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The Russian army is “suffering huge losses” as Ukraine claws back a chunk of the industrial centre of Severodonetsk, a local governor said.
Sergiy Gaidai, the governor of Luhansk, told national television that while Russia had “previously managed to capture most of the city,” Ukrainian troops had now retaken 20 per cent of the lost territory.
He said it was “not realistic” the city would fall in the next two weeks, despite Russian forces “throwing all their reserves at Severodonetsk”.
“As soon as we have enough Western long-range weapons, we will push their artillery away from our positions. And then, believe me, the Russian infantry, they will just run,” Mr Gaidai said.
Ukrainian officials are counting on advanced missile systems that the United States and Britain recently pledged to swing the war in their favour, and Ukrainian troops have already begun training on them.
Follow the latest updates below.
Mediterranean migrants could hit 150,000 due to food shortages, Cyprus warns
Mediterranean countries on major migrant routes into Europe expect over 150,000 arrivals this year as food shortages caused by the Ukraine conflict threaten a new migration wave from Africa and the Middle East.
“This year the frontline member states are expected, as we have discussed between us, to receive more than 150,000 migrants,” Nicos Nouris, the interior minister of Cyprus, said after a meeting with fellow ministers of the so-called MED5 group in Venice.
Some 36,400 asylum seekers and migrants have already landed in Italy, Spain, Greece, Cyprus and Malta this year, after 123,318 arrivals in 2021, according to the United Nations refugee agency.
Ankara: Nato summit not deadline for decision on Sweden and Finland’s membership
A Nato summit in Madrid at the end of June is not a deadline for a decision on Sweden and Finland’s membership bids, which are opposed by Ankara, the Turkish president’s spokesman said.
Sweden and Finland applied to join the Western defence alliance last month in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but their bids have faced resistance from Turkey, which has accused them of supporting Kurdish militants.
While the two Nordic countries have said talks would continue to resolve the dispute, Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish president, said this week that Ankara had not received any responses to its demands, including stopping support for groups Turkey considers terrorists, lifting arms embargoes on Ankara and extraditing suspects it seeks.
Kyiv: Negotiations pointless until Russia repelled ‘as far as possible’
Ukraine said there was no point in negotiating with Russia until Moscow’s forces are pushed back as far as possible towards Ukraine’s borders.
Mykhailo Podolyak, a Ukrainian presidential advisor, made the comment when asked about an offer from the French president, Emmanuel Macron, to mediate talks between Kyiv and Moscow to end the war in Ukraine.
“Until we receive weapons in their full amount, until we strengthen our positions, until we push them (Russia’s forces) back as far as possible to the borders of Ukraine, there is no point in holding negotiations,” Mr Podolyak said on television.
Ukraine announces deaths of four foreign volunteers
Ukraine has announced the deaths of four foreign military volunteers fighting Russian forces, whose invasion has spurred a wave of solidarity abroad including from experienced combat veterans.
The International Legion of Defence of Ukraine, an official volunteer brigade, announced the men from Germany, the Netherlands, Australia and France had died but did not specify when or under what circumstances.
“We lost our brothers in combat but their bravery, their memory and legacy will forever inspire us,” it said in a statement.
500-year-old church in flames from Russian shelling
A 500-year-old church in the contested Donetsk Oblast, in eastern Ukraine, has reportedly been struck by Russian artillery.
Pictures have emerged of the All Saints’ Hermitage cathedral in Svyatohirsk, which consists of massive wooden logs, engulfed in flames.
The cultural site, located in a predominantly Russian-speaking area, dates back to the 16th century and belongs to the Moscow Patriarchate.
Svyatohirsk is currently being shelled by Russian forces as they attempt a southern drive to the nearby city of Slovyansk and beyond.
Local official accuses Ukraine of striking Russia’s western Bryansk region
The governor of Russia’s western Bryansk region said that one man was slightly injured by shrapnel and two houses were set on fire after Ukraine’s forces carried out strikes on a village.
Alexander Bogomaz, the governor, said the man was treated in a local hospital. Ukraine’s officials were not immediately available to comment.
Russia has blamed Ukraine for sporadic attacks on its border regions, including Bryansk, since it began its invasion on February 24.
Estonian government collapses amid fears of Russian threat
Estonia’s government has collapsed amid fears Moscow is attempting to destabilise the country which hosts a key Nato deployment of British troops, writes James Crisp.
Kaja Kallas, the prime minister, accused her coalition partners of “actively working against Estonia’s core values” in the face of the Russian security threat.
Her liberal Reform party was in an uneasy alliance with the Centre party, which only cut its long-standing ties with Vladmir Putin’s United Russia party after the invasion of Ukraine.
Read the full piece here.
Watch: Moment Russian troops come under fire in Donbas
Russian troops and journalists were forced to flee from a Ukrainian attack – just seconds after launching their own.
It happened in the Donbas region, an area Putin is relentlessly targeting in a bid to capture eastern Ukraine.
Watch the full clip below.
Litvinenko suspect dies of Covid
Dmitry Kovtun, one of two Russian men accused by Britain of poisoning Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006, has died of COVID-19 in a Moscow hospital, TASS news agency reported.
Mr Litvinenko, a British citizen and former KGB officer, died weeks after drinking green tea laced with radioactive polonium-210 at London’s Millennium Hotel, where he met Kovtun and the other suspect, Andrei Lugovoy.
TASS quoted Mr Lugovoy, now a prominent member of Russia’s parliament, as saying he was mourning the death of a “close and faithful friend”.
Russia must not be humiliated, says Macron
Emmanuel Macron, the French president, said it is vital that Russia is not humiliated so that when the fighting stops in Ukraine a diplomatic solution can be found.
“We must not humiliate Russia so that the day when the fighting stops we can build an exit ramp through diplomatic means,” Mr Macron said in an interview to regional newspapers. “I am convinced that it is France’s role to be a mediating power.”
The French leader has been repeatedly criticised by some eastern and Baltic partners in Europe for speaking with Putin regularly since the invasion, as they see it as undermining efforts to pressure Moscow to the negotiating table.
Continued blockage of Black Sea ports will result in global famine – UN
Amin Awad, the UN crisis coordinator, said that “failure to open” Black Sea ports that have been blocked due to the war in Ukraine “will result in [a] famine” that could affect 1.4 billion people and trigger mass migration.
Vladimir Putin said in a television interview that there was “no problem” to export grain from Ukraine, via Kyiv or Moscow-controlled ports, or even through central Europe.
Ukraine is one of the world’s largest exporters of wheat, corn and sunflower oil.
The Russian leader met with Macky Sall, the head of the African Union and president of Senegal yesterday, who said he was “reassured” after talks with Putin on food shortages which threaten to hit Africa particularly hard.
Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, is expected in Turkey next week for talks on creating a “security corridor” to unblock exports from Ukraine.
Second Russian ship sent to load metal from Mariupol
A ship sent to load metal and ship it to Russia has entered the Ukrainian port of Mariupol, TASS news agency reported.
It is the second vessel to arrive in the southeastern city since Russia completed its capture last month.
Earlier this week, a ship left Mariupol for Russia with a cargo of metal. Ukraine said the shipment from the port, whose capture gave Moscow an overland bridge linking mainland Russia and pro-Russian separatist territory to annexed Crimea, amounted to looting.
Russian strikes in Sumy and Odesa
Russia’s defence ministry said its forces shot down a Ukrainian military transport plane carrying weapons and munitions near the Black Sea port of Odesa.
The ministry said Russian missiles also struck an artillery training centre in Ukraine’s Sumy region where foreign instructors worked. Another strike destroyed a “foreign mercenaries’” outpost in the Odesa region, it said.
It followed earlier reports from a Ukrainian official that a missile hit an agricultural storage unit, wounding two people in the southern region of Odessa.
Russia blowing up bridges to cut off Severodonetsk, says governor
Russian forces are blowing up bridges across the Seversky Donets river to prevent Ukraine bringing in military reinforcements and delivering aid to civilians in the town of Severodonetsk, the governor of the Luhansk region said.
In a TV broadcast, Serhiy Gaidai said the Ukrainian military continued to hold its positions inside the besieged factory city and was pushing back Russian forces in several locations.
Reuters confirmed that Ukrainians still hold part of Severodonetsk.
In pictures: The battle for Severodonetsk
Nato chief has ‘constructive’ dialogue with Turkey on admission for Sweden and Finland
Jens Stoltenberg, secretary-general of Nato, has met with Finland’s prime minister and spoken to Turkey’s president as he seeks to overcome Turkish resistance to Finland and Sweden joining the alliance.
Mr Stoltenberg, who visited Washington this week, tweeted yesterday that he met with Finnish prime minister Sanna Marin while there and discussed “the need to address Turkey’s concerns” with the move.
Russia’s war in Ukraine pushed the Nordic countries to apply to join NATO, but Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan accuses Sweden and Finland of supporting Kurdish militants deemed by Turkey to be terrorists.
Mr Stoltenberg said he had a “constructive phone call” with the Turkish leader.
Dire situation in Lysychansk and Sloviansk
The situation in Lysychansk – Severodonetsk’s twin city, which sits just across a river – looks increasingly dire.
As of yesterday, about 60 percent of infrastructure and housing had been destroyed, while internet, mobile networks and gas services had been knocked out, said its mayor Oleksandr Zaika.
In the city of Sloviansk, about 80 kilometres (50 miles) from Severodonetsk, the mayor has urged residents to evacuate in the face of intense bombardment, with water and electricity cut off.
Ukraine intelligence services in contact with captured Azovstal fighters, says Kyiv
Ukraine’s intelligence services are in communication with the captured Azovstal steelworks fighters and Kyiv is doing all it can to ensure their release, Denys Monastyrskiy, the Ukrainian interior minister said.
Uncertainty has surrounded the fate of hundreds of fighters taken into Russian custody in mid-May after being ordered to stand down.
“It is through them (intelligence services) that we are learning about the conditions of the detention, nutrition and the possibility of their release,” Mr Monastyrskiy said on Ukrainian television.
Kyiv wants the fighters returned in a prisoner swap.
Russian sorties inflicting ‘substantial collateral damage’ in Donbas – MoD
Britain’s defence ministry said on Saturday that Russian air activity remains high over Ukraine’s Donbas region with Russian aircraft carrying out strikes using both guided and unguided munitions.
“The increased use of unguided munitions has led to the widespread destruction of built-up areas in the Donbas and has almost certainly caused substantial collateral damage and civilian casualties,” the ministry said in a tweet.
It said Russia increased its use of tactical air to support its creeping advance, combining air strikes and massed artillery attacks to bring its firepower to bear as its operational focus has switched to the Donbas.
Today’s top stories
- Ukraine claims to have retaken territory in Severodonetsk
- President Zelensky appeared with members of his government in a heartening video posted on social media to mark the 100th day of the war in Ukraine on Friday
- Britain’s defence ministry said that on the 100th day of Russia’s invasion that Moscow failed to achieve its initial objectives to seize Kyiv and Ukrainian centres of government but was achieving tactical success in the Donbas
- German lawmakers voted for a constitutional amendment to create a 100 billion-euro (£85 billion) fund beefing up its military defences in the face of an emboldened Russia, who accused Berlin of throwing European security into imbalance by “remilitarising”
- The European Union formally approved its sixth round of sanctions, which include an embargo on Russian oil and other measures targeting major banks, broadcasters and war criminals
- Macky Sall, head of the African Union and president of Senegal, said Vladimir Putin had told him he was ready to enable the export of Ukrainian grain to ease a global food crisis that is hitting Africa especially hard