Russia-Ukraine latest: Ukraine may soon ‘not exist on world map’

Latest updates June 15, 2022: Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warns Ukraine ‘might not exist at all’ within a couple of years.

An Unexploded Ordnance is embedded on a road in Severodonetsk, eastern Ukraine.
An unexploded bomb is embedded on a road in the besieged city of Severodonetsk during the Russian invasion of Ukraine [Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP]
  • US President Joe Biden announces Washington will provide an additional $1bn in security assistance to Ukraine.
  • Moscow says it can “provide safe passage” for Ukrainian grain shipments from the country’s Black Sea ports, but is not responsible for establishing any such corridors.
  • Nearly two-thirds of children in Ukraine have been uprooted by war, a UN official says.
  • Russia urges Ukrainian fighters to surrender in Severodonetsk, a strategically important city, saying they should “stop their senseless resistance and lay down arms”.

INTERACTIVE Russia Ukraine War Who controls what in Ukraine Day 112

The live blog is now closed, thank you for joining us. Here are the updates for June 15, 2022.

NATO weapons depot destroyed near Poland border: Russia

The Russian military has said it used long-range missiles to destroy a depot in the western Lviv region of Ukraine where ammunition for NATO-supplied weapons was stored.

Near the border with NATO-member Poland, Russian forces used high-precision Kalibr missiles to destroy the depot near the town of Zolochiv, Russian Defence Ministry Spokesperson Igor Konashenkov said. The spokesperson said shells for M777 howitzers, a type of artillery supplied by the United States, were stored there. He said four howitzers were destroyed elsewhere and Russian air attacks also destroyed Ukrainian “aviation equipment” at a military aerodrome in the southern Mykolaiv region.

Ukrainian officials did not immediately comment.

German, French, Italian leaders expected in Kyiv to signal solidarity

The leaders of the European Union’s three biggest countries, Germany, France and Italy, are expected in Kyiv on Thursday to show their backing for Ukraine.

The visit by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron, and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi has taken weeks to organise, with the three looking to overcome criticism within Ukraine over their response to the war.

“We are at a point when we need to send clear political signals, us Europeans, towards Ukraine and its people when it is resisting heroically,” said Macron, without giving details.

The trip, which has not been announced for security reasons, comes a day before the European Commission makes a recommendation on Ukraine’s status as an EU candidate, something the biggest European nations have been lukewarm about.

Russia accused of sanctions dodge using Georgia

Russian people and companies are using entities in Georgia to bypass Western sanctions, a group of Ukrainian legislators have alleged.

“They [Russians] use heavily right now … Georgian banks, Georgian financial system, Georgian companies and so on,” David Arakhamia, Ukraine’s chief negotiator with Russia, told reporters.

“If you are a sanctioned Russian person, you go to the Internet, you open up a Georgian company, open up remotely the bank account and start processing.”

The Georgian embassy in Washington said the accusations were “completely false”.

‘Bravery, resilience, determination’: New $1bn for Ukraine fight

President Zelenskyy said he was “grateful” for a new American arms package to Kyiv after speaking to President Biden.

“The United States announced new strengthening of our defence, a new $1 billion support package,” Zelenskyy said in an evening address. “I am grateful for this support, it is especially important for our defence in [the eastern region of] Donbas.”

US officials have said they are tailoring their military assistance to Ukraine to the needs of the battlefield in Donbas.

“Every day I fight for Ukraine to get the necessary weapons and equipment,” Zelenskyy said. “But courage, wisdom and tactical skills cannot be imported. And our heroes have those.”

Read more here

Ukraine ignores Severodonetsk ultimatum to surrender

Ukraine ignored a Russian ultimatum to surrender the eastern city of Severodonetsk, which now largely lies in ruins after weeks of heavy bombardment.

Russia told Ukrainian forces holed up in a chemical plant there to lay down their arms. Ukraine says more than 500 civilians, including 40 children, remain alongside soldiers inside the Azot chemical factory.

Moscow said it opened a humanitarian corridor from Azot to allow civilians to escape to Russian-controlled territory. It accused Ukraine’s forces of disrupting that plan and using civilians as human shields, which Kyiv denied.

Two US military veterans reported missing in Ukraine

Two American veterans from Alabama fighting in Ukraine against Russian forces have not been heard from in days and are missing.

Relatives of Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, 27, and Alexander Drueke, 39, have been in contact with both Senate and House offices seeking information about the men’s whereabouts, press aides said.

Representative Robert Aderholt said Huynh volunteered to go fight with the Ukrainians, but relatives have not heard from him since June 8, when he was in the Kharkiv region of northeastern Ukraine, near the Russian border. Huynh and Drueke were together.

Captive Americans would add another layer of complexity to efforts by the US, which is pumping billions of dollars into Ukraine but trying to steer clear of direct confrontation with Russia.

US urges Americans not to travel to Ukraine

The White House has urged Americans not to travel to Ukraine after reports emerged that two Americans had been captured by Russian forces.

John Kirby, a National Security Council spokesperson, told reporters that if the reports are true, the US “will do everything we can” to get them back.

Ukraine says Russian forces trying to attack simultaneously in 9 directions

The head of Ukraine’s military has said Russia had concentrated its main strike forces in the north of Luhansk region and were trying to attack simultaneously in nine directions.

“The fierce struggle for Luhansk region continues,” Valerii Zaluzhny, commander in chief of the armed forces, said in an online message. The Russians were using aircraft, rocket-propelled grenades, and artillery, he added.

Germany to deliver rocket launchers to Ukraine: minister

Germany will supply three MARS II multiple rocket launchers to Ukraine, according to Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht, adding that the training of Ukrainian troops would begin in the coming weeks.

The weapons will come from Bundeswehr inventories, she told reporters after talks between nearly 50 countries to discuss and coordinate military assistance to Ukraine that took place on the sidelines of a NATO meeting.

The MARS II multiple rocket launcher can hit targets at a distance of more than 80km.

West must stay focused on Ukraine: Pentagon chief

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was at a “pivotal” moment and the United States and its allies cannot not lose focus on the three-month-long conflict, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin says.

Austin was speaking at a meeting of dozens of defence ministers on the sidelines of a NATO ministerial gathering.

“We can’t afford to let up and we can’t lose steam. The stakes are too high,” Austin said at the start of the meeting in Brussels. “Ukraine is facing a pivotal moment on the battlefield … Russia is using its long-range fires to try to overwhelm Ukrainian positions.”

US defence secretary
Austin was speaking at a meeting on the sidelines of a NATO ministerial gathering [File: Getty Images]

Canada to send $7m of military equipment to Ukraine

Canada will provide 10 replacement barrels for M777 howitzer artillery guns to Ukraine in new military aid valued at nine million Canadian dollars ($6.9 million), according to the Canadian defence minister.

“We will continue to work around the clock to provide Ukraine with the comprehensive military aid that it needs to defend its sovereignty and security,” Defence Minister Anita Anand said in a statement.

Canada donated the M777 howitzers to Ukraine earlier and the replacement barrels are needed to maintain their distance range and accuracy.

Canadian Defence Minister Anita Anand
Anand says Canada will continue to work around the clock to provide Ukraine with military aid [File: Reuters]

Biden announces more security aid in Ukraine

US President Joe Biden has announced a new package of arms and ammunition for Ukraine after reaffirming Washington’s support for Kyiv against Russia’s invasion in a call with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

The package of $1bn-worth of arms includes more artillery, coastal anti-ship defence systems and ammunition for artillery and advanced rocket systems that Ukraine is already using, Biden said.

In the phone call, Biden said he “reaffirmed my commitment that the United States will stand by Ukraine as it defends its democracy and support its sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of unprovoked Russian aggression,” according to a statement.

Ukraine could produce less gas in 2022: energy minister

Ukraine’s gas production could drop to 16-17 billion cubic metres (bcm) in 2022 because of the Russian invasion from about 20 bcm in 2021, according to energy minister Herman Halushchenko.

“The fall is due to military actions. We are not operating some fields because of the war,” Halushchenko told Ukraine national television.

Who is Putin and how has he shaped Russia?

Al Jazeera’s Start here with Sandra Gathmann explains.

Turkey says Ukraine grain ships could avoid mines via safe sea corridor

Turkey’s foreign minister says it will “take some time” to de-mine Ukraine’s Black Sea ports and a safe sea corridor could meanwhile be established in areas without mines under a UN proposal in order to allow for the resumption of Ukrainian grain shipments amid fears of a looming global food crisis.

“Since the location of the mines is known, certain safe lines would be established at three ports,” Mevlut Cavusoglu said. “These [commercial] ships, with the guidance of Ukraine’s research and rescue vessels as envisaged in the plan, could thus come and go safely to ports without a need to clear the mines.”

Cavusoglu discussed the plan with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Ankara last week, but said further discussions with Moscow and Kyiv were needed. Lavrov then said the onus was on Ukraine to clear mines around its ports for commercial ships to approach.

Kyiv fears that de-mining its ports would leave it far more vulnerable to Russian attack from the Black Sea.

What weapons has Ukraine received from the US and allies?

Since Russia launched its invasion, Ukraine has received billions of dollars worth of weapons and military equipment from dozens of countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and Turkey, among others.

Read more here.

INTERACTIVE -Types of weapons Ukraine is receiving

West must ‘intensify’ arms supplies to Ukraine: US defence chief

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has urged Washington’s allies not to “lose steam” on sending weapons to Ukraine as Kyiv pleads desperately for heavier arms to hold back Russia’s invasion.

“We must intensify our shared commitment to Ukraine’s self-defence, and we must push ourselves even harder to ensure that Ukraine can defend itself, its citizens and its territory,” Austin said at a meeting in Brussels with some 50 countries backing Ukraine, including NATO member states.

Before the start of the meeting, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance’s members would continue to supply Ukraine with heavy weapons and long-range missile systems and that he expected them to agree on a new package of assistance to Kyiv at a NATO summit later this month.

“Sometimes these efforts take time. That’s exactly why it is important to have a meeting like we have today … to meet with the Ukrainian representatives to identify the challenges and the issues they would like to raise with us when,” Stoltenberg said.

US sanctions backers of Russian ‘extremist group’

Washington has imposed sanctions on two backers of an “ethnically motivated violent extremist group” called the Russian Imperial Movement (RIM), one of whom visited the US to make connections with far-right and white nationalist groups.

The US Department of the Treasury named the two individuals as Stanislav Shevchuk, a Europe-based representative of RIM, who travelled to the US in 2017 seeking connections with “extremist” groups, and Alexander Zhuchkovsky, a Russia-based supporter of RIM, who has used his Russia-based social media platform to fundraise and recruit for the group.

Since 2014, Zhuchkovsky has raised over 200 million rubles to buy weapons and military equipment for RIM and other pro-Russian fighters in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region and facilitated the travel of RIM fighters to the region, the Treasury said.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Zhuchkovsky has continued using his social media accounts and online payment methods to purchase military equipment and supplies for Russian fighters carrying out the invasion and fighting in the Donbas, it added.

Russian legislator says captured fighters ‘deserve’ DPR death sentences

The speaker of Russia’s State Duma, the country’s lower house of parliament, says that fighters sentenced to death in eastern Ukraine’s Moscow-backed, self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) “deserve” to die.

“Every day we see crimes against humanity committed by the Kyiv neo-Nazi regime, shelling residential areas, hospitals, maternity hospitals, kindergartens, schools. Old people, women and children are dying,” Vyacheslav Volodin said in a Telegram post, using the terminology employed by Russian President Vladimir Putin to justify Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“The death penalty is the punishment these fascists deserve,” he added.

His remarks came after two British nationals and one Moroccan national who were captured while fighting with the Ukrainian army were sentenced to death as mercenaries by Russian-backed authorities in the breakaway region last week.

Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev in Kyiv.

Russia offering ‘safe passage’ for Ukraine grain shipments: Ambassador

Moscow can “provide safe passage” for Ukraine grain shipments from the country’s Black Sea ports, but is not responsible for establishing the corridors, Russia’s Ambassador to the United Nations says.

“We are not responsible for establishing safe corridors. We said we could provide safe passage if these corridors are established. Establish them. It’s obvious it’s either demine the territory, which was mined by the Ukrainians, or to ensure that the passage goes around those mines,” Vassily Nebenzia told reporters.

Russia’s Medvedev says Ukraine may ‘not exist on world map’ in 2 years

Former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev has warned that Ukraine “might not exist at all” within a couple of years.

“I saw a message that Ukraine … wants to receive Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) from its overseas owners with payment for delivery in 2 years. Otherwise, next winter it will simply freeze,” Medvedev, who is the deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, wrote in a Telegram post.

“The question is: who said that in two years Ukraine might exist on the world map at all?” he added.

A Ukrainian presidential aid responded to Medvedev’s comment with derision. “Ukraine is, has been and will be. The question is where will Medvedev be in two years,” Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted.

Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev in Kyiv.

Poland says building grain silos at Ukraine border would take months

Building grain silos at the Polish-Ukrainian border as proposed by US President Joe Biden to help channel the crop from Ukraine to global markets would take three to four months, Poland’s agriculture minister says.

“President Biden’s proposal is an interesting idea but it requires working out several details, including location, infrastructure, financing, ownership,” Henryk Kowalczyk said in a Facebook post. “We also have to realise that finalising this type of investment takes three-four months.”

His remarks came after Biden said on Tuesday that temporary silos would be built along the border with Ukraine in a bid to help export more grain and address a growing global food crisis.

Since the Russian invasion and blockade of Ukrainian Black Sea ports, grain shipments have stalled and more than 20 million tonnes are stuck in silos. Ukraine says it faces a shortage of silos for new crop.

How problematic is corruption in Ukraine?

Analysts say that Ukraine has long suffered from systemic corruption but that Russia, which often weaponises the issue, is in no position to judge.

Read more here.

War in Ukraine sinks global peace level to 15-year low: Report

Global peace is at its lowest level in more than a decade fuelled by pandemic-related economic uncertainty and the Ukraine conflict, according to the Global Peace Index.

The report (PDF), the 16th of its kind produced by the Australian-headquartered Institute for Economics and Peace, said the average level of global “peacefulness” had deteriorated by 0.3 percent in 2021, falling to its lowest overall level in 15 years.

“Last year, we warned about the economic fallout from COVID-19. We are now experiencing supply chain shortages, rising inflation, and food insecurity that have been compounded by the tragic events in Ukraine,” Steve Killelea, IEP’s founder and executive chairman, said.

“The political and economic consequences of this will reverberate for years to come.”

A man is seen looking at a destroyed building on the outskirts of Kyiv
Russia’s offensive in Ukraine has killed thousands of people, displaced millions of others and destroyed hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of infrastructure [File: Natacha Pisarenko/AP]

UN experts probing possible war crimes say no contact yet with Russia

A UN commission set up to investigate possible war crimes in Ukraine during Russia’s invasion says it has not yet not managed to establish contact with Moscow.

Erik Mose, who heads the independent panel, told a news conference during a visit to Kyiv that efforts to start dialogue with Russia’s mission in Geneva had “not been successful” but that the commission would keep trying to make contact.

The commission was created by the UN’s Geneva-based Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to investigate alleged abuses of human rights and international humanitarian law during the war.

Mose said it was too early to discuss details of evidence collected in Kyiv, in the eastern cities of Kharkiv and Sumy, and in the towns of Irpin and Bucha where Ukraine says Russia committed large-scale atrocities. Russia denies the allegations.

The International Criminal Court has opened a separate inquiry into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine. The office of Ukraine’s prosecutor general said on Wednesday that ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan had visited Kharkiv to view evidence of alleged war crimes, but gave few details.

Deadly blast rocks town in occupied Kherson: Regional official

A powerful blast has rocked the town of Chornobaivka in Ukraine’s largely-occupied southern region of Kherson, killing and wounding civilians, according to a regional official.

The blast ripped through a market early on Wednesday morning, Serhiy Khlan, adviser to the Ukrainian head of the region, said in a Facebook post. Khlan did not specify the number of victims, but called the incident a Russian “terrorist attack.”

“The occupiers want to frighten people,” he said.

There was no immediate reaction to the claim from Moscow. Al Jazeera could not independently verify Khlan’s report.

Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev in Kyiv.

Reduced Russian gas supply politically motivated: German minister

Recent reductions in gas supply from Russia to Germany are politically motivated, not technically based, German economy minister Robert Habeck has said.

Russia’s state-owned energy giant Gazprom said on Tuesday that it had curbed supplies via the Nord Stream 1 undersea pipeline to Germany to up to 100 million cubic metres (mcm) per day, down from 167 mcm, citing the delayed return of equipment that had been sent for repair.

Habeck warned that there was still a possibility of further restricted energy supplies from Russia. “It’s not over yet,” he said.

EU signs gas deal with Israel, Egypt in bid to ditch Russian supplies

The European Union, Israel and Egypt have signed a tripartite natural gas export deal as the bloc seeks to diversify from Russian energy in the wake of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Read more here.

Russia says recession may be significantly less deep than expected

Russia’s economy minister says that this year’s economic recession in the country could be significantly less deep than previous estimates.

“We can say that inflation [in Russia] will clearly be much lower than the estimates … It is quite possible that we will look at the May data, and the depth of the decline may be a bit lower than we thought,” Maxim Reshetnikov said.

Russia’s central bank last week cut its key interest rate to 9.5 percent and kept the door open to further easing as inflation slowed.

In call with Putin, China’s Xi says all sides should work to resolve Ukraine crisis

Chinese President Xi Jinping has told his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin during talks by phone that all parties should work towards resolving the crisis in Ukraine “in a responsible manner”, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV reported.

China has refused to condemn Russia’s actions in Ukraine or call them an invasion, and has urged a negotiated solution.

In their call, Xi reiterated China’s willingness to help resolve the situation.

China and Russia have grown increasingly close in recent years, and in February, Putin and Xi signed a wide-ranging strategic partnership aimed at countering the geopolitical influence wielded by the United States and said they would have “no ‘forbidden’ areas of cooperation”.

Read more here

Zelesnkyy warns invasion of Ukraine ‘first step to conquest of other peoples’

Ukraine’s president has urged the EU to tighten sanctions on Russia, warning that its forces could attack other countries after invading his own.

“Russia is not interested only in our [cities of] Mariupol, Severodonetsk, Kharkiv and Kyiv. No, its ambitions are directed on a vast area from Warsaw to Sofia,” Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a speech given to both chambers of the Czech Republic’s parliament via video link.

“As in the past, the Russian invasion of Ukraine is the first step that the Russian leadership needs to open the way to other countries, to the conquest of other peoples,” he aded.

Zelenskyy also reiterated calls for the EU to allow Ukraine to start on the road to membership of the 27-nation bloc by giving it candidate country status.

The European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, is expected to announce a decision on Ukraine’s request for candidate status this week ahead of an EU summit next week. Having candidate status would be a preliminary step in a long process to accession.

Moscow says DPR death sentences set example for ‘soldiers of fortune’ in Ukraine

A spokeswoman for Russia’s foreign ministry says the death sentences handed down to three foreign fighters in eastern Ukraine’s Moscow-backed, self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) will set a “clear example to other soldiers of fortune fighting for Ukraine”.

Two British nationals and one Moroccan national who were captured while fighting with the Ukrainian army were sentenced to death as mercenaries by Russian-backed authorities in the breakaway region last week.

Western officials say the men should be treated as regular soldiers taken prisoner in war and entitled to protection under the Geneva Conventions. Their relatives say they were all contracted to fight for Ukraine.

NATO chief warns Ukraine in ‘urgent need’ of arms deliveries

NATO’s secretary-general has called on members of the US-led transatlantic military alliance to continue to supply Ukraine with heavy weaponry and long-range weapons systems, warning there is an “urgent need” to step up arms deliveries.

Addressing reporters at a news conference in Brussels ahead of a meeting of NATO defence ministers, Stoltenberg said the alliance was “extremely focused on stepping up support” for Kyiv but warned it will take time for Kyiv’s forces to adapt to using modernised heavy weapons.

“Ukraine is really in a very critical situation and therefore, it’s an urgent need to step up,” he said, echoing calls for additional supplies from Kyiv, which complains it has only received a fraction of what it needs and is clamouring for heavier weaponry.

Stoltenberg noted that NATO allies had recently shifted to delivering “more long-range, more advanced air defence systems, more advanced artillery [and] more heavy weapons” to Ukraine.

“[But] it is also a fact that when we now are actually starting the transition from Soviet-era weapons to more modern NATO weapons there will also be some time needed to just make the Ukrainians ready to use and operate these systems,” he said.

INTERACTIVE- NATO history and expansions Fin

Kremlin says communication with US remains ‘essential’

The Kremlin says communication with the US remains “essential” despite high tensions between Moscow and Washington over the war in Ukraine.

But Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call that dialogue could only be conducted on a basis of mutual respect and benefit.

“The US is not going anywhere, Europe is not going anywhere, so somehow we will have to communicate with them,” he said. But he added the issue was “not a topic on the short-term horizon”.

Relations between Russia and the West were already at one of their lowest points since the end of the Cold War even before Moscow launched its invasion.

Mariupol residents reduced to living ‘everyday life’ on war-torn streets: Ukrainian official

Civilians in Ukraine’s occupied southeastern port city of Mariupol have been reduced to living almost all aspects of “everyday life” on its war-torn streets due to the destruction inflicted by Moscow’s offensive, a Ukrainian official has claimed.

Petro Andryushchenko, an adviser to the mayor of Mariupol, who is based outside of the city, said in a Telegram post that people were “cooking, looking for firewood, collecting water and making a living” in the open air due to the city’s infrastructure – including swaths of houses and apartment blocks – being largely ruined by Russian shelling.

“They are still trying to find relatives. They bury people in backyards. [And] The [Russian] occupiers have left people to their own devices,” he said.

“The worst thing is that people are getting used to it … They compare [their living conditions] not to what was before the war but to [what happened] in February – April. With their lives in the cold basements under fire,” Andryushchenko added, citing Russia’s weeks-long bombardment of the city in the early stages of the war.

“Sometime in the future, psychologists will describe the ‘Mariupol syndrome’. A separate psychological state that seems impossible in normal life.”

Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev in Kyiv.

Mini map showing Mariupol's location within Ukraine

Russia-backed separatist says up to 1,200 civilians may be holed up in Severodonetsk plant

Up to 1,200 civilians may be holed up in the shelters of the Azot chemical plant in Severodonetsk, according to a Moscow-backed separatist leader in eastern Ukraine’s self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR).

“About 1,000 to 1,200 civilians of Sievierodonetsk may still be on the territory of the Azot chemical plant,” Rodion Miroshnik, an official in the LPR’s Russian-backed self-styled separatist administration, said in a Telegram post.

Miroshnik said the civilians are in a part of the plant that is still controlled by Ukrainian forces, which he said numbered up to 2,000 people including Ukrainian and foreign fighters.

Moscow has accused what it described as Ukrainian “militants” of having deliberately led civilians into the Azot plant and using them as human shields.

Ukraine says the number of civilians at the plant is closer to 500 and has denied Russian claims that it uses civilians as human shields.

Romanian president urges EU to grant Ukraine candidate status

Romania’s president has urged the EU to grant Ukraine candidate status, saying the decision is the correct call.

“In my opinion, the candidate status must be granted as soon as possible, it is a correct solution from a moral, economic and security perspective,” Klaus Iohannis said after talks with French President Emmanuel Macron in Romania.

He added that a decision on the issue may come by the end of June.

Macron: Zelenskyy will have to negotiate with Russia at some point

France’s president says that Ukraine’s leader will have to hold talks with Russia at some point in order to try and end the war.

“The Ukrainian President and his officials will have to negotiate with Russia,” Macron said while on a visit to Romania and Moldova.

Macron’s visit marks the beginning of a three-day trip to NATO’s southern flank. Two unnamed diplomatic sources told the Reuters news agency he may also head to Kyiv on Thursday with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi for talks with Zelenskyy.

Ukraine says 2.4 million hectares of winter crops won’t be harvested because of war

About 2.4 million hectares of winter crops with a total value of $1.4bn will remain unharvested in Ukraine because of Russia’s invasion, the country’s agriculture ministry says.

The minsitry said the agriculture sector had suffered total losses of $4.2bn to date because of Moscow’s offensive.

It estimated that the number of animals killed in areas affected by fighting included 42,000 sheep and goats, 92,000 cows, 258,000 pigs and more than 5.7 million birds.

Russia says it has destroyed warehouse for NATO weapons in western Ukraine

Russia’s defence ministry says its forces have launched missile strikes on an ammunition warehouse for weapons donated to Kyiv by NATO member states in Ukraine’s western Lviv region, destroying the facility.

The ministry said some of the ammunition was to be used for US-produced M777 howitzers, a type of artillery weapon.

There was no immediate reaction to the ministry’s claims from Kyiv or any NATO member states. Al Jazeera could not independently verify the report.

Russian shelling wounds 19 in Mykolaiv: Regional official

At least 19 people have been wounded in recent days by Russian shelling in Ukraine’s southern Mykolaiv region, according to a regional official.

Regional council head Hamma Zamazeyeva said in a Telegram post that all of the victims had been taken to hospital for treatment.

He added there were 280 people overall currently receiving treatment in hospitals throughout the region due to wounds inflicted by Russian attacks.

Al Jazeera could not independently verify the figures provided.

Reporting by Mansur Mirovalev in Kyiv.

Macron toughens tone on Russia before possible Ukraine visit

Macron has voiced a tougher line on Russia after visiting French and allied troops at a NATO base in Romania, seeking to assuage concerns in Ukraine and among some European allies over his previous stance towards Moscow.

French officials have in recent days sought to strengthen the public messaging, while Macron appeared to take a tougher line when he was with his troops.

“We will do everything to stop Russia’s war forces, to help the Ukrainians and their army and continue to negotiate,” he told French and NATO troops at a military base in Romania.

“But for the foreseeable future, we will need to protect, dissuade and be present,” he said.

French President Emmanuel Macron gestures as he speaks during a media conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz before their meeting at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, January 25, 2022
Macron has been criticised by Ukraine and eastern European allies for what they perceived as his ambiguous backing for Ukraine in the war [File: EPA]

Russia tells Ukrainian forces to down weapons in Severodonetsk battle

Russia has told Ukrainian forces holed up in a chemical plant in Severodonetsk to lay down their arms as its troops press for complete control of the key city, in eastern Ukraine.

Fighters should “stop their senseless resistance and lay down arms” from 8 am Moscow time (05:00 GMT), ​Mikhail Mizintsev, head of Russia’s national defence management centre, told the Interfax news agency.

Civilians would be let out through a humanitarian corridor, Mizintsev said.

Ukraine says more than 500 civilians are trapped alongside soldiers inside the Azot chemical factory where its forces have resisted weeks of Russian bombardment and assaults that have reduced much of Severodonetsk to ruins.

Moscow destroying Russian-speaking cities in Ukraine: Zelenskyy

Moscow claims to be protecting the rights of Russian-speaking people in Ukraine, but most of the cities destroyed by the Russian army were largely Russian-speaking, Zelenskyy has said.

“And they are now switching to Ukrainian because they are shocked at how the Russian army could have done that to them,” Zelenskyy told Danish journalists at an online press conference.

Zelenskyy reiterated he would only negotiate with Russia if its forces withdrew from Ukraine.

“If the Russian Federation is ready to end the war, which means to withdraw troops from our territories, I am personally ready for such a format at any moment,” he said.

Ukraine says 313 children killed amid war

The office of Ukraine’s prosecutor general says 313 children have been killed and 579 injured amid the war.

Most of the casualties were recorded in the southeastern Donetsk region, northeastern Kharkiv, and in areas around the capital, Kyiv, the office said in a Telegram post.

Al Jazeera could not independently verify the figures provided.

More difficult for Ukraine’s army to hold off Russians in Severodonetsk: Governor

It’s becoming more difficult for Ukraine’s forces to hold off Russia’s attacks on Severodonetsk, which are coming from three directions at the same time, the governor of Luhansk has said.

Russian forces again fired on the Azot chemical plant on Tuesday, Haidai said in a Telegram post.

“High-rise buildings located closer to the chemical giant are being destroyed. The enemy is weaker in street battles, so it opens artillery fire, destroying our homes,” he added.

Surrounding towns and villages also saw significant damage with many wounded and dozens of homes destroyed, Haidai said.

‘Extensive collateral damage’ in Severodonetsk due to Russian artillery: UK

Russia’s reliance on heavy artillery has caused “extensive collateral damage” throughout Severodonetsk, which Moscow’s forces largely control after more than a month of heavy fighting, the UK’s defence ministry has said.

Ukraine’s fighters can likely survive in the underground bunkers of the city’s Azot chemical plant, where they are holding out with several hundred civilians, the ministry said, adding that Russian forces will likely be fixed in and around the plant.

“This will likely temporarily prevent Russia from re-tasking these units for missions elsewhere,” it said in an intelligence briefing on Twitter.

“It is highly unlikely that Russia anticipated such robust opposition, or such slow, attritional conflict during its original planning for the invasion,” the ministry added.

Europe imports more South African coal as Russian ban looms

European countries, scrambling to secure alternatives to Russian coal, imported 40 percent more coal from South Africa’s main export hub in the first five months of this year than over the whole of 2021, figures obtained by Reuters have shown.

South Africa’s Richards Bay Coal Terminal (RBCT) delivered 3,240,752 tonnes of coal to European countries by end-May this year, 15 percent of RBCT’s overall exports, up from 2,321,190 (4 percent) in 2021, the figures showed.

Starting the second week of August, Russian coal imports will be banned in the EU, part of wide-ranging sanctions on Moscow. RBCT did not immediately reply to a request for comment. RBCT usually provides figures annually and does not give a comprehensive breakdown of export destinations.

The Netherlands, Italy, France, Spain, Denmark, Poland, Germany, and Ukraine have received coal from RBCT so far this year. Some of them only began importing from RBCT after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.

China should look to West’s Ukraine response when considering Taiwan: Blinken

China should factor in the world’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as it looks to any future actions with respect to Taiwan, the US secretary of state has said.

“Unfortunately, what we’ve seen over the last 10 years is China acting more repressively at home and more aggressively abroad, to include actions that it’s taken with regard to Taiwan that are potentially dangerous and destabilising,” Antony Blinken said in an interview on PBS NewsHour on Tuesday.

“One of the things I think that China has to factor into any calculus is the response that we’ve seen to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, and so many countries coming together to stand against that aggression, both by making sure that Ukraine had the support that it needed and also making sure that Russia paid a price for the aggression,” he added.

Blinken also said the fighting in Ukraine’s Donbas was “horrific” and has led to “terrible death” and destruction.

Ukraine’s need for more weapons major focus as defence ministers meet

Dozens of defence ministers from NATO and other parts of the world are expected to discuss weapons deliveries to Ukraine on Wednesday in Brussels, the Reuters news agency reports US officials as having said.

“Russia has not given up on the fight, despite its pretty anaemic progress … What we have is this grinding, slow, incremental Russian operation,” a senior US defence official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Reuters.

“So the question is what do the Ukrainians need to continue the success they’ve already seen in slowing down and thwarting that Russian objective and that’ll be a major focus for the defence ministers,” the official said about the meeting, which will be led by the US.

Ukraine needs 1,000 howitzers, 500 tanks and 1,000 drones, among other heavy weapons, presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said on Monday. In addition, Zelenskyy has called for more modern anti-missile systems.

Russia-backed separatist announces road opening from Donbas to Crimea

The route between Ukraine’s Donbas region and the Russian-annexed territory of Crimea via the occupied regions of Mariupol, Melitopol and Kherson is now available for civilian vehicles, the Russian state-owned TASS news agency reports, citing a member of the self-proclaimed Moscow-backed administration of the Zaporizhia region.

“It’s not only for the military,” Vladimir Rogov said. “I myself have already travelled from Kherson through Melitopol to Berdyansk, Mariupol, Novoazovsk. Through Novoazovsk I went to Russia.”

“People take advantage of this, and there are many who want it, there are queues at the border, it was not designed for such an influx. But this corridor exists,” he added.

Last week, Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu announced the opening of the route to Crimea from Russia’s city of Rostov-on-Don – through Ukraine’s occupied cities of Mariupol, Berdyansk and Melitopol.

Nicaragua Congress renews Russian training exercise approval

Nicaragua’s Congress has renewed a decade-long decree allowing Russian forces to train in the Central American country, a decision the US criticised.

Tuesday’s decision allows 230 Russian soldiers to enter Nicaragua between July 1 and December 31 to patrol in Pacific waters with the Nicaraguan Army.

President Daniel Ortega has backed Putin over Moscow’s offensive, and the Congressional decision was expected.

Since 2012, Nicaragua’s unicameral Congress has biannually approved the entry of foreign military personnel, including Russians, into the country.

Almost 2 out of 3 Ukraine children uprooted amid war: UN

Nearly two-thirds of children in Ukraine have been uprooted during the war, according to a UN official who visited the country last week.

“The war in Ukraine is a child rights crisis,” Afshan Khan, Europe and Central Asia director for UNICEF, told reporters on Tuesday.

Khan said 277 children in Ukraine have been killed and 456 injured, mostly due to explosives used in urban areas. She said the number of damaged schools is likely in the thousands, and only about 25 percent of schools in Ukraine are even operational.

Children look out the window of an unheated Lviv-bound train, in Kyiv, Ukraine.
Children look out the window of an unheated Lviv-bound train in Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, March 3, 2022 [Vadim Ghirda/AP]

Russia ‘ready to listen’ should UK appeal on prisoners

Russia would be ready to consider a UK appeal over the fate of two Britons sentenced to death for fighting for Ukraine, the Kremlin has said.

Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, said neither Moscow nor the pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine who passed the sentence had heard from London on the issue.

“You need to apply, of course, to the authorities of the country whose court passed the verdict, and that is not the Russian Federation,” he said. “But, of course, everything will depend on appeals from London. And I am sure that the Russian side will be ready to listen.”

The two Britons, Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner, as well as a Moroccan man named Brahim Saadoun, were sentenced to death last week for allegedly fighting as mercenaries by a court in the DPR. The men were given a month to appeal their sentences.

Polish PM says NATO has ‘not done enough to defend Ukraine’

Poland’s prime minister has accused NATO of failing to offer sufficient support to Ukraine, which has repeatedly called for more and heavier weapons from the alliance’s member states.

“We have not done enough to defend Ukraine, to support Ukrainian people to defend their freedom and sovereignty. And this is why I urge you, I asked you to do much more to deliver weapon, artillery to Ukraine,” Mateusz Morawiecki said at an informal meeting of seven European NATO nations at The Hague.

“Where is our credibility if Ukraine fails? Can we imagine that Ukraine fails and we revert back to business as usual? I hope not,” he added.

European official concerned about Russia flying Western-made airplanes

Europe’s top aviation safety regulator has said he is “very worried” about the safety of Western-made aircraft continuing to fly in Russia without access to spare parts and proper maintenance.

The EU and the US have moved to restrict Russia’s access to spare parts following its invasion of Ukraine.

“This is very unsafe,” Patrick Ky, executive director of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, told reporters on the sidelines of a conference, adding that regulators do not have good data on many of the planes flying in Russia.

Jailed Kremlin critic Navalny moved to maximum-security prison

Jailed Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny has been abruptly transferred from a prison where he was serving his years-long prison sentence to an undisclosed location, according to his allies.

When his lawyer arrived at Correctional Colony No 2, a prison camp in Pokrov, 119km (74 miles) east of Moscow, he was told, “There is no such convict here,” Navalny’s chief of staff Leonid Volkov said on Telegram on Tuesday.

But late in the day, the chairman of a prison monitoring commission said Navalny had been transferred to a maximum-security prison nearby.

Navalny was moved to the IK-6 prison in the village of Melekhovo in the Vladimir region, Russian news agencies reported, citing Sergei Yazhan, chairman of the regional Public Monitoring Commission. Melekhovo is about 250km (155 miles) east of Moscow.

Alexey Navalny appears on a video link from prison at the Moscow City Court, Russia.
Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny appears on a video link from prison provided by the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service at Moscow City Court, Tuesday, May 24, 2022 [Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP]

Russian troops control 80% of Severodonetsk: Governor

Russian troops control about 80 percent of the fiercely contested eastern city of Severodonetsk, the governor of Luhansk has said.

Ukrainian forces have been pushed to the industrial outskirts of the city because of “the scorched earth method and heavy artillery the Russians are using,” Serhiy Haidai told The Associated Press news agency.

He acknowledged that a mass evacuation of civilians from Severodonetsk was “simply not possible” now due to the relentless shelling and fighting. Haidai added that about 500 civilians were still sheltering in the Azot chemical plant.

Ukraine suffering painful losses in Severodonetsk, Kharkiv: Zelenskyy

Ukrainian forces are suffering painful losses in fighting Russian troops in the eastern city of Severodonetsk and the Kharkiv region, Zelenskyy has said.

Ukraine said its forces were still trying to evacuate civilians from Severodonetsk after Russia destroyed the last bridge to the city, the latest stage in a weeks-long battle in the Donbas region that Moscow seeks to capture.

Both sides claim to have inflicted huge casualties in the fighting over the city, Russia’s principal battleground focus.

About 12,000 people remain in Severodonetsk, from a pre-war population of 100,000, according to the regional governor.

NATO must strengthen readiness, chief says

NATO must develop “even higher readiness” and strengthen its weapons capabilities along its eastern border in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the military alliance’s secretary-general has said.

Stoltenberg was speaking after informal talks in the Netherlands with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and the leaders of Denmark, Poland, Latvia, Romania, Portugal and Belgium ahead of a wider NATO summit in Madrid at the end of the month.

“In Madrid, we will agree a major strengthening of our posture,” he said. “Tonight we discussed the need for more robust and combat-ready forward presence and an even higher readiness and more pre-positioned equipment and supplies.”

Asked about Sweden and Finland’s applications to join the alliance, Stoltenberg said he was seeking “a united way forward” to resolve opposition from Turkey, which has been angered by what it deems as Swedish support of Kurdish activists.

Ukraine needs more anti-missile systems: Zelenskyy

Zelenskyy has again called on the West to send his forces “more modern anti-missile systems”.

“Our country does not have it at a sufficient level yet, but it is our country in Europe that needs such weapons most right now,” Zelenskyy said.

Delay with provision of these weapons cannot be justified, he added.

Ukraine’s deputy defence minister, Anna Malyar, said on Tuesday that Kyiv had received just 10 percent of the weapons it requested. She said Ukraine uses 5,000 to 6,000 artillery rounds a day, while Russia uses 10 times more.

Biden: Temporary silo plan to get Ukraine grain out

US President Joe Biden says he is working closely with EU partners to build temporary silos along the Ukraine border and some in Poland to get much-needed grain out of the country.

Biden made the announcement during a speech in Philadelphia.

Russia urges Ukrainian fighters at Azot plant to surrender

Russia’s defence ministry has said it offered Ukrainian fighters sheltering in the Azot chemical plant in the eastern Ukrainian town of Severodonetsk the chance to surrender on Wednesday.

Russia has also said it will open a humanitarian corridor on Wednesday to allow civilians to leave the plant.

Read more here.

You can read all updates from Tuesday, June 14, here.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies