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Ukraine news – live: Putin claims ‘Satan 2’ nuclear missiles will be ready by year end

·38-min read
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Russia’s newly-tested Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missiles, nicknamed “Satan 2”, will be ready to deploy by the end of the year, Vladimir Putin has claimed.

Officials in Moscow have previously boasted the missiles – which are capable of carrying 10 or more nuclear warheads and decoys – could strike Britain in just “200 seconds”.

Mr Putin’s remarks came as his ally Nikolai Patrushev, the head of Russia’s security council, threatened that Lithuania’s population would face “serious negative” consequences if Vilnius continues to block Russian goods from travelling by rail to Kaliningrad, an enclave held by Moscow since 1945.

The EU has told Russia that Lithuania is not acting alone, with Markus Ederer, the bloc’s ambassador in Moscow, saying Vilnius was simply “implementing EU sanctions”.

In Ukraine, the governor of Luhansk said the situation in the eastern Donbas region is “extremely difficult”, warning that Russia is preparing for a large-scale offensive.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has warned Moscow is likely to increase its attacks in the build-up to an EU summit on Thursday and Friday.

Key Points

  • Putin claims ‘Satan 2’ nuclear missiles will be ready to deploy by year’s end

  • Ukraine has stopped Russia controlling Black Sea, claims UK

  • Second US citizen killed fighting Ukraine

  • Ben Stiller visits Ukraine on World Refugee Day, calls Zelensky ‘my hero’

  • Russian attacks to increase this week ahead of EU summit, says Zelensky

Russian demotions show Kremlin’s ‘ongoing dysfunction’, says ISW

08:14 , Rory Sullivan

Moscow’s decision to replace some of its top commanders shows the “ongoing dysfunction in the Kremlin’s conduct of the war”, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) has said.

See here for the US think tank’s latest update on the situation in Ukraine:

Putin to mark WWII anniversary

07:56 , Rory Sullivan

Russian prresident Vladimir Putin will today mark the Nazis’ invasion of the Soviet Union in World War Two by laying flowers to honour the dead.

The German invasion lasted 1,418 days from 22 June, 1941, and caused the deaths of an estimated 27 million Soviet soldiers and civilians.

The day is also commemorated in Belarus and Ukraine, the country which Putin invaded on 24 Febuary. Thousands of Ukrainian civilians have been killed so far as a result of the war, according to the UN.

Ukrainian journalist and soldier ‘coldly executed’ by Russian troops, RSF claims

07:39 , Rory Sullivan

A Ukrainian photojournalist was “coldly executed” along with the soldier who was accompanying him soon after Vladimir Putin’s invasion, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said in a report on Wednesday.

Maks Levin and Oleksiy Chernyshov went missing on 13 March north of Kyiv while they were searching for this drone. Their bodies were found on 1 April in woods close to the capital.

Their burned car was riddled with more than a dozen bullet holes, according to investigators.

A bullet was discovered near Levin’s body, with RSF concluding that “he was probably killed with one, perhaps two bullets fired at close range when he was already on the ground”.

Indonesian president to visit Ukraine and Russia

07:25 , Rory Sullivan

Indonesian president Joko Widodo will visit leaders in Ukraine and Russia next week in an attempt to call for peace.

Mr Widodo, the current chair of the G20, has resisted pressure from some western countries to exclude Russia from the intergovernmental forum.

“The president is showing compassion on the humanitarian crisis, will try to contribute to the food crisis caused by the war, and the impact felt on all countries, especially the developing and low-income ones,” foreign minister Retno Marsudi said.

“And he’ll keep pushing for the spirit of peace,” she added.

Russia suffering ‘extraordinary attrition’ in Donbas, claims British defence ministry

06:36 , Arpan Rai

Russia is facing “extraordinary attrition” in Ukraine’s eastern region and it is likely that the pro-Russian forces in Donetsk are using outdated weapons, the British defence ministry said on Wednesday.

Pointing out that Russia has not released the overall military casualties in Ukraine since 25 March, the MoD said: “However, the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) publishes casualty figures for DPR forces. As of 16 June, the DPR acknowledged 2128 military personnel killed in action, and 8897 wounded, since the start of 2022.”

It added: “The DPR casualty rate is equivalent to around 55 per cent of its original force, which highlights the extraordinary attrition Russian and pro-Russian forces are suffering in the Donbas”.

According to the British intelligence, it is “highly likely that DPR forces are equipped with outdated weapons and equipment”.

“On both sides, the ability to generate and deploy reserve units to the front is likely becoming increasingly critical to the outcome of the war,” the ministry said in its latest intelligence update.

From the front line in Ukraine, the ministry said that heavy shelling continues as “Russia pushes to envelop the Sieverodonetsk area via Izium in the north and Popasna in the south”.

“Russia is highly likely preparing to attempt to deploy a large number of reserve units to the Donbas,” the ministry said.

Ukraine set to become EU member on Thursday, diplomats say

06:15 , Arpan Rai

Ukraine is likely to become an official member of the European Union bloc on Thursday, diplomats from the union and ministers said, in a symbolic move four months after it was invaded by Russia.

Officials from EU are set to sign off tomorrow, at a summit in Brussels, recommendations made by the European Commission last week.

Luxembourg’s foreign affairs minister Jean Asselborn, ahead of a meeting with other EU ministers, said: “We are working towards the point where we tell [Russian President Vladimir] Putin that Ukraine belongs to Europe, that we will also defend the values that Ukraine defends.”

“There is not a single country which makes problems with the proposal. We will show great unanimity,” Mr Asselborn said.

According to several diplomats, no countries raised objections at a meeting of the bloc’s ambassadors earlier this week.

Russian attacks on Luhansk intensify: ‘Everything that can burn is on fire'

05:22 , Arpan Rai

Officials in Ukraine’s eastern areas have said that the Russian attacks laid down a curtain of fire on Tuesday as it continues to increase its territorial control over the separatist territories.

“Today everything that can burn is on fire,” said Serhiy Haidai, governor of Ukraine‘s eastern Luhansk region.

Sievierodonetsk, the hot spot of intense military fighting, is being turned “into ruins”, the governor said.

He added that about 500 civilians are sheltering at the Azot chemical plant.

“It is a sheer catastrophe,” Mr Haidai said about the fighting around the plant.

“Our positions are being fired at from howitzers, multiple rocket launchers, large-caliber artillery, missile strikes,” he said.

Ukraine fighting for modern weapons, EU candidacy, says Zelensky

04:26 , Arpan Rai

Ukraine is fighting every day with Russian soldiers and is awaiting the supply of modern weapons, Volodymyr Zelensky said late on Tuesday.

He added that the lives of thousands in the war-battered country depends on the country’s allies.

“...And just as actively as we fight for a positive decision of the European Union on the candidacy for Ukraine, we fight every day for the supply of modern weapons for our country. We do not decrease our activity for a single day,” Mr Zelensky said.

He added: “The lives of thousands of people depend directly on the speed of our partners - on the speed of implementation of their decisions to help Ukraine.”

He confirmed that the situation on battle lines has not changed significantly but added that the offensive is increasing in the separatist region of Donetsk.

“With the help of tactical moves, the Ukrainian army is strengthening its defense in the Luhansk region, which is really the toughest area right now. The occupiers are also putting serious pressure on the Donetsk direction. In the Kharkiv region there is brutal and cynical Russian artillery shelling,” Mr Zelensky said.

He added: “It will not give anything to the occupiers, but the Russian army is deaf to any rationality. It simply destroys, simply kills - in this way it shows its command that it is not standing still.”

In the south, he said, Ukraine is defending Mykolaiv region, “our Zaporizhzhia, and gradually liberate the Kherson region”.

Lithuanians near Kaliningrad put faith in Nato after Russia’s threats

03:59 , Andy Gregory

Russia’s threat to punish Lithuania over blocked rail shipments to Moscow’s enclave of Kaliningrad jangled nerves on Tuesday for residents living just across the border who put faith in Nato membership to thwart any potential military action.

Lithuania has shut the route for transport of steel and other ferrous metals, which it says it is required to do under EU sanctions that took effect on Saturday, raising the ire of Russian officials who threatened a “serious negative impact.”

Insurance worker Vitalijus Sidiskis, 59, said that while he believed it was difficult to predict what Russia might do, he would remain calm because of Lithuania’s membership in the European Union and Nato.

“Nothing bad will happen ... because Lithuania is in Nato and in the European Union,” he told Reuters. “I don’t believe that they will be aggressively attacking us.”

Other residents in the border town of nearly 6,000 said the threats from Russia had overshadowed other problems, such as sky-high inflation that has hit the pocketbooks of many Lithuanians.

“We work nearby to the border and the shooting and the maneuvers are a bit worrying,” Galina Mateikuniene, a 52-year-old seamstress said. “We are probably more afraid of war, of an invasion. The economy is the economy.”

Draft text points to EU candidacy for Ukraine and Moldova, report suggests

03:02 , Andy Gregory

According to the Wall Street Journal’s Laurence Norman, a draft conclusion text of the looming EU summit states: “The European Council has decided to grant the status of candidate country to Ukraine and to the Republic of Moldova.”

EU leaders in Brussels are expected to sign off on last week's recommendation by the European Commission that Ukraine be granted candidate status, with three diplomats telling Reuters on Tuesday that after several days of internal EU discussions no opposition among the 27 member states had surfaced.

A French presidential official, whose country heads the EU until the end of June, told reporters in a briefing he was confident none of the 27 would block candidacy status for Ukraine and Moldova.

“We are forging consensus. At this moment I can’t say all 27 are agreed but there is reasonable hope to quickly get an agreement on Ukraine and Moldova at the EU Council,” they said.

Watch: Ukraine visa scheme ‘a big problem’, says engineer after his family flee to UK

02:06 , Andy Gregory

A Ukrainian engineer who has helped dozens of refugees get to the UK after his own close family made it out of Mariupol says the visa system remains “shambolic” and is getting worse, my colleague Oliver Browning reports.

Anton Ievsiushkin, 38, contrasted the “amazing” help his sister, niece, mother and grandmother have had from the British public with the government scheme.

He believes the visa challenges are made to discourage refugees from applying.

Mr Ievsiushkin began helping families settle in the UK after his twin sister Anastasiia and her now five-month-old daughter fled from Mariupol in March.

Canada seeking pathway to enable German gas flow amid Russian sanctions

01:10 , Reuters

Ottawa is evaluating options to help restore German gas supplies as a crucial Nord Stream 1 pipeline part is stranded in Canada due to Russian sanctions, Canada’s natural resources minister has said.

Gazprom’s Nord Stream 1 pipeline has been forced to reduce capacity as it waits for the turbine, which is being serviced in Canada. Sanctions on Russia make it impossible for German equipment supplier Siemens Energy to receive the pipeline part, the company said last week.

“We want to respect the sanctions because the sanctions were put into place for a reason,” resources minister Jonathan Wilkinson told Bloomberg. “That being said, the intent of the sanctions was never to cause significant pain to Germany, which is one of our closest friends and allies. So we are very seized with this issue.”

“We are talking to Germany, trying to find a pathway through which we can actually enable the flow of gas,” Mr Wilkinson said. “There may be different options that we can look at.”

Russia has said the pipeline is delivering less gas to Europe due to the slow return of Siemens-made equipment from Canada. European leaders such as German chancellor Olaf Scholz have questioned whether the cut in flows is politically motivated rather than a technical issue.

A natural resources ministry spokesman confirmed the accuracy of the comments, saying they were in line with an official statement issued last week.

Ireland will ‘walk every step’ of Ukraine’s journey to EU

Wednesday 22 June 2022 00:15 , Andy Gregory

Ireland’s Taoiseach Micheal Martin has said he was “delighted” to speak with Voldomyr Zelensky ahead of a summit this week in which the EU will discuss Ukraine’s potential candidacy for ascension to the bloc.

Despite the European Commission’s endorsement, it is likely to take years or even decades to lead to EU membership for Ukraine.

Mr Martin, who said previously that the process to apply to join the EU is “complex and challenging”, has been a vocal advocate for Ukraine’s fast-tracked membership of the EU, and has used Ireland as an example of how a country can develop through EU membership.

“It requires considerable work on the part of the country looking to join,” he said. “Ireland is ready to walk every step of that journey with Ukraine, providing whatever support and encouragement we can along the way.”

Zelensky invites Irish premier to Ukraine

Tuesday 21 June 2022 23:40 , Andy Gregory

Volodymyr Zelensky has invited Irish premier Micheal Martin to visit Ukraine, after the two leaders shop ahead of a summit this week where leadrs will discuss Ukraine’s potential EU candidacy status.

The Ukrainian president said that he spoke to Mr Martin “on the eve of the historic” European Council meeting and thanked Ireland for its “active support of Ukraine’s European aspirations” and the status of a candidate for EU membership.

Mr Zelensky said he invited Mr Martin “to make the first visit to Ukraine in the history of bilateral relations”.

He has spoken to several EU leaders on Tuesday ahead of the summit, including Hungary’s Viktor Orban, who he also invited to visit Ukraine.

Estonia summons Russian ambassador over airspace breach

Tuesday 21 June 2022 22:47 , Andy Gregory

Estonia has summoned the Russian ambassador in response the violation of its national airspace by a Russian helicopter on Saturday, the country’s foreign ministry has said.

“Estonia considers this an extremely serious and regrettable incident that undoubtedly causes additional tensions and is completely unacceptable,” the ministry said, repeating calls for Russian troops to leave Ukraine.

Report from Siversk: Residents brace for the coming Russian storm

Tuesday 21 June 2022 21:59 , Andy Gregory

In his latest dispatch from the Donbas region, our defence and security editor Kim Sengupta reports:

The residents left in Siversk are bracing themselves for the coming storm. And there is plenty of evidence of the suffering already inflicted on the town. A destroyed school, used as a shelter, where five people died in a bombing. A row of houses damaged by a missile strike, which killed another three. The acrid smoke from a plant where agricultural seeds were set on fire by shelling.

There has been no gas, no electricity, and no water for a month. Aid runs are irregular because of artillery fire on the road, and the lack of internet and telephone coverage means that it is difficult to know when and where distributions will take place. The town’s hospital, without power and extremely short of medicine, has turned its basement into a shelter. Around half of the population of 11,000 has left the town, but others are determined to stick it out.

“We are not running like those rats: we are staying. This is our home, our country; this is Ukraine, not Russia. That’ll never change,” declares Iryna outside a block of burnt-out apartments. “They are trying to drive out everyone from here, [and to] kill those who stay. They are making this place empty of people.”

There are frequent explosions in the background as she speaks. Quite a few blocks have taken direct hits, and residents spend their time in bunkers under buildings, which have been divided into sleeping cells. They gather outside during the day, when there is a lull in the fighting, to socialise – eating food cooked over open fires, built using the wood from cut-down trees – and take turns to visit people who are too ill or infirm to leave their homes.

You can read his full dispatch here.

Tuesday 21 June 2022 21:15 , Andy Gregory

Alla Oleneik, a 67-year-old whose home in the frontline town of Siversk became uninhabitable after a missile strike, told The Independent: “We know the Russians are not far away. Lysychansk is close, Sievierodonetsk is just across the river. So we are not going to avoid the fighting here.”

“Putin wants the Donbas, we know that,” she added. “We heard there are leaders in Europe who want to end the war by Ukraine giving up this area to the Russians. But we are the ones who live here – and we are not prepared to just give up our land or become Russians. How can they expect us to accept them after the way they have behaved, killing and destroying?”

You can read more in Kim Sengupta’s latest dispatch from Ukraine:

‘The Russians are not far away’: A town is braced for Putin’s advancing forces

Cyberattacks and information warfare in Ukraine are a ‘crystal ball’, Google executive says

Tuesday 21 June 2022 20:29 , AP

A Google executive warned the UN Security Council today that cyberattacks, disinformation and other forms of information warfare being waged in Ukraine are a “crystal ball” for future problems elsewhere.

“States must find a way to turn the volume down and settle on some kind of deterrence doctrine for the cyber domain,” Jared Cohen said at a council meeting on hate speech, incitement and atrocities in Ukraine.

He argued that while tech companies have needed expertise, “there is no magical algorithm or single fix for this,” and finding a solution will take a lot of experimentation.

Mr Cohen heads Jigsaw, a part of Google that aims to build technology to combat disinformation, censorship and extremism online.

He said Ukraine “has been disproportionately targeted” by advanced cyberattacks since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, adding: “It is essentially our crystal ball for what is likely to come.”

Ukraine targets Snake Island

Tuesday 21 June 2022 19:58 , Andy Gregory

Ukraine is targeting the strategically important Black Sea landmass known Snake Island, contested since it was seized by Russia at the outset of Vladimir Putin’s invasion.

The Ukrainian military’s southern operational command claimed in a social media post that the island “was dealt a concentrated blow with the use of various forces and methods of destruction”, leading to “significant” Russian losses.

“The military operation continues and requires information silence until its completion,” it said in an update.

At least 15 killed in Kharkiv region, governor claims

Tuesday 21 June 2022 19:33 , Andy Gregory

At least 15 civilians have been killed by Russian shelling today in Ukraine’s Kharkiv region, its governor has claimed.

‘Appalling’ that US citizens could face death sentence, White House says

Tuesday 21 June 2022 19:14 , Andy Gregory

White House national security council spokesman John Kirby has said the suggestion that Americans captured in eastern Ukraine could face the death sentence is “appalling”.

The Kremlin said earlier today that it did not know the location of two Americans – Alexander Drueke, 39, and Andy Huynh, 27 – who were captured while fighting in eastern Ukraine, but that they were mercenaries and could be sentenced to death in Russian-backed breakaway territories.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said in a call with reporters that Moscow could not rule out that the two captured men, both from Alabama, would be sentenced to death if put on trial in a separatist territory.

Italy’s Draghi vows to continue to support Ukraine amid political discontent over arms exports

Tuesday 21 June 2022 18:53 , Andy Gregory

Italy’s Mario Draghi has said his government will continue to support Ukraine, appearing to shrug off suggestions from one of his coalition partners that Rome should halt arms exports to Kyiv.

The prime minister told Italy’s parliament that pressure had to be put on Russia to make it cease fighting and seek negotiations, saying: “Only a peace that is mutually agreed and not imposed can last.”

Referring to a vote in March where lawmakers gave the go-ahead for arms shipments, he added: “The Italian government together with the European Union and G7 partners intends to continue to support Ukraine as this parliament has told us to do.”

Following Mr Draghi’s speech, Italy’s parliament approved a resolution which urged him to continue to involve parliament in decisions concerning the war in Ukraine, including arms transfers.

His comments came against a backdrop of growing discontent within the 5-Star Movement, the largest party in parliament, over continued weapons transfers to Ukraine, with rumours of a potential split by supporters of foreign minister Luigi Di Maio to establish a new centrist group.

White House accuses Putin of ‘weaponising’ food

Tuesday 21 June 2022 18:36 , Andy Gregory

Vladimir Putin is weaponising food by blocking Ukraine grain exports, the White House has said.

US president Joe Biden is examining options on how to get the grain out, according to national security spokesperson John Kirby, who added: “President Putin is, no kidding, weaponising food.

“Let's just call it what it is, he's weaponising food.”

Russia captures settlement near Lysychansk, regional governor says

Tuesday 21 June 2022 17:55 , Andy Gregory

Russian forces have captured a settlement some 11 miles southeast of the embattled city of Lysychansk in the Luhansk region, its governor has said.

“Unfortunately, the enemy threw at it huge amounts of armament and soldiers, and captured Thskivka,” Serhiy Gaidai told Ukraine’s national broadcaster.

Russian heavy artillery is shelling Lysychansk intensively, but Ukrainian forces are holding the ground there, he added.

Mass mobilisation in Russia ‘about to happen’, western officials claim

Tuesday 21 June 2022 17:33 , Andy Gregory

Western officials have indicated that mass mobilisation is “about to happen” in Russia, with the Kremlin recruiting people in poorer regions to fight in Ukraine.

Moscow is “concerned” about mobilisation as it would be an “admission of failure” in what was intended to be a quick, clean operation in Ukraine and has turned into a slow and grinding conflict, officials said, in comments reported by the Press Assocation, a news agency based in the UK and Ireland.

Because the Kremlin also fears that country-wide mobilisation could stoke unrest in cities, it is attempting to increase the pool of fighters by “doing very significant recruitment” in poor areas and raising the age limit for serving, officials said.

Russia ‘to hold talks with Turkey' over possible Black Sea grain corridor

Tuesday 21 June 2022 17:11 , Andy Gregory

Russia’s defence ministry will hold talks with Turkey about the possible creation of a Black Sea corridor for Ukrainian grain supplies, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has been reported as saying.

Vladimir Putin does not plan to take part in these talks, Mr Peskov was quoted as saying by the Tass news agency.

A Turkish military delegation will travel to Russia this week to discuss details of the possible corridor, Turkish broadcasters reported earlier today, citing sources from Turkey's presidency.

Dispatch from Siversk: Inside the town braced for the coming storm of Putin’s forces

Tuesday 21 June 2022 16:55 , Andy Gregory

In his latest dispatch from Ukraine, our defence and security editor Kim Sengupta reports:

In the general store on the outskirts of Siversk, the shelves are mostly empty and the dwindling stock is sold by the owner at giveaway prices to customers in need. Locals gather from time to time on the porch outside to exchange news.

It is a nondescript building of no strategic significance, but it has repeatedly been targeted by the Russians. The reason for these attacks? Worker Igor Klimenko points at a Ukrainian flag flying on the roof.

Mortar rounds have whizzed past the shop ever since he put up the flag. “They have drones in the air and I’m sure they have seen it. Some people around here have asked me to take it down, but I’m not going to. Anyway, they are bad shots, they keep missing,” he says, gesturing towards holes in a field at the back.

Few of the buildings in Siversk have escaped the Russian attacks. This small town, away from the main urban centres, is on the front line in eastern Ukraine, and has been in the firing line ever since Vladimir Putin ordered his February invasion.

Siversk will be directly in the path of Russian troops if they manage to capture the twin cities of Lysychansk and Sievierodonetsk, thus seizing the whole of the Luhansk area to use as a launchpad for an assault on the rest of the Donbas.

You can read his full report here:

‘The Russians are not far away’: A town is braced for Putin’s advancing forces

Putin spokesman denies Russia is holding US basketball player hostage

Tuesday 21 June 2022 16:33 , Andy Gregory

Vladimir Putin’s top spokesman has disputed the US State Department’s assertion that WNBA star Brittney Griner is being held “hostage”, my colleague Bevan Hurley reports.

Dmitry Peskov told NBC News that Ms Griner was being prosecuted in accordance with Russian law after she was allegedly found with cannabis vape cartridges in her luggage, and gave no indication when the Olympic basketball star might be released.

“Why should we make an exemption for a foreign citizen?” Mr Peskov said. “She violated Russian law, and now she’s being prosecuted. It’s not about being a hostage. There are lots of American citizens here. They’re enjoying their freedoms … but you have to obey the laws.”

In May, the US State Department designated Ms Griner as wrongfully detained and moved her case under the supervision of its Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs, effectively the government’s chief hostage negotiator.

Mr Peskov said he could not comment on why Ms Griner hadn’t instead been denied entry, or sent home, instead of being incarcerated.

Putin spokesman denies Russia is holding Brittney Griner hostage

Putin claims ‘Satan 2’ nuclear missiles will be ready to deploy by year’s end

Tuesday 21 June 2022 15:59 , Andy Gregory

Russia’s newly-tested Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missiles – capable of carrying 10 or more nuclear warheads and decoys – will be deployed for duty by the end of the year, Vladimir Putin has claimed.

Officials in Moscow have previously boasted the missiles, nicknamed “Satan 2”, could strike Britain in just “200 seconds”.

Pledging on Tuesday in televised comments that Russia will “continue to develop and strengthen our armed forces, taking into account potential military threats and risks”, the Russian president said that the newly tested missiles would be ready by the year’s end.

In April, Dmitry Rogozin, the head of the Roscosmos space agency, said that Russia planned to deploy the new missiles by this autumn.

Future EU sanctions ‘could target gold'

Tuesday 21 June 2022 15:39 , Andy Gregory

Gold could be a possible target of new European Union sanctions against Russia, officials have said.

A draft conclusion of the EU summit this week, seen by Reuters and dated 20 June, reportedly states that “work will continue on sactions, including to strengthen implementation and prevent circumvention”.

The text represents a compromise between Nordic and eastern countries which pushed for a clear reference to a seventh package of sanctions in the summit statement, and nations such as Germany and Belgium which want to focus on applying existing measures rather than immediately adding more.

In a previous version of the text there was no mention of more work on sanctions, with the tweak representing a win for hawks – but, in line with Germany’s wishes, the new text does not explicitly refer to a seventh package, Reuters reported.

Although no new package is currently being prepared, work is ongoing to identify sectors that could be hit, officials told the news agency, with gold – a crucial asset for the Russian Central Bank – being considered as one of the next potential targets, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters.

And a spokesperson for the Danish ambassador to the EU told the agency that, at a closed-door meeting of EU envoys last week, Denmark suggested further sanctions could include gold.

Europe ‘cannot defend itself’ without the US, Polish minister says

Tuesday 21 June 2022 15:14 , Andy Gregory

Europe “cannot defend itself” without the United States, Poland’s foreign minister has said, describing Washington’s engagement in European security as “a fundamental condition of peace in Europe”.

At a gathering of Polish ambassadors, Zbigniew Rau credited US leadership in Nato as being key to a decision for a “rapid and effective adaptation to the Russian threat in 2016”, in comments carried by the state news agency PAP.

It was then that Nato increased its presence on the eastern flank of Nato following Russia’s seizure of Crimea in 2014 and its support for pro-Moscow insurgents in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.

After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the US this year deployed more soldiers to Poland and is using the country as a hub for weapons going to help the Ukrainians.

“The current crisis clearly shows that without the United States, Europe cannot defend itself,” Mr Rau said. He expressed gratitude to Washington but said it should not have to take “all the responsibility”, which also “rests on the shoulders” of European allies.

US attorney general to visit Ukraine to discuss war crimes

Tuesday 21 June 2022 14:49 , Andy Gregory

US attorney general Merrick Garland will visit Ukraine today to discuss efforts to identify, arrest and prosecute those involved in war crimes and other atrocities committed during Russia's invasion, a Justice Department official has said.

Mr Garland will meet with Ukrainian Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova, the official said.

UK will seek to ‘drain the grain from Ukraine’, Boris Johnson tells Cabinet

Tuesday 21 June 2022 14:25 , Andy Gregory

Boris Johnson has promised the UK will be “steadfast” in supporting Ukrainians as he warned of “growing fatigue” around the conflict and said any concessions to Vladimir Putin would be a “disaster”.

The UK prime minister vowed to ensure “fresh political, military and financial support from the international community” to the war-torn country, his official spokesman said today.

“The prime minister’s concern is that it may not be at the forefront of everyone’s minds, because of ... some of those wider global challenges we’re facing, not least on inflation around the world,” according to the official.

Mr Johnson has told his Cabinet that “we must not allow anyone to believe that making concessions to Putin would lead to anything but disaster”, as this could be “perceived to be a reward for their unwarranted aggression” and “would embolden not just Russia but their allies and have an impact on UK security and on our economy,” the spokesperson said.

At the Cabinet meeting, Mr Johnson also said Britain would work to “drain the grain from Ukraine” as “the bombardment of cities and infrastructure and the blockade of ports is crippling Ukraine’s ability to export its produce”.

Boris Johnson speaks during a cabinet meeting in Downing Street on Tuesday (Carl Court/Pool via REUTERS)
Boris Johnson speaks during a cabinet meeting in Downing Street on Tuesday (Carl Court/Pool via REUTERS)

Much of east Ukraine ‘on fire’, says Luhansk governor

Tuesday 21 June 2022 13:55 , Rory Sullivan

Russian assaults have left much of eastern Ukraine “on fire”, the governor of Luhansk region has said. “Today everything that can burn is on fire,” Serhiy Haidai told AP.

Speaking about the situation at a besieged chemical plant on the outskirts of the heavily-destroyed city Sievierodonetsk, Mr Haidai said: “It is a sheer catastrophe.

“Our positions are being fired at from howitzers, multiple rocket launchers, large-caliber artillery, missile strikes.”

Russia denies knowing where two US captives are being held

Tuesday 21 June 2022 13:30 , Rory Sullivan

Moscow has said it does not know the location of two Americans captured by pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine.

This follows unconfirmed reports that Alexander Drueke, 39, and Andy Huynh, 27, were being held in Donetsk province.

Earlier this month, three men - two Britons and one Moroccan - were sentenced to death by a court in self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) for fighting for Ukraine.

UK will impose more sanctions against Russia, says Truss

Tuesday 21 June 2022 13:05 , Rory Sullivan

Britain will continue to impose new sanctions against Russia until it permanently withdraws from Ukraine, foreign secretary Liz Truss has said.

“We are determined to provide more weapons, impose more sanctions and back Ukraine in pushing Russia out of their territory,” she told MPs on Tuesday.

“We will continue to impose sanctions, we will continue to stop importing goods from Russia until we see Russia fully withdraw from Ukraine,” she added.

Ms Truss will travel to Turkey on Wednesday to discuss ways to get grain out of Odesa, which is being blockaded by Moscow.

Independent Russian TV to relaunch in exile

Tuesday 21 June 2022 12:44 , Rory Sullivan

The independent Russian TV channel Dozhd plans to start broadcasting from abroad, its editor has said.

Tikhon Dzyadko was among the employees who fled the country in March as the Kremlin cracked down on independent media in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine.

Speaking from Georgia, Mr Dzyadko told Reuters: “The page of Russian modern history called independent journalism has been turned.”

He expressed his hopes that the channel becomes “a real problem for Russian propaganda”, suggesting there is a way “through this media Iron Curtain in Russia”.

“We want to be a huge headache for them,” said Ekaterina Kotrikadze, the channel’s news director, added.

The channel will broadcast from Tbilisi, Riga and Amsterdam in the coming weeks.

Russia targets airfield near Odesa

Tuesday 21 June 2022 12:12 , Rory Sullivan

Russia claims to have struck an airfield near Odesa in response to Ukrainian attacks against Kremlin-linked drilling operations in the Black Sea.

Moscow’s defence ministry said on Tuesday that its missiles hit their target near the port city.

The Independent was unable to verify the report.

Ukraine arrests two senior figures on suspicion of spying for Russia

Tuesday 21 June 2022 11:51 , Rory Sullivan

A senior Ukrainian government official and a business leader have been detained on suspicion of spying for Russia, Ukraine’s security service (SBU) has said.

The SBU did not name the individuals, but said they worked in the Secretariat of the Cabinet of Ministers and at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

“These officials passed on various intelligence information to the enemy: from the state of our defence capability to arrangements at the state border and personal data of Ukrainian law enforcement officers,” the SBU claimed.

Russia has not commented on the development.

Moscow threatens ‘serious negative impact’ against Lithuanian population

Tuesday 21 June 2022 11:25 , Rory Sullivan

Lithuania will suffer “a serious negative impact” if it continues to block Russian goods bound to the enclave of Kaliningrad, one of Vladimir Putin’s top allies has warned.

The warning comes after Lithuania halted the transit of sanctioned products to the Russian-held territory, which is sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania.

Speaking in response on Tuesday, Nikolai Patrushev, who heads Russia‘s Security Council, said: “Russia will certainly respond to such hostile actions.

“Appropriate measures are being worked out in an interdepartmental format and will be taken in the near future,” he was quoted as saying. “Their consequences will have a serious negative impact on the population of Lithuania.”

Markus Ederer, the EU’s ambassador in Moscow, said Lithuania was not taking the action alone. “Lithuania is not taking unilateral measures - it is implementing EU sanctions,” he said.

Ben Stiller meets Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv

Tuesday 21 June 2022 11:14 , Rory Sullivan

Africa ‘taken hostage’ by Russian invasion as food prices soar, Zelensky says

Tuesday 21 June 2022 10:55 , Rory Sullivan

Volodymyr Zelensky has said Africa has been “taken hostage” by Russia, which he accused of stoking global food insecurity by driving up prices.

Cara Anna has more on the story:

Africa ‘taken hostage’ by Russian invasion as food prices soar, Zelensky says

Two captured Americans in Donetsk, reports suggest

Tuesday 21 June 2022 10:31 , Rory Sullivan

Two Americans are being held prisoner by Russian-backed separatists in Donetsk, the Interfax news agency has reported.

Andy Huynh and Alexander Drueke, both from Alabama, were captured earlier in the war.

The report about their whereabouts comes several weeks after three men were sentenced to death by a Donetsk separatist court for fighting for Ukraine.

Britain has accused the separatists of conducting a “sham trial” against Britons Shaun Pinner and Aiden Aslin and Morroccan citizen Brahim Saadoun.

EU united in support of Ukraine’s candidacy status

Tuesday 21 June 2022 10:04 , Rory Sullivan

The EU is united in giving Ukraine candidacy status, following Kyiv’s decision to apply for membership of the bloc, Luxembourg’s foreign affairs minister has said.

“We are working towards the point where we tell Putin that Ukraine belongs to Europe, that we will also defend the values that Ukraine defends,” Jean Asselborn told reporters on Tuesday.

Indonesian president to meet Putin in Moscow later this month

Tuesday 21 June 2022 09:37 , Rory Sullivan

Indonesia’s president will travel to Moscow later this month for talks with Vladimir Putin.

Joko Widodo, who currently chairs the G20, is scheduled to travel to Russia for a meeting on 30 June.

“Yes, that is the president’s agenda,” a security minister told reporters at the presidential palace on Monday. This comes after the visit was confirmed by Russia’s Tass news agency last week.

Russia holds security talks in Kaliningrad after Lithuania blocks rail goods

Tuesday 21 June 2022 09:03 , Rory Sullivan

The head of the Russian Security Council has travelled to the Kaliningrad enclave after Lithuania blocked goods being sent there from Russia.

Nikolai Patrushev will chair a meeting about the security situation in the region, according to the RIA news agency.

This comes after the Kremlin warned that it could take actions against Lithuania over what it called an “openly hostile” move.

“If cargo transit between the Kaliningrad region and the rest of the Russian Federation via Lithuania is not fully restored in the near future, then Russia reserves the right to take actions to protect its national interests,” the Russian foreign ministry said.

ISW: Russia to increase attacks on Sievierodonetsk

Tuesday 21 June 2022 08:42 , Rory Sullivan

As Russia prepares to scale up its operations in Sievierodonetsk, here’s the latest report from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW):

Georgia wants to join Nato, says PM

Tuesday 21 June 2022 08:20 , Rory Sullivan

Georgia wants to join Nato but must solve its territorial disputes with the Kremlin first, its prime minister has said.

Irakli Garibashvili made the comment at an economic conference in Qatar on Tuesday.

Russia Nobel Peace Prize winner sells medal for £84m to raise funds for Ukrainian refugees

Tuesday 21 June 2022 08:03 , Rory Sullivan

A Russian Nobel Peace Prize winner has auctioned off his medal for a record $103.5 million (£84m), with the proceeds to be donated to aid programmes for Ukrainian refugees.

Dmitry Muratov, the editor of Novaya Gazeta, one of Russia’s remaining independent newspapers, was the co-recipient of the awards in 2021.

His prize was auctioned off in the US by Heritage Auctions, who said: “This award is unlike any other auction offering to present.

“Mr Muratov, with the full support of his staff at Novaya Gazeta, is allowing us to auction his medal not as a collectible but as an event that he hopes will positively impact the lives of millions of Ukrainian refugees.”

Ukraine prepares for Russia ‘storm’ in Donbas

Tuesday 21 June 2022 07:25 , Rory Sullivan

Russia gained some territory in Luhansk on Monday and is preparing for a large-scale assault, the governor of the region has said.

“It’s a calm before the storm,” Serhiy Gaidai said.

His comments came as Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said Moscow was likely to increase its attacks in the run-up to an EU summit later this week.

“We are defending Lysychansk, Sievierodonetsk, this whole area, the most difficult one. We have the most difficult fighting there,” he said. “But we have our strong guys and girls there.”

Meanwhile, Rodion Miroshnik, a pro-Russian separatist in Luhansk, said the Kremlin’s forces were advancing towards Lysychansk, near the embattled city of Sievierodonetsk.

“The hours to come should bring considerable changes to the balance of forces in the area,” he said on Telegram.

Ukraine has stopped Russia controlling Black Sea, claims UK

Tuesday 21 June 2022 07:02 , Arpan Rai

Britain’s MoD has claimed that Ukraine’s coastal defence capability has largely rendered Russian attempts to control the sea during its invasion ineffective.

“Ukrainian coastal defence capability has largely neutralised Russia’s ability to establish sea control and project maritime force in the north-western Black Sea,” the defence ministry said in its latest intelligence update.

It added that this edge displayed by Ukraine has “undermined the viability of Russia’s original operational design for the invasion, which involved holding the Odesa region at risk from the sea”.

This comes just days after the Ukrainian forces claimed their first successful use of western-donated Harpoon anti-ship missiles to engage Russian maritime forces.

“The target of the attack was almost certainly the Russian naval tug Spasatel Vasily Bekh, which was delivering weapons and personnel to Snake Island in the north-western Black Sea,” the British defence ministry claimed.

It added: “The destruction of the Russian vessel on a resupply mission demonstrates the difficulty Russia faces when attempting to support their forces occupying Snake Island.”

This is the latest in a series of Russian vessels, including the cruiser Moskva, to be damaged or destroyed by Ukraine during the conflict, the ministry said.

Ben Stiller visits Ukraine on World Refugee Day and calls Zelensky ‘my hero’

Tuesday 21 June 2022 06:27 , Arpan Rai

American actor Ben Stiller made a surprise visit to Poland and Ukraine and said that the war-hit country’s president Volodymyr Zelensky is his “hero”.

Stiller said that seeking safety is a right and it needs to be upheld for every person.

The 56-year-old actor shared a video on his Instagram account and said: “Hey, I’m Ben Stiller, and I’m here in Ukraine. I’m meeting people who’ve been impacted by the war and hearing how it’s changed their lives.”

Stiller, is a long-term Goodwill ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) – the UN refugee agency – and visited Ukraine on World Refugee Day.

Read the full story here:

Ben Stiller visits Ukraine on World Refugee Day and calls Zelensky ‘my hero’

More than 1,500 Ukrainians held in Russian prisons - officials

Tuesday 21 June 2022 06:18 , Arpan Rai

More than 1,500 Ukrainian civilians are currently lodged in prisons in Russia, the Ukrainian deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.

“They are in Rostov, Kursk, they are in jail, they are being held as prisoners of war, although they should not be,” Ms Vereshchuk said in a news briefing.

She added that these civilians include Ukrainian priests, volunteers, activists, journalists, and heads of local government agencies.

Ukraine war close to marking four months: Images from frontline

Tuesday 21 June 2022 05:52 , Arpan Rai

The war in Ukraine will surpass four months this week, with Russia still intensifying its efforts to capture swathes of territory in the eastern part of the country.

Officials have called the situation in Luhansk “extremely difficult” along the entire front line, as Russia has gathered the required reserves to start a large scale offensive.

As of Monday, officials said that the Russian forces have intensified their attacks on two key cities in Donbas ahead of an upcoming EU summit.

Russia calls its action in Ukraine a “special military occupation”.

Here are some visuals of the battle in Ukraine from Monday.

Flames rise from a structure after it was hit by a projectile in Druzhkivka (Getty Images)
Flames rise from a structure after it was hit by a projectile in Druzhkivka (Getty Images)
People take cover as a projectile whistles above after one already hit a structure (Getty Images)
People take cover as a projectile whistles above after one already hit a structure (Getty Images)
An elderly woman is helped onto a train which is taking evacuees trying to escape the front-line war with Russia in Pokrovsk, Ukraine (Getty Images)
An elderly woman is helped onto a train which is taking evacuees trying to escape the front-line war with Russia in Pokrovsk, Ukraine (Getty Images)
Soldiers ride on a tank as it is hauled down the highway near Bakhmut, Ukraine (Getty Images)
Soldiers ride on a tank as it is hauled down the highway near Bakhmut, Ukraine (Getty Images)
Ukrainian servicemen collect destroyed Russian tanks outside the village of Dmytrivka, in Kyiv region (AFP via Getty Images)
Ukrainian servicemen collect destroyed Russian tanks outside the village of Dmytrivka, in Kyiv region (AFP via Getty Images)
Workers of the Liubotinsky Lyceum of Railway Transport and local residents dismantle the ruins of an administrative building, as result of the explosion of a Russian rocket, in Lyubotyn, Kharkiv region (AFP via Getty Images)
Workers of the Liubotinsky Lyceum of Railway Transport and local residents dismantle the ruins of an administrative building, as result of the explosion of a Russian rocket, in Lyubotyn, Kharkiv region (AFP via Getty Images)

Ukraine defending country’s battered east, says Zelensky

Tuesday 21 June 2022 05:25 , Arpan Rai

Volodymyr Zelensky has said his forces are defending the country’s east, which has been witnessing the heaviest Russian onslaught for weeks now, even as the shelling continues.

“Again shelling of Kharkiv, Odesa, again attempts of brutal offensive actions in Donbas. This is an evil that can only be appeased on the battlefield. We are defending Lysychansk and Sievierodonetsk,” Mr Zelensky said.

He added: “This whole region is the most difficult, there are the hardest battles. But our strong boys and girls are there. The occupiers receive responses to their actions against us. I am grateful to the army and intelligence that provide it.”

Mr Zelensky added that as per his predictions, “Russia is very nervous about our activity”.

Second US citizen killed fighting Ukraine

Tuesday 21 June 2022 04:33 , Arpan Rai

A second American citizen was killed in Ukraine last month, the state department confirmed after an obituary was published in a New York daily.

The 52-year-old Stephen Zabielski was killed on 15 May in combat, the obituary published in The Recorder said.

His death was first reported in the news on Monday.

Zabielski was among thousands of foreign fighters who had joined Ukraine’s defence against Russia’s invasion which began on 24 February.

A native of New York, Zabielski is survived by his wife, five stepchildren and a grandchild among other family.

The state department has been in touch with the US citizen’s family and has provided “all possible consular assistance”, a spokesperson for the agency said.

Second American killed fighting in Ukraine

'It's just hell there': Russia still pounds eastern Ukraine

Tuesday 21 June 2022 03:00 , Emily Atkinson

The Russians keep deploying additional troops and equipment in the area, he said.

“It’s just hell there. Everything is engulfed in fire, the shelling doesn’t stop even for an hour,” Haidai said in written comments.

Only a fraction of 100,000 people who used to live in Sievierodonetsk before the war remain in the city, with no electricity, communications, food or medicine.

'It's just hell there': Russia still pounds eastern Ukraine

American basketball player Griner faces prosecution, Moscow says

Tuesday 21 June 2022 02:00 , Emily Atkinson

US basketball player Brittney Griner who has been detained in Russia is facing criminal prosecution, according to reports.

RIA news agency cited the Kremlin’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov as telling American MSNBC television: “Why should we call her a hostage? She broke the Russian law, now she faces criminal prosecution.

“It’s not about being taken hostage.”

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