Russia-Ukraine latest: Ukraine says Lysychansk ‘not encircled’

Russia-Ukraine news from July 2: Ukrainian army says heavy fighting continues after pro-Russian separatists claimed to have encircled the key city in the Donbas region.

Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Lysychansk, Luhansk region [File: Anna Kudriavtseva/Reuters]
  • Ukrainian separatists backed by Russia say they have “completely” encircled the key city of Lysychansk in the eastern Luhansk region.
  • Russian forces have destroyed five Ukrainian army command posts in Donbas and Mykolaiv regions with high-precision weapons and also struck three storage sites in the Zaporizhia region, the defence ministry says.
  • The mayor of the Ukrainian city Mykolaiv warns residents to stay in shelters as powerful explosions rock the city.
  • Moscow has denied targeting civilians in Ukraine.
  • The United States is sending Ukraine two NASAMS surface-to-air missile systems, four additional counter-artillery radars and up to 150,000 rounds of 155mm artillery ammunition.
(Al Jazeera)

The live blog is now closed, thank you for joining us. These were the updates for July 2, 2022.

Russian media instrumental in spreading false claims about Ukraine: Report

References to Nazism in articles about Ukraine on Russian websites surged to “unprecedented levels” when Russia invaded the country, according to a New York Times report.

Putin has falsely claimed that Ukraine is run by “neo-Nazis” and that Russia is trying to “liberate” and “de-nazify” the country.

According to the Times, Russian media has been instrumental in spreading false claims and propaganda in the war, including articles that falsely claim Ukrainian Nazis have used civilians as human shields and are planning the mass murder of Russians.

Russia has cracked down on both Russian and foreign independent news outlets since invading Ukraine, and passed a law that media outlets have warned criminalises independent journalism.

EU works on emergency plan to help cut imports of Russian energy

The European Union is preparing an emergency plan to help member states cut back on Russian energy.

“We need a good, common plan that the energy flows, or the gas flows, where it is needed most,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said.

The new measures — due by mid-July — will build on May’s REPowerEU plan to abandon Russian energy sources because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. That plan allotted nearly $312bn to promote energy efficiency and increased use of renewables.

At the end of May, the EU agreed to halt seaborne imports of Russian oil within months, with some exceptions. The bloc imported 35 percent of its oil from Russia in 2020, and the import ban “will effectively cut around 90 percent of oil imports” from Russia by the end of 2022, according to von der Leyen.

The European Union is preparing an emergency plan to help member states cut back on Russian energy [Jean-Francois Badias/AP Photo]

Leaders, groups in Switzerland to draw up ‘Marshall Plan’ for Ukraine

Leaders from dozens of countries and international organisations will gather on Monday and Tuesday in the Swiss city of Lugano to discuss rebuilding Ukraine, hoping to draw up a “Marshall Plan” for the country’s reconstruction despite the continuing Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The plan would “absolutely” have to include an environmental component, said Virginijus Sinkevicius, the European Union commissioner for the environment.

He spoke of the mass destruction of forests, land covered with mines and trenches, chemical pollution spread by munitions, and contaminated waterways and soil.

“The [environmental] price tag every day is increasing, because we see the barbaric actions of the Russian side [are] not stopping,” he said in an interview with the AFP news agency.

He added there was now a “unique opportunity” to create a “cleaner” Ukraine, but warned, “We can rebuild roads, we can rebuild the infrastructure, but for forests to grow, you need hundreds of years. So it will take time.”

Russia assures India about grain, fuel imports

Russia remains a “reliable producer and supplier of grain, fertilisers and energy”, Putin has assured Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In a phone call, Putin said “systemic mistakes made by a number of countries” have disrupted trade in food products and caused price increases, Russia’s TASS news agency reported.

India, which has not joined international sanctions against Russia following its invasion of Ukraine, depends on Moscow for imports of grain, fuel and military hardware.

Ukraine army says Lysychansk ‘not encircled’

The Ukrainian army on Saturday rejected claims that Moscow-backed separatists and Russian forces had surrounded the key eastern city of Lysychansk, but said heavy fighting was ongoing on its edges.

“Fighting rages around Lysychansk. [But] luckily the city has not been encircled and is under control of the Ukrainian army,” Ruslan Muzytchuk, a spokesman for the Ukrainian National Guard, said on Ukrainian television after a separatist spokesman made the allegations earlier in the day.

Capturing the city would allow the Russians to push deeper into the wider eastern region of the Donbas, which has become the focus of their offensive since failing to capture Kyiv after launching their military operation in Ukraine in late February.

Across the Donets River from Lysychansk, the Russians seized the neighbouring city Severodonetsk last week.

Andrei Marotchko, a spokesman for the separatist forces, earlier told TASS: “Today, the Lugansk popular militia and Russian forces occupied the last strategic heights, which allows us to confirm that Lysychansk is completely encircled.”

Adviser dismisses fears of ‘Ukraine fatigue’

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak has dismissed fears that Western countries are experiencing “Ukraine fatigue”.

The UK’s prime minister, Boris Johnson, warned against what he called “Ukraine fatigue” setting in around the world after visiting Kyiv.

“When Ukraine fatigue is setting in, it is very important to show that we are with them for the long haul and we are giving them the strategic resilience that they need.”

Podolyak, who is also head of Ukraine’s delegation team, tweeted:

UK condemns ‘exploitation’ of prisoners of war

The UK has condemned the exploitation of prisoners of war after two more British men held by Russian proxies in east Ukraine and charged with “mercenary activities” could face the death penalty.

Andrew Hill, from Plymouth, and Dylan Healy of Huntingdon were reported to have been charged with “forcible seizure of power” and undergoing “terrorist” training, according to a state news agency in Russian-controlled Donetsk.

“We condemn the exploitation of prisoners of war and civilians for political purposes and have raised this with Russia,” said a statement released by the British Foreign Office. “We are in constant contact with the government of Ukraine on their cases and are fully supportive of Ukraine in its efforts to get them released.

Two more Britons and a Moroccan man were sentenced to death on identical charges by the authorities in Russian-controlled Donetsk.

Ukraine separatists claim they have encircled Lysychansk

Ukrainian separatists backed by Russia say they have “completely” encircled the key city of Lysychansk in the eastern Luhansk region.

“Today the Lugansk popular militia and Russian forces occupied the last strategic heights, which allows us to confirm that Lysychansk is completely encircled,” Andrei Marotchko, a spokesman for the separatist forces, told TASS.

Capturing the city would allow the Russians to push deeper into the wider eastern region of the Donbas, which has become the focus of their offensive since failing to capture Kyiv after launching their military operation in Ukraine in late February.

Across the Donets River, the Russians captured the neighbouring city Severodonetsk last week.

Ukraine army shares video showing Russian army depot blast

Ukraine’s armed forces have shared footage of what it said was an explosion at Russian army warehouses in eastern Ukraine.

The video showed what appeared to be a powerful explosion with fire and smoke rising into the sky.

The footage did not specify the exact location, date or more details about the explosion.

It was released as Russian forces on Saturday pounded the city of Lysychansk and its surroundings in an all-out attempt to seize the last stronghold of resistance in eastern Ukraine’s Luhansk province, according to a Ukrainian governor.

Zelenskyy accuses Russia of ‘terror’ as missiles rain down

Missiles rained down on Ukraine, killing many civilians and wounding dozens in built-up areas as the weekend began, prompting President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to accuse Russia of state “terror”.

Attacks on a southern resort town left 21 dead and dozens wounded after missiles slammed into flats and a recreation centre in Sergiyvka, 80km (50 miles) south of Black Sea port Odesa.

Missiles struck residential properties in Sloviansk in the heart of the embattled Donbas region, killing a woman in her garden and wounding her husband, a neighbour told AFP, describing debris showered across the neighbourhood.

The witness said the attack on Friday was thought to use cluster munitions which spread over a large area before exploding, striking buildings and people who were outdoors.

Russia says it hit Ukrainian military sites in Donbas and Mykolaiv region

Russian forces destroyed five Ukrainian army command posts in the Donbas and Mykolaiv regions with high-precision weapons and also struck three storage sites in the Zaporizhia region, the defence ministry has been quoted as saying.

The ministry, cited by Russian news agencies, also said the Russian air force had struck a Ukrainian weapons and equipment base at a tractor factory in Kharkiv, in northeast Ukraine.

Smoke and dirt rise from the city of Severodonetsk during fighting between Ukrainian and Russian troops at the eastern Ukrainian region of the Donbas [File: Aris Messinis/AFP]

Ukraine says Russia dropped phosphorus bombs on Snake Island

Ukraine’s army has accused Russia of carrying out attacks using incendiary phosphorus munitions on Snake Island, just a day after Moscow withdrew its forces from the rocky outcrop in the Black Sea.

Two sorties of Russian Su-30 fighter jets dropping phosphorus bombs were flown over the island from the Russian-controlled Crimean Peninsula, commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian army, Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, said on Telegram on Friday.

Read more here.

A Sukhoi Su-30 SM fighter jet fires missiles during the International Army Games 2018, at the Dubrovichi range outside Ryazan, Russia in 2018 [File: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters] (Reuters)

US to send Ukraine advanced surface-to-air missile systems

The US has said it will send Ukraine two NASAMS surface-to-air missile systems, four counter-artillery radars, and about 150,000 rounds of 155mm artillery ammunition to assist Ukraine in its fight against the Russian invasion.

The Pentagon on Friday said the additional material will come as part of the latest US assistance package for Ukraine, announced by US President Joe Biden at a gathering of NATO leaders and expected to total about $820m.

The package announced on Thursday will also reportedly include more ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS).

Read more here.

Rescuers work at a shopping mall hit by a Russian missile attack, in Kremenchuk, Poltava region, Ukraine [Anna Voitenko/Reuters]

Top Russian general inspects troops involved in Ukraine operation

The chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, Valery Gerasimov, has inspected divisions of Russian troops involved in Moscow’s “special military operation” in Ukraine, the defence ministry said.

The ministry published still photographs of Gerasimov at work. It was not immediately clear when the visit took place or if Gerasimov had visited Ukraine itself.

The ministry issued a similar statement about Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu last week.

Russia’s Gazprom says gas exports to Europe via Ukraine at 42.15 mcm

Russian gas producer Gazprom has said its supply of gas to Europe through Ukraine via the Sudzha entry point was seen at 42.15 million cubic metres (1.49bn cubic feet) compared with 42.1 mcm on Friday.

An application to supply gas via the Sokhranivka entry point had again been rejected by Ukraine, Gazprom said.

Two more Britons in Ukraine charged with being mercenaries by Russia

Russian state media has reported two British men have been captured by Moscow’s forces in separatist-held Ukraine and charged with being mercenaries.

Cambridgeshire aid worker Dylan Healy, 22, and military volunteer Andrew Hill have been charged with carrying out “mercenary activities”, officials in the self-proclaimed Moscow-backed Donetsk People’s Republic said, according to Tass.

The outlet reported both men were refusing to cooperate with investigators.

It comes after a video shown on Russian television in April featured a man speaking with an English accent who appeared to give his name as Andrew Hill from Plymouth.

A pro-Kremlin website said Mr Healy and Mr Hill would face the same mercenary charges as Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner, two British military volunteers captured in Mariupol who have been condemned to death in Donetsk.

Russia’s messages with missiles tell West to back off

The latest in a litany of horrors in Ukraine came this week as Russian firepower rained down on civilians in a busy shopping centre far from the front lines of a war in its fifth month.

The timing was not likely a coincidence.

Were the attacks a message from Russian President Vladimir Putin as the West sought to arm Ukraine with more effective weapons?

Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko suggested as much when missiles struck the capital on June 26, three days after EU leaders unanimously agreed to make Ukraine a candidate for membership.

It was “maybe a symbolic attack” as the Group of Seven leading economic powers and then NATO leaders prepared to meet and apply further pressure on Moscow, he said. At least six people were killed in the Kyiv attack, which pummelled an apartment building.

Ukraine requests Turkey seize Russian-flagged ship

Ukraine has requested that Turkey detain and arrest the Russian-flagged cargo ship Zhibek Zholy carrying a cargo of Ukrainian grain taken from the Russian-occupied port of Berdyansk, according to a Ukrainian official and documents seen by Reuters.

The Ukrainian foreign ministry official, citing information received from the country’s maritime administration, said the Zhibek Zholy had loaded the first cargo of some 4,500 tonnes of grain from Berdyansk, which the official said belonged to Ukraine.

In a letter dated June 30 to Turkey’s justice ministry, Ukraine’s prosecutor general’s office separately that the Zhibek Zholy was involved in the “illegal export of Ukrainian grain” from Berdyansk and headed to Karasu, Turkey, with 7,000 tonnes of cargo, which is a larger cargo than cited by the official.

The Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office asked Turkey to “conduct an inspection of this sea vessel, seize samples of grain for forensic examination, demand information on the location of such grain”, the letter said, adding that Ukraine was ready to conduct a joint investigation with Turkish authorities.

Blasts rock Ukraine’s Mykolaiv

Powerful explosions have rocked the Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv, the mayor said, a day after authorities said at least 21 people were killed when Russian missiles struck an apartment building near the Black Sea port of Odesa.

Air raid sirens sounded across the Mykolaiv region, which borders the vital exporting port of Odesa, before the blasts.

“There are powerful explosions in the city! Stay in shelters!” Mykolaiv mayor Oleksandr Senkevich wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

It was not immediately known what caused the explosions.

Explosions flattened part of an apartment building while residents slept on Friday, the latest in a series of what Ukraine says are Russian missile attacks aimed at civilians.

Source: Al Jazeera