, north of Donetsk.

Ukraine has spent the last eight years fortifying defensive positions in Pisky, seeing it as a buffer zone against Russian-backed forces holding Donetsk city about 10 km to the southeast.

Ukrainian General Oleksiy Hromov said his forces had retaken two villages around the eastern city of Sloviansk but had been pushed back to the town of Avdiivka after being forced to abandon a coal mine regarded as an important defensive position.

01:08 PM

Russia bans Western investors from selling stakes in some key firms

Russia has banned investors from so-called 'unfriendly countries' from selling shares in certain strategic enterprises until the end of the year, a presidential decree signed by President Vladimir Putin showed on Friday.

The ban also applies to stakes in the Sakhalin-1 oil and gas development in Russia's Far East.

12:40 PM

Erdogan heads for high-stakes Putin talks on Ukraine and Syria

Ways to halt the war in Ukraine and the possible launch of a new conflict in Syria are expected to dominate talks on Friday between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The Turkish leader was riding high from the diplomatic success of helping orchestrate the resumption of Ukrainian grain shipments across the Black Sea when he took most of his top ministers to Sochi for his second talks with Putin in 17 days.

But there are tensions. Putin told Erdogan in Tehran last month that Russia remains opposed to any new offensive that Turkey might be planning against Kurdish militants in northern Syria.

Analysts believe these strains form part of the "competitive cooperation" that has defined the two leaders' relationship over the past 20 years.

The two were expected to hold private talks and a working lunch but no joint press conference.

"Russia's war on Ukraine has restored Turkey's self image as a key geopolitical player and given Erdogan more visibility than at any time in the last few years," European Council on Foreign Relations fellow Asli Aydintasbas wrote in a report last week.

12:31 PM

What you need to know right now

  • Three grain ships left Ukrainian ports while the first inbound cargo vessel since Russia's invasion was due in Ukraine later in the day to load.

  • A top aide to Turkey's president said the world cannot end the war in Ukraine by ignoring Moscow, saying "diplomacy and peace must prevail", as Tayyip Erdogan headed to Russia to meet his counterpart Vladimir Putin.

  • Ukraine's southern frontline city of Mykolaiv will impose an unusually long curfew from late Friday to early Monday morning as authorities try to catch people collaborating with Russia, the region's governor said.

  • Russia's defence ministry said that its forces destroyed two US-made M777 howitzers in the Zaporizhzhia region of Ukraine, Russian news agencies reported.

  • Ukraine's General Staff said Russian shelling of scores of towns across the country again targeted civilian settlements as well as military infrastructure.

  • Ukrainian forces recaptured two villages around the eastern city of Sloviansk, but were pushed back to the town of Avdiivka's outskirts after being forced to abandon a coal mine regarded as a key defensive position.

  • Human rights group Amnesty International accused Ukraine on Thursday of endangering civilians by basing troops in residential areas in a report that Kyiv likened to Russian propaganda and disinformation.

12:09 PM

'War in Ukraine can't be ended by ignoring Russia', says Erdogan aide

A top aide to Turkey's president said on Friday the international community cannot end the war in Ukraine by ignoring Moscow, as Tayyip Erdogan headed to Russia to meet his counterpart Vladimir Putin.

The meeting, less than three weeks since they held talks in Tehran, comes after Turkey helped broker a deal to resume Ukraine's Black Sea grain exports which were blocked by Russia's invasion.

Turkish presidential communications director Fahrettin Altun said the agreement attested to the success of Nato member Turkey's efforts and the direct diplomacy between the two leaders, while criticising the role played by other countries.

"The truth is that some of our friends do not want the war to end. They are shedding crocodile tears," Altun told Reuters, saying some were actively trying to undermine Turkey's efforts without specifying who.

"The international community cannot end the war in Ukraine by ignoring Russia. Diplomacy and peace must prevail," he said.

Erdogan was scheduled to meet Putin on Friday afternoon before a meeting between delegations of the two countries.

Turkey has relatively good relations with both Ukraine and Russia. But while it has criticised the invasion and provided Ukraine with arms, it has broken with Western allies by not imposing sanctions on Russia.

11:48 AM

Ukrainian frontline city imposes weekend curfew to root out collaborators

Ukraine's southern frontline city of Mykolaiv will impose an unusually long curfew from late Friday to early Monday morning as authorities try to catch people collaborating with Russia, the region's governor said.

Mykolaiv, which has been shelled throughout Russia's invasion which began on Feb 24, lies close to Russian-occupied parts of the strategically important region of Kherson where Ukraine plans to conduct a counter-offensive.

Vitaliy Kim, governor of the Mykolaiv region, told residents the curfew running from 11 pm (20:00 GMT) Friday to 5 am Monday did not mean the city was under threat or facing a looming attack.

"There's no sign of an encirclement. The city will be closed for the weekend. Please be understanding. We are also working on collaborators. Districts will undergo checks," Kim said on Telegram.

11:27 AM

Russia kicks out 14 Bulgarian diplomats

Russia's foreign ministry said Moscow has declared 14 Bulgarian diplomats persona non grata.

Earlier this summer, Bulgaria expelled 70 Russian diplomatic staff over espionage concerns and set a cap on the size of Moscow's representation as relations between two countries that were once close allies fractured over Ukraine.

11:04 AM

Russia 'destroyed' two US-made howitzers

Russia's defence ministry said on Friday that it destroyed two U.S-made M777 howitzers in the Zaporizhzhia region of Ukraine, Russian news agencies reported.

It was not possible to immediately verify these claims.

10:50 AM

Ukraine harvested 17.5 million tonnes of grain so far

Ukrainian farmers have threshed 17.5 million tonnes of the 2022 grain harvest so far with the average yield of 3.64 tonnes per hectare, Ukrainian grain traders union UGA and the agriculture ministry have announced.

The union's statement said the volume included 12.6 million tonnes of wheat with an average yield of 3.6 tonnes per hectare and 4.4 million tonnes of barley with a yield of 3.38 tonnes per hectare.

The UGA said that farmers also harvested 2.5 million tonnes of rapeseed with a yield of 2.68 tonnes per hectare.

The ministry said farmers had harvested 4.8 million hectares of grain and the area included 3.5 million hectares of wheat, 1.3 million hectares of barley and 101,000 hectares of peas.

It said Ukraine's southern Odesa and Mykolaiv regions had almost completed the 2022 wheat harvest.

Ukraine, a major global grain grower and exporter, harvested a record 86 million tonnes of grain in 2021. That included 42.1 million tonnes of corn and 32.2 million tonnes of wheat.

10:28 AM

Russia 'may not' meet 2022 grain harvest target

Russia may not reach its expected harvest of 130 million tonnes of grain due to weather factors and a lack of spare parts for foreign equipment, the agriculture ministry has admitted.

"Taken together, all of this creates risks in terms of reaching the grain harvest figure of 130 million tonnes," the ministry said.

It said that if it does not meet the planned volumes, it will have to revise its export plans of 50 million tonnes.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had said in May that he expected the country to harvest 130 million tonnes of grain in 2022, including 87 million tonnes of wheat.

10:04 AM

Food prices fell again in July - UN

The United Nations food agency's world price index declined again in July, edging further away from record highs hit in March.

The Food and Agriculture Organization's (FAO) food price index, which tracks the most globally traded food commodities, averaged 140.9 points last month versus a revised 154.3 for June. The June figure was previously put at 154.2.

The July index was still 13.1 per cent higher than a year earlier, pushed up by the impact of the invasion of Ukraine, adverse weather and high production and transport costs.

"The decline in food commodity prices from very high levels is welcome, however, many uncertainties remain," said FAO Chief Economist Maximo Torero.

A bleak global economic outlook, currency volatility and high fertilizer prices - which can impact future production and farmers’ livelihoods - all pose serious strains for global food security, he said.

The vegetable oil, sugar, dairy, meat and cereal price indices all fell month-on-month in July, with wheat slumping 14.5pc, partly due to a deal reached between Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the United Nations to unblock grains exports from Black Sea ports.

The maize price index fell 10.7pc in July, also due in part to the Russia-Ukraine deal as well as increased seasonal availability from key producers Argentina and Brazil, the FAO said.

09:40 AM

Ukraine: The latest

09:22 AM

US will 'pursue' prisoner exchange

The United States will "pursue" Russia's latest offer to discuss at the presidential level a prisoner swap involving detained basketball star Brittney Griner, Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said.

"[Russian] Foreign Minister Lavrov said this morning... that they are prepared to engage" on a swap for the detained American, Mr Blinken said at a foreign ministers' meeting in Cambodia. "And we'll be pursuing that."

Moscow's latest offer came a day after the Phoenix Mercury player was sentenced by a Russian court to nine years in a penal colony on a drug smuggling charge.

The arrest and sentencing highlighted Moscow's "use of wrongful detentions to advance its own agenda," Mr Blinken added, slamming the use of "individuals as political pawns".

The verdict and sentence were widely condemned in the United States as unjustified and sparked urgent calls for the US government to bring Ms Griner home.

Ms Griner's trial accelerated in recent days as the United States and Russia discussed a potential prisoner swap that could involve the basketball star.

09:02 AM

Three grain ships depart Ukraine

Russia-Ukraine war: Volodymyr Zelensky fires back at Amnesty over critical report - Anadolu Agency /Anadolu 
Russia-Ukraine war: Volodymyr Zelensky fires back at Amnesty over critical report - Anadolu Agency /Anadolu

08:33 AM

Russian teacher sentenced for telling students about war crimes in Ukraine

A school teacher in a provincial Russian city has received a suspended sentence for speaking out in class against the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine, reports our Russia correspondent Nataliya Vasilyeva.

A court in Penza, 500 kilometres southeast of Moscow, on Thursday found Irina Gen guilty of “discrediting the Russian armed forces” under a new law that has banned any criticism of the war in Ukraine and gave her a five-year suspended sentence. The 45-year-old English teacher will also be barred from working in state schools for three years.

The court in Penza found that she “disseminated false information” by telling her students about the siege of Mariupol and Russian airstrikes killing children in Ukraine.

Ms Gen was slapped with charges in March after one of her students posted online a recording of her explaining to the class why they could no longer travel to Europe for a sports competition.

You can read Nataliya's report in full here.

08:18 AM

Norwegian consul caught on CCTV saying she 'hates Russians'

07:53 AM

Three grain ships set to leave Ukraine

Three ships loaded with grain left Ukrainian ports on Friday under a recently concluded safe passage deal, the Turkish defenсe ministry said.

"We expect that the security guarantees of our partners from the UN and Turkey will continue to work, and food exports from our ports will become stable and predictable for all market participants," Ukrainian Infrastructure Mnister Oleksandr Kubrakov said on Facebook after the ships set off.

In a rare diplomatic breakthrough in the five-month war, the United Nations and Turkey have brokered a safe passage deal between Moscow and Kyiv, after the United Nations warned of famines due to Ukrainian grain shipments being halted.

On Friday, two grain ships set off from Chornomorsk and one from Odesa, with a total of about 58,000 tonnes of corn.

The Turkish Defence Ministry said on Twitter the Panama-flagged Navistar, carrying 33,000 tonnes of corn bound for Ireland, departed from Odesa.

The Maltese-flagged Rojen, carrying 13,000 tonnes of corn, departed from Chornomorsk port bound for Britain. The Turkish-flagged ship Polarnet, carrying 12,000 tonnes of corn, set off from Chornomorsk for the Turkish Black Sea port of Karasu.

The Turkish bulk carrier Osprey S, flying the flag of Liberia, was expected to arrive in Ukraine's Chornomorsk port on Friday, the regional administration of Odesa said. It would be the first ship to arrive at a Ukrainian port during the war.

07:31 AM

Russia 'ready' to discuss prisoner exchange after Brittney Griner verdict

Russia has said it is ready to discuss prisoner swaps with Washington through an existing diplomatic channel, a day after basketball star Brittney Griner was handed a nine-year prison sentence for a drugs offence.

"We are ready to discuss this topic, but within the framework of the channel that was agreed upon by Presidents Putin and Biden," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

"If the Americans decide to once again resort to public diplomacy... that is their business and I would even say that it is their problem."

The Kremlin had previously warned the United States against resorting to "megaphone diplomacy" in the case of Ms Griner, saying it could only derail efforts to secure a potential swap.

Ms Griner's sentence - which Joe Biden called "unacceptable" - could pave the way for a US-Russia prisoner swap that would include the 31-year-old athlete and a prolific Russian arms dealer.

The Unites States has already made what Secretary of State Antony Blinken called a "substantial offer" to secure the release of Americans detained in Russia, including Griner and former Marine Paul Whelan.

07:08 AM

Intentions around Zaporizhzhia power plant 'unclear'

Russia's intentions around the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant remain "unclear", the Ministry of Defence has said, while adding Russian forces were likely operating in the regions adjacent to the power station.

"The actions they have undertaken at the facility have likely undermined the security and safety of the plant’s normal operations," the ministry wrote on Twitter on Friday.

"Russian forces have probably used the wider facility area, in particular the adjacent city of Enerhodar, to rest their forces, utilising the protected status of the nuclear power plant to reduce the risk to their equipment and personnel from overnight Ukrainian attacks."

05:18 AM

Russia's foreign minister attends summit amid tensions

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov joined US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and China's foreign minister at a meeting on Friday during a time of increased tensions.

The East Asia Summit of the ongoing Association of Southeast Asian Nations meetings in Cambodia's capital was the first time the three men were scheduled to take part in the same forum.

According to a report by AP, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi patted Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on the shoulder as he entered the room and gave the already-seated Mr Lavrov a quick wave before taking his own seat. Mr Lavrov waved back in response.

Mr Blinken, who entered the room last, supposedly did not even look at Mr Lavrov or Mr Yi as he took his own seat about a half-dozen chairs away.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn, opened the talks saying he hoped that all delegates would use the forum as a "means of engagement and communication" with one another.

"Every year we have our set of challenges to address but I have to say that never before, not like this year, have we been confronted with so many perils at the same time," he said.

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the summit - AFP
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the summit - AFP

04:13 AM

US urges Russia to accept prisoner swap after Griner sentencing

The United States has implored Russia to accept a prisoner exchange after basketball star Brittney Griner was sentenced on Thursday to nine years in a Russian penal colony for drug smuggling.

"It's a serious proposal. We urge them to accept it. They should have accepted it weeks ago when we first made it," White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said.

Washington has offered to exchange Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout, who is serving a 25 year-prison sentence in the United States, for Griner and former US Marine Paul Whelan.

US basketball player Brittney Griner - Shutterstock
US basketball player Brittney Griner - Shutterstock

03:18 AM

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02:54 AM

Three grain shipments to leave Ukraine on Friday

Three more ships filled with grain will sail from Ukraine on Friday under a UN-backed deal lifting Russia's blockade of the Black Sea, Turkey's defence minister said.

"It is planned that three ships will set sail (on Friday) from Ukraine," Anadolu state news agency quoted Defence Minister Hulusi Akar as saying, one day after the first ship passed Istanbul on its way to Lebanon.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu discussed the agreement's implementation by phone with UN chief Antonio Guterres.

It comes as Moscow and Kyiv agreed in Istanbul last month to resume shipments of wheat and other grain from Ukrainian ports for the first time since Russia invaded its neighbour in February.

02:34 AM

War prisoners' loved ones demand answers

Family members of war prisoners captured following the fall of Mariupol gathered in Kyiv on Thursday, demanding answers about their loved ones following a strike on a prison in a separatist region of eastern Ukraine.

The strike last week reportedly killed and injured dozens.

One of those gathered was Eugenia Vasylieva, who last saw her husband Valeriy Vasyliev in Mariupol on the night of February 24, the day of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Her seven-year-old daughter Zlata Vasylieva, holding a placard calling for her father's return, said: "I want my dad to be alive and that he never die."

Relatives of war prisoners hold placards during a protest - AFP
Relatives of war prisoners hold placards during a protest - AFP
Protesters, mostly relatives, attend a rally in support of Ukrainian soldiers from the Azov Regiment  - AP
Protesters, mostly relatives, attend a rally in support of Ukrainian soldiers from the Azov Regiment - AP

01:48 AM

Today's top stories

  • Amnesty International has accused the Ukrainian army of endangering civilians and violating humanitarian law in their fight against Russian invaders

  • US Women's basketball star Brittney Griner has been sentenced to nine years in prison for bringing vape cartridges filled with cannabis oil into Russia

  • A female commander in the Russian army who “boasted of how she enjoyed killing Ukrainians” has become the Kremlin's first senior woman officer to die in the conflict, according to reports

  • Russian forces are engaged in considerable military activity, firing from tanks, barrel and rocket artillery in several parts of Ukraine, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces has said

  • Eight people were killed and four have been wounded by Russian artillery shelling in the eastern Ukrainian town of Toretsk in the Donetsk region, the regional governor said