Vladimir Putin has set a date to deploy tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus as he shared his plans over lunch with ally Alexander Lukashenko.
The Russian president said Moscow will move the weapons after special storage facilities are ready on July 7-8, in its first move of such bombs outside Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union.
“Preparation of the relevant facilities ends on July 7-8, and we will immediately begin activities related to the deployment of appropriate types of weapons on your territory,” Mr Putin said, according to a Kremlin transcript of his remarks.
In March, Putin announced he wanted to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, an apparent warning to the US-led Nato military alliance over it support for Ukraine.
“Everything is going according to plan,” Putin told Belarusian President Lukashenko when discussing the planned nuclear deployment during talks at the Russian leader’s Black Sea summer retreat in Sochi.
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Dam explosion could have been Russian sabotage gone wrong
Russian soldiers may have accidentally blown up the Kakhovka dam in a sabotage stunt gone wrong, according to intercepted transcripts.
Ukraine has released an audio recording of what it says is a conversation between two Russian soldiers that proves Russia blew up the dam.
In it one of the alleged soldiers said: “They [Ukrainian artillery] didn’t blow it up. Our sabotage group was there. They wanted to scare people with this dam. It didn’t go according to plan.”
Read more from James Kilner here
Iceland to suspend embassy operations in Russia in August
Iceland said it would suspend work at its embassy in Russia as of August 1, the first country to do so, and asked Russia to limit its operations in Reykjavik.
“The current situation simply does not make it viable for the small foreign service of Iceland to operate an embassy in Russia,” Foreign Minister Thordis Gylfadottir said.
AFP’s bureau in Moscow said Iceland was the first country to make such a move.
The foreign ministry stressed that the decision “does not constitute a severance of diplomatic relations”.
But since commercial, cultural and political ties with Russia were “at an all-time low”, maintaining embassy operations in Moscow was “no longer justifiable,” it said.
Pictured: A man takes pictures inside a damaged multi-storey apartment block following a reported drone attack in Voronezh
'Intense fighting' on key axis of counter offensive
Ukrainian ground forces have clashed with Russia in “intense fighting” in southern Ukraine on a key access aiming to divide Moscow’s army in two.
Kyiv said Russia was conducting “defensive actions” on a second day of heavy fighting around the town of Orikhiv, where Ukraine is trying to break through front lines.
“At the moment, active combat is ongoing in the region between Orekhovo and Tokmak,” Vladimir Rogov, an official with Russian occupation authorities, said, referring to a locality known in Ukrainian as Orikhiv.
Alexander Sladkov, a correspondent for Russian media, wrote on Telegram of “intense fighting” in the area.
Top UN court allows Ukraine allies to join case against Russian invasion
The International Court of Justice on Friday allowed Ukraine’s western allies to back a case filed by Kyiv last year at the UN’s top tribunal urging Moscow to stop its invasion.
“The court concludes that the declarations of intervention filed in this case... are admissible,” the court said, allowing 32 countries including France, Britain and Germany to support the case, but not the United States.
Pictured: Rescue operation following the collapse of the Nova Kakhovka dam
Japan to offer emergency aid to Ukraine,
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Friday that Japan will offer emergency humanitarian aid worth about $5 million after the bursting of the Nova Kakhovka dam, a Japanese government spokesperson said.
The two leaders spoke by phone as Russia and Ukraine trade blame for the collapse of the dam, which sent waters cascading across the war zone of southern Ukraine this week, forcing tens of thousands to flee.
Kishida also told Zelenskiy that Japan is ready to host a conference on Ukraine’s reconstruction early next year, according to the official website of the Ukrainian president.
“Many Ukrainian citizens fell victim to the long-running Russian invasion, and civilian facilities including power plants were damaged,” Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told a regular news conference following the phone talks.
East is 'epicentre of fighting', says Ukraine
The main centre of fighting is still in Ukraine’s east, Kyiv said Friday, as clashes in the south have prompted speculation that Ukrainian forces could have launched a long-awaited offensive.
“The situation is tense in all areas of the front line. The east is the epicentre,” Ukrainian Deputy Defence Minister, Ganna Malyar, wrote on Telegram.
“The enemy continues to concentrate its main efforts on the Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Maryinka directions”, she added, referring to eastern cities where fighting has been raging for months.
The deputy minister gave few details on the situation in southern Ukraine.
Four dead as a result of flooding in Ukraine's Kherson
Ukrainian Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko said four people have died and 13 are missing as a result of flooding in the southern region of Kherson following the destruction of the Kakhovka dam.
He said on the Telegram messaging app that a total of 2,412 people had been evacuated.
Pictured: A man carries a child amidst the flooding
'Everything indicates' Russia behind dam breach, says EU foreign policy chief
“Everything indicates” Russia is behind the Kakhovka dam breach, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrel has said.
“The dam was not bombed. It was destroyed by explosives installed in the areas where the turbines are located. This area is under Russian control,” Mr Borrell told Spanish public television.
“I wasn’t there to find out who did it. But everything seems to indicate that if it took place in an area under Russian control, it is difficult to believe it could have been someone else,” he added.
“In any case, the consequences for Ukraine are terrible, from the humanitarian point of view for the displaced people, and from the environmental point of view because the (dam’s) destruction will cause an ecological disaster.”
Zelensky hails 'results' amid heavy fighting in Donetsk
President Volodymyr Zelensky has hailed what he described as “results” in heavy fighting in Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine.
“There is very heavy fighting in Donetsk region,” President Zelensky said in his daily video message, delivered in a train after visiting areas affected by the breach of the Kakhovka power dam.
“But there are results and I am grateful to those who achieved these results. Well done in Bakhmut. Step by step,” he said.
President Zelensky referred to other areas where fighting is going on, but said he would provide no details. Pictures posted on his Telegram account showed him meeting some of the country’s top generals in the field.
Greta Thunberg criticises Russia over Ukraine dam 'ecocide'
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg has accused Russia of causing the collapse of the Kakhovka dam in Ukraine, calling it an act of “ecocide”.
This ecocide as a continuation of Russias unprovoked full-scale invasion of Ukraine is yet another atrocity which leaves the world lost for words. Our eyes are once again on Russia who must be held accountable for their crimes. https://t.co/GDWrJnMkmb
— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) June 8, 2023
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky replied: “Thank you for your position and for upholding the truth Greta Thunberg! (Russia) must be held accountable for all its evil against people, life and nature!”.
Zelensky: 'Life is broken' in more than 40 settlements
Volodymr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, has tweeted about ongoing evacuation efforts.
We are working at all levels of state and local authorities to rescue as many people as possible from the flooded areas. The evacuation is ongoing. Wherever we can get people out of the flood zone, we do so. The State Emergency Service, police and military are doing a great job!… pic.twitter.com/lTEHoReSY6
— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) June 9, 2023
Dispatch from Colin Freeman on the ground in Kherson
With its Soviet-era tower blocks besieged by oily waters from the blown-up Kakhovka dam, the Ukrainian city of Kherson is like a vision of Venice gone badly wrong.
The sound of shelling is never far away, and instead of gondolas ferrying tourists, flotillas of rescue boats cruise around rescuing those still stuck in their apartments.
On Thursday, though, even a humanitarian mission aimed mainly at rescuing pensioners and stranded pets found itself directly in the firing line of the war.
Read more from Colin Freeman here
Ukraine in pictures:
Drone hits residential building in Russian city of Voronezh
A drone hit a residential building in Russia’s southern city of Voronezh Friday injuring two people, the local governor said.
Drone attacks have hit Russian cities - including Moscow - often in recent months as Kyiv says it is preparing for a major counteroffensive.
It is the first such incident in Voronezh, a city of around one million people, which lies in the next region deeper into Russia than Belgorod - which has been heavily shelled by Ukraine.
“A drone fell on Belinsky Street in Voronezh,” the governor of the region, Alexander Gusev, said on Telegram.
He added that at least two people were injured in the attack, some 124 miles from the Ukraine border.
Russian state media showed images of a building that had some shattered windows and part of its wall was blackened, where the drone had apparently hit.
Nato may base troops in Sweden before Stockholm joins, government says
Sweden will allow Nato to base troops on its territory even before it formally joins the defence alliance, the prime minister and defence minister have said.
Sweden applied last year to join Nato as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Objections from Turkey and Hungary have delayed the bid and Sweden now hopes to join by a Nato summit in Lithuania next month.
“The government has decided that the Swedish Armed Forces may undertake preparations with Nato and Nato countries to enable future joint operations,” Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson and Defence Minister Pal Jonson said.
“The preparations may consist of temporary basing of foreign equipment and personnel on Swedish territory. The decision sends a clear signal to Russia and strengthens Sweden’s defence,” they said in an opinion piece in daily Dagens Nyheter.
Nato Secretary General meets Finnish PM ahead of summit
Jens Stoltenberg, the Nato Secretary General, has said he looks forward to welcoming Sweden as a full Nato ally as soon as possible.
Great to meet PM @MarinSanna of our newest Ally #Finland to prepare #NATOSummit in Vilnius. We plan to step up for #Ukraine with a multi-year support package, and strengthen our defences. We also look forward to welcoming #Sweden as a full #NATO Ally as soon as possible. pic.twitter.com/fxE7aKRUWF
— Jens Stoltenberg (@jensstoltenberg) June 9, 2023
US Pentagon readies new $2 bln Ukraine air defence package
The US will announce a new arms package for Ukraine valued at more than $2 billion as soon as Friday, Bloomberg News has reported, citing administration officials.
The funds under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative will be heavy on air defence munitions and will help Ukraine purchase Hawk missile launchers and two types of advanced Patriot air defense missiles, the report said.
Ukraine says it downs four cruise missiles and 10 attack drones during Russian air strike
Ukraine’s military shot down four cruise missiles and 10 attack drones during a Russian air strike overnight, the air force said.
It said Russian forces had launched 16 drones and six cruise missiles during the attack, and that two other cruise missiles had struck a civilian object in central Ukraine during an earlier attack on Thursday evening.
Pictured: Firefighters work after a Russian missile strike in the town of Zviahel
One killed in latest Russian air strike on Ukraine, Kyiv says
Russia unleashed a new air strike on Ukraine overnight, killing at least one person in a combined assault of cruise missiles and attack drones, Ukrainian authorities said.
The Ukrainian military reported shooting down four out of six missiles launched during the attack, which the air force said lasted around six hours, and 10 out of 16 drones.
The interior ministry said one person had been killed, three were wounded, and four buildings were destroyed from falling debris.
It posted images on the Telegram messaging app of firefighters attending to the smouldering wreckage of what appeared to be residential homes.
The air force also said two cruise missiles had struck a civilian object in the central Ukrainian region of Cherkasy during an earlier attack on Thursday evening.
Ukraine’s counter-offensive starts as Western tanks hit the front line
Ukraine sent Western tanks into battle for the first time in a major offensive on the southern front that marked the launch of its long-awaited counter-offensive.
Leopard II main battle tanks were seen in the Zaporizhzhia region, where a sudden surge in fighting appeared to mark the start of the assault.
Ukraine’s ministry of defence, which has a strict policy of operational silence around the offensive, denied reports that it had begun.
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