Russia-Ukraine latest: Ukraine officially an EU candidate

‘Today marks a crucial step on your path towards the EU’: President of the European Council Charles Michel.

European lawmakers and Ukrainian representatives unfurl a 30-metre-long Ukrainian flag outside EU Parliament
The European Union has approved the application of Ukraine to become a candidate country for admission to the 27-strong bloc [Yves Herman/Reuters]
  • The European Union has approved the application of Ukraine to become a candidate country for admission to the 27-strong bloc.
  • Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai says Ukrainian troops may retreat from Lysychansk to avoid being encircled.
  • The United States is expected to provide an additional $450m in security assistance to Ukraine, including more long-range rocket systems.
  • The European Union and Norway have agreed to cooperate to bring more gas from Western Europe’s biggest producer to the EU’s 27 countries.
(Al Jazeera)

The live blog is now closed, thank you for joining us. Here are the updates for June 23, 2022.

Kyiv files case against Russia at the European Court of Human Rights

Kyiv said it has formally filed a case against Russia at the European Court of Human Rights to end “the mass and gross human rights violations” by Moscow’s forces during the war in Ukraine, Reuters reported.

The move is considered symbolic, given that on June 7 the Russian parliament approved two bills ending the court’s jurisdiction in Russia.

A Ukrainian justice ministry statement said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was illegal under the European Convention on Human Rights.

“The Court will be invited to find that Russia has been guilty of the most flagrant, serious and sustained violations of the Convention ever placed before the Court, and to award just satisfaction on an equally unprecedented scale,” it said.

UK government introduces additional sanctions on Russia

The UK government has updated the list of goods that are banned from being exported to Russia.

These include jet fuel and fuel additives, as well as Sterling or EU-denominated banknotes; as well as prohibitions on the making available, supply, or delivery of such banknotes to a person connected with Russia.

The prohibitions also include the provision of technical assistance, financial services, funds, and brokering services relating to iron and steel imports.

European Union approves Ukraine as candidate country

The European Union has approved the application of Ukraine to become a candidate country for admission to the 27-strong bloc. EU leaders meeting in Brussels have followed the recommendation of the European Commission, which was made on Friday 17 June.

The move comes just one day short of the four-month anniversary of President Putin ordering his troops into Ukraine for what Russia has insisted is not a war, but a “special military operation”.

The accession process to the EU can be lengthy. Until today the official list of candidate countries included Albania, the Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey. Turkey gained candidate status in 1999, the Republic of North Macedonia in 2005.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen tweeted on Thursday, “Today is a good day for Europe.”

US expected to provide Ukraine with additional security assistance

The United States is expected to provide an additional $450m in security assistance to Ukraine, including more long-range rocket systems, US officials have told Reuters.

The officials said an announcement was expected later on Thursday and the latest package is expected to include four additional High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS).

The official added that details on the package could change at the last minute.

Broadcasting union reaffirms that Eurovision will not be held in Ukraine

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) has issued statement re-affirming its decision that Ukraine will not be able to host the Eurovision song contest in 2023.

The EBU said it was opening talks with the BBC to host next year’s contest in the UK, after ruling out the event being hosted by this year’s winners, Ukraine, as tradition dictates. Ukraine’s culture minister demanded that they re-consider.

“The EBU fully understands the disappointment that greeted the announcement that the 2023 Eurovision song contest (ESC) cannot be staged in Ukraine. The decision was guided by the EBU’s responsibility to ensure the conditions are met to guarantee the safety and security of everyone working and participating in the event.”

Kalush Orchestra from Ukraine appear on stage after winning the 2022 Eurovision Song Contest in Turin, Italy on May 15, 2022 [Yara Nardi/Reuters]
Kalush Orchestra from Ukraine appear on stage after winning the 2022 Eurovision Song Contest in Turin, Italy, on May 15, 2022 [Yara Nardi/Reuters]

Ukrainian troops may retreat from Lysychansk to avoid being encircled

Ukrainian troops may need to pull back from the key front-line city of Lysychansk to avoid being encircled after Russian forces captured two villages to its south, regional governor Serhiy Haidai has said on national television, Reuters reported.

“In order to avoid encirclement, our command could order that the troops retreat to new positions,” he said. “All of Lysychansk is within reach of their fire. It is very dangerous in the city.”

The retreat of Ukrainian troops from Lysychansk and Severodonetsk, the last two Ukrainian-held cities in Luhansk, would bring Moscow closer to one of its key war aims of capturing all of that region.

Divided by a river, the cities have become a key battleground in Russia’s assault on the industrial heartland of Donbas and the fighting is nearing a “fierce climax”, a top official told Reuters.

Ireland PM: Putin’s ‘wholly immoral’ behaviour has weaponised food

Micheál Martin, Ireland’s prime minister and head of government, has accused Putin of “wholly immoral” behaviour, saying the Russian president has “weaponised” food, energy and migration as part of his country’s war on Ukraine.

Commenting in Brussels before the EU-western Balkans leaders’ summit, Martin said the EU was very clear it had not applied any sanctions against the movement of food. Martin stated “we do not want to, in any shape or form, be a catalyst for any famine or hunger.

“And that’s the big fear at the moment because of the fact that grain is not getting out of Ukraine, that there could be very significant impacts in terms of famine and that’s a big worry, particularly around the Horn of Africa, the Middle East and so on.”

He blamed Russia for the Ukraine grain export crisis, saying, “Putin has weaponised food, he’s weaponised energy, he’s weaponised migration as part of his overall war effort, which I think is wholly immoral and wrong.”

EU and Norway to cooperate on gas as Russia cuts energy supplies

The European Union and Norway have agreed to cooperate to bring more gas from Western Europe’s biggest producer to the EU’s 27 countries, nearly half of which are now grappling with cuts to Russian gas supplies.

Norway and the European Commission will “step up cooperation in order to ensure additional short-term and long-term gas supplies from Norway,” they said in a statement after EU climate policy chief Frans Timmermans and Norway’s energy minister Terje Aasland met in Brussels.

According to Reuters, the EU imports roughly a fifth of its gas from Norway, compared with the 40 percent it got from Russia before Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. Russia has been cutting gas supplies to countries refusing to pay it in roubles.

Cisco to wind down business in Russia

Telecoms equipment maker Cisco will wind down its business in Russia and Belarus, the company told Reuters on Thursday, as the pace of Western companies departing accelerates.

The US company stopped business operations, including sales and services, in the region in March.

Telecoms equipment maker Cisco will wind down its business in Russia and Belarus [Nacho Doce/Reuters]

Scholz: EU must ready itself for expansion

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has warned that the European Union must ready itself for expansion as the bloc paves the way for Ukraine to join.

“We need to set the conditions that are necessary for Ukraine to continue its promising road ahead and at the same time we need to understand that we need to make ourselves ready for expansion,” he said, as reported by Reuters.

Scholz said that in order for a larger union to work, more decisions should be made by majority, instead of requiring unanimity.

Melbourne considers using quarantine hub to house Ukraine refugees

The Australian city of Melbourne is considering using a purpose-built quarantine hub to house hundreds of refugees fleeing war-torn Ukraine and Afghanistan.

The largely vacant $200m Centre for National Resilience opened as a 500-bed site in February to house unvaccinated international travellers, before the state dropped its seven-day quarantine requirement.

The centre would only house refugees temporarily as more permanent accommodation is sought.

The plan is to house only some of about 500 refugees coming to Australia from Afghanistan and about 200 from Ukraine.

Putin concerned about “selfish actions of individual states”

President Putin has said an issue of concern is the “ill-conceived, selfish actions of individual states” – in his speech at the 14th BRICS summit, which comprises Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

The event, which is being held virtually, is hosted by President Xi Jinping of China.

“Only on the basis of honest and mutually beneficial cooperation can we look for ways out of the crisis situation that has developed in the world economy due to the ill-conceived, selfish actions of individual states, which, using financial mechanisms, in fact, spread their own mistakes in macroeconomic policy to the whole world,” the Russian news agency RIA Novosti quoted Putin as saying.

Xi Jinping speaks from a large screen to a virtual forum in Beijing with the audience sitting spaced apart on individual chairs because of COVID-19
Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a speech via video at the opening ceremony of the BRICS Business Forum, in Beijing, China June 22, 2022 [China Out/Reuters]


Ukraine defence minister welcomes arrival of US rocket systems

High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) from the United States have arrived in Ukraine, Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov has said.

“Thank you to my US colleague and friend Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin for these powerful tools! Summer will be hot for Russian occupiers. And the last one for some of them,” he said on Twitter.

Nike to fully exit Russia

US sportswear maker Nike is making a full exit from Russia, three months after suspending its operations there, the company said in an emailed statement to the Reuters news agency.

“NIKE has made the decision to leave the Russian marketplace. Our priority is to ensure we are fully supporting our employees while we responsibly scale down our operations over the coming months,” the firm said in an emailed statement.

Nike said on March 3 that it would temporarily suspend operations at all its Nike-owned and operated stores in Russia in response to Moscow’s actions in Ukraine, adding that those still open were operated by independent partners.

It joined other leading Western brands, like McDonald’s and Google, in confirming it will leave the country completely.

Zelenskyy blasts Israel over refusal to sanction Russia

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has intensified his criticism of Israel’s refusal to sanction Russia during an address to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

“How can you not help the victims of such aggression?” Zelenskyy, who is Jewish and has family in Israel, said.

“I don’t how to answer the questions that I always get about how has Israel helped and what else can Israel do,” he added.

Tel Aviv has sent humanitarian and medical aid to Ukraine, but arms supplies and sanctions have remained off the table.

EU Parliament votes in favour of Ukraine’s candidacy status

The European Parliament has adopted a resolution with 529 votes in favour to 45 against and 14 abstentions that calls on heads of state – who hold their summit on Thursday and Friday – to grant EU candidate status to Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova “without delay”.

They should do the same with Georgia “once its government has delivered” on the priorities indicated by the European Commission, the parliament said in a statement.

“Ukrainians, Moldovans and Georgians deserve to live in free, democratic and prosperous countries that are proud and committed members of the European family,” it added.

Kremlin says Russia reliable energy supplier to Europe

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said Russia is a very reliable energy supplier to Europe and “strictly fulfils all its obligations”.

Peskov told a daily conference call with reporters that Germany had been informed about the “service cycles” of the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline, which is due to undergo maintenance from July 11 to 21.

Gas flows through the Nord Stream 1 undersea pipeline from Russia to Germany have been falling. Russia said a technical issue caused by sanctions forced the state-owned Gazprom to reduce the flow, while Italy and Germany said this was a pretext to send less gas.

Russia says it struck Mykolaiv with high-precision weapons

Russia’s defence ministry has said it used high-precision weapons to hit Ukrainian army fuel tanks and military equipment near the southern city of Mykolaiv, the Interfax news agency reported.

Mykolaiv Mayor Oleksandr Senkevych earlier wrote on Telegram that loud explosions were heard in the city, and called on residents to seek shelter.

Russia sent dollar-eurobond coupon payouts in roubles: Ministry

The Russian finance ministry has said it fulfilled its obligations on two issues of dollar-denominated eurobonds “in full” by sending 12.51 billion roubles ($234.5m) in coupon payments to the National Settlement Depository (NSD).

The ministry said the payments were on eurobonds maturing in 2027 and 2047.

“Thus, obligations on servicing the state securities of the Russian Federation were fulfilled by the finance ministry in full,” the ministry said in a statement.

Germany says Russia gas cuts ‘economic attack’

“We must not fool ourselves: the cut in gas supplies is an economic attack on us by [Russian President Vladimir] Putin,” German Economy Minister Robert Habeck has said in a statement.

Lower gas flows sparked warnings that Germany could fall into recession if Russia supplies halted altogether.

“It is obviously Putin’s strategy to create insecurity, drive up prices and divide us as a society,” Habeck added. “This is what we are fighting against.”

UK announces new tranche of trade sanctions against Russia

The United Kingdom has introduced a new tranche of trade sanctions against Russia, a notice published on a government website has said.

The notice listed new measures including prohibitions on the export to Russia of a range of goods and technology, the export of jet fuel, and the export of sterling or EU-denominated banknotes.

Why are some nations neutral on the Russia-Ukraine war?

Countries in Asia, Africa and the Middle East have refused to isolate Moscow despite the EU’s lobbying efforts.

India’s balancing act of appeasing both Russia and the West has caught the EU off guard. The African Union has also not bought into the EU’s efforts to isolate Russia.

Read more here.

Explosions heard in Ukraine’s Mykolaiv city: Mayor

Explosions have been heard in Ukraine’s southern city of Mykolaiv, Mayor Oleksandr Senkevych said.

“Go to the shelters. Be extremely careful!,” Senkevych said on messaging app Telegram. He did not specify the location of the blasts but said the city was being hit by artillery fire.

A Russian missile attack on Wednesday killed at least one person in Mykolaiv and damaged buildings, including a school, according to local authorities.

EU chief says Ukraine, Moldova candidacies ‘decisive moment’

EU chief Charles Michel said he expected the bloc’s leaders to take the “historic” decision Thursday to grant candidate status to war-torn Ukraine and its neighbour Moldova.

“This is a decisive moment for the European Union, this is also a geopolitical choice that we will make today. And I’m confident that today, we will grant the candidate status to Ukraine and to Moldova,” he told journalists before an EU summit.

The European Commission has given recommendations for EU candidature to Moldova and Ukraine but opted not to recommend Georgia for the same.

Turkey investigates claims of stolen Ukrainian grain

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said Turkey is taking seriously claims that Ukrainian grain was stolen by Russia and is investigating the allegations.

In a joint news conference with British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss in Ankara, Cavusoglu said Turkey would not allow grains stolen by Russia or any other country to be brought to Turkey.

Truss said the crisis around grain trapped in Ukraine must be resolved in a month and offered UK’s expertise to help resolve the situation.

‘Wind of change’ in Europe as path to EU opens for Ukraine

European leaders are expected to formally accept Ukraine as a candidate to join the EU, a bold geopolitical move triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“History is on the march,” EU chief executive Ursula von der Leyen said, before a two-day summit in Brussels. “I am talking about the wind of change that once again blows across our continent. With their applications, Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia are telling us that they want change.”

The 27-nation bloc will need a major overhaul as it looks to enlarge again. While it will take years or perhaps more than a decade for the applicants to qualify for membership, the decision is a symbolic step that signals the EU’s intention to reach deep into the former Soviet Union.

EU hopeful Albania says Bulgaria’s veto ‘a disgrace’

Bulgaria’s block on North Macedonia’s progress to join the EU is a “disgrace”, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama has said as he arrived for a special Balkans summit with EU leaders.

“It’s a disgrace that a NATO country, Bulgaria, kidnaps two other NATO countries, namely Albania and North Macedonia, in the midst of a hot war in Europe’s back yard with 26 other EU countries sitting still in a scary show of impotence,” Rama told reporters.

EU member Bulgaria, in 2020, blocked the start of accession talks with North Macedonia over a dispute relating to history and language. Albania is also being held back because the EU has linked its progress to that of North Macedonia.

Rama said Ukraine should not have “many illusions” about the possibility of quickly joining the EU. North Macedonia has been a candidate for 17 years and Albania for eight, he added.

EU climate chief says Russian gas cuts have hit 12 countries

A dozen EU countries have been affected by cuts to gas supply from Russia, the bloc’s climate policy chief Frans Timmermans has said.

Timmermans said 10 of the EU’s 27 member countries have issued an “early warning” on gas supply, the first and least severe of three levels of crisis identified in EU security of energy supply regulations.

EU countries are required to have plans in place for how they would manage a supply disruption at the three levels.

Two Britons, Moroccan on death row in Donetsk prepare appeal

Two Britons and a Moroccan who were captured while fighting for Ukraine and sentenced to death by a court in the self-proclaimed breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) are preparing to appeal, Russia’s TASS news agency has reported.

Britons Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner and Moroccan Brahim Saadoun were found guilty of “mercenary activities and committing actions aimed at seizing power and overthrowing the constitutional order of the DPR”.

“My colleagues and I are currently preparing the full text of an appeal against the sentence in the interests of our defendants,” TASS quoted Pinner’s lawyer, Yulia Tserkovnikova, as saying.

“Undoubtedly, if the appeal is dismissed and the sentence comes into force, a request for clemency will be filed as this is an inherent right of the defendants, under the legislation of the Donetsk People’s Republic,” she added.

Germany to enter Phase 2 of emergency gas plan: Reuters

Germany will enter Phase 2 of its three-stage emergency gas plan on Thursday, a source close to the matter told Reuters.

The alarm stage, planned for when the government sees a high risk of long-term supply shortages of gas, enables utilities to pass on high prices to customers and thereby help lower demand.

However, Germany’s network regulator will not yet trigger a clause that would allow companies to pass on the gas price increases, sources close to the matter told Reuters.

Briton captured in Ukraine told execution will go ahead: BBC

A British man sentenced to death by a court in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic has been told the execution will be carried out, his family told the BBC. Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner were sentenced for fighting in Ukraine.

The BBC reports that Aslin’s family said they spoke to him over the phone and he said he was told “time is running out” by his captors. Aslin also reportedly told his family his captors said there had been no attempt by UK officials to negotiate on his behalf.

UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss says she and her Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba have spoken about “efforts to secure the release of prisoners of war held by Russian proxies” and has called the death sentences a “sham judgement with absolutely no legitimacy”.

Four civilians killed in Donetsk Wednesday: Governor

Russian forces killed four civilians in the Donetsk region on Wednesday, the governor says.

Two people were killed in the village of Prechystivka, one in the town of Krasnohorivka and one in the settlement of Zalizne, Pavlo Kyrylenko wrote on Telegram.

He said it was impossible to determine the exact number of victims in Mariupol and Volnovakha.

Russia putting ‘increasing pressure’ on Ukraine’s troops in Severodonetsk area: UK

Russian forces are putting Ukraine’s troops in the Lysychansk-Sieverodonetsk area under “increasing pressure,” the UK’s defence ministry says.

Russian forces have advanced more than 5km (3 miles) towards the southern parts of Lysychansk, the ministry said in its latest intelligence briefing, adding that some Ukrainian units had withdrawn, likely to avoid being encircled.

“Russian forces are putting the Lysychansk-Sieverodonetsk pocket under increasing pressure with this creeping advance around the fringes of the built-up area. However, its efforts to achieve a deeper encirclement to take western Donetsk Oblast remain stalled,” it added.

Fight for Severodonetsk and Lysychansk entering ‘fearsome climax’: Adviser

The fight for the twin cities of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk is “entering a sort of fearsome climax” Zelenskyy adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said as Russian forces intensify their push to take the Donbas.

The governor of Luhansk has said Russian forces captured another two villages on Wednesday: Loskutivka, about 25km south of Lysychansk and Rai-Oleksandrivka, about 60km southwest of Lysychansk (closer to the towns of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk).

“Lysychansk was shelled several times during June 22. Destruction was recorded in one of the city’s schools,” Serhiy Haidai said on Telegram.

Haidai said Ukraine’s forces were still holding their positions in Severodonetsk where Russian shelling caused a fire in the fibreglass factory. He said the Russian army was “liberating Severodonetsk from life and jobs”.

China’s Xi talks of Russia-Ukraine war as ‘alarm for humanity’

The conflict in Ukraine has “sounded an alarm for humanity”, Chinese leader Xi Jinping has said but gave no indication on how it could be resolved.

Beijing has not condemned Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine and has criticised Western-led sanctions on Russia, even as it has sought to maintain its relationship with Ukraine.

“The Ukraine crisis has again sounded the alarm for humanity. Countries will surely end up in security hardships if they place blind faith in their positions of strength, expand military alliances, and seek their own safety at the expense of others,” Xi said, according to state media.

Xi was speaking at the opening of a virtual business forum ahead of the 14th summit of the BRICS countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.

Read more here.

Mixed views for Kaliningrad residents on Lithuania ban: Reuters

Residents of Russian exclave Kaliningrad, sandwiched between EU and NATO members Poland and Lithuania, have mixed views about whether Lithuania’s transit ban on EU-sanctioned goods will affect the region.

“In grocery retail … we do not have an increase in turnover compared to the data of a week or a month ago”, Alexey Elaev, deputy CEO of SPAR Kaliningrad grocery stores, told Reuters.

He added that sanctions do not apply to food products, as well as a significant range of household products. The EU sanctions list notably includes coal, metals, construction materials and advanced technology, about half of the things Kaliningrad imports.

Resident Olga said she did not foresee a deficit. “We have a large region, we grow food, milk, all of that”, she said.

But another resident Georgiy said there is psychological distress about the ban. “Our authorities must end this special operation, move on to negotiations and gradually improve relations with both Ukraine and the European Union,” he said.

Russia says it has surrounded Ukraine’s troops south of Lysychansk

Russian forces have surrounded Ukraine troops south of Lysychansk, Russia’s state news agency TASS quoted the Moscow-backed militia of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic as saying.

It said on Wednesday that some 1,300 Ukrainian soldiers and “foreign mercenaries” had fallen into a “tight ring” of Russian forces around ​​Hirske and Zolote, south of Lysychansk, TASS reported.

TASS also quoted a source from the Russia-backed region saying its forces had taken the village of Volcheyarovka, some 12km (7.5 miles) southwest of Lysychansk. If true, Lysychansk would be at greater risk of being cut off.

Zelenskyy calls for heavy arms

Moscow’s considerable air and artillery attacks are aimed at destroying the entire Donbas region, Zelenskyy said as he urged allies to accelerate the shipment of heavy weapons to match Russia on the battlefield.

“In Donbas, there are massive air and artillery strikes. The goal of the occupiers in this direction remains the same – they want to destroy the whole Donbas step by step. Lysychansk, Sloviansk, Kramatorsk – they aim to turn any city into Mariupol. Completely ruined,” Zelenskyy said.

“This is why we, again and again, emphasise the acceleration of arms deliveries to Ukraine. What is quickly needed is parity on the battlefield,” he added.

Diary of 12-year-old Ukrainian refugee to be released

The reflections of a 12-year-old refugee from the Russian invasion of Ukraine will be published on October 25. Yeva Skalietska’s book is called You Don’t Know What War Is: The Diary of a Young Girl from Ukraine.

12-year-old Ukrainian refugee Yeva Skalietska.
Yeva Skalietska, a 12-year-old refugee from Ukraine, wrote You Don’t Know What War Is: The Diary of a Young Girl from Ukraine [Iryna Skalietska/Union Square & Co. via AP]

“Everyone knows what the word ‘war’ means, but practically no one knows what this word really represents,” Skalietska said in a statement released Wednesday. “I want the world to know what we have experienced.”

Skalietska’s book begins with her 12th birthday, shortly before the Russians attacked on February 24. She had been living in Kharkiv with her grandmother when the bombing began.

“She describes the bombings they endured while sheltering underground and their desperate journey to West Ukraine. She shares her confusion about why the Russians would attack them since she speaks Russian and follows many of their customs,” according to publisher Union Square’s announcement.

Russian attacks on Kharkiv kill 25 people: Governor

Russian attacks on Kharkiv on Tuesday and Wednesday have killed at least 25 people, according to Governor Oleh Synehubov, who said Russians continued shelling residential districts of Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, and other towns in the region.

“This is evidence that we cannot expect the same scenario as in Chernihiv or Kyiv, with Russian forces withdrawing under pressure,” he wrote on Telegram.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said in a video address that Russian forces were hitting Kharkiv to terrorise the population and force Ukraine to divert troops.

Zelenskyy speaks with 11 leaders on eve of EU summit

Ukraine’s president says he spoke with 11 European leaders on Wednesday in an effort to boost the chances of the European Parliament approving Kyiv’s bid for EU candidacy.

In what Zelenskyy described as a second day of “marathon” talks, he listed his discussions with the prime ministers of Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Latvia, Slovenia and Sweden as well as with the presidents of Lithuania and Moldova, and Austria’s chancellor.

“Tomorrow I will continue this marathon – we must provide maximum support to our state,” Zelenskyy said. “We expect a key European decision tomorrow night,” he added.

Russia’s Lavrov in Iran to discuss nuclear deal, cooperation

Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov arrived in Iran on Wednesday, Iranian state TV reported, as world powers and Tehran struggle to revive their 2015 nuclear pact amid stalled negotiations.

Iranian state TV showed Lavrov meeting Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi but gave no details. The Iranian foreign ministry said on Monday that Lavrov’s visit was aimed at “expanding cooperation with the Eurasian region and the Caucasus”.

Last month, Moscow said Russia and Iran – both under Western sanctions and sitting on some of the world’s largest oil and gas reserves – discussed swapping supplies for oil and gas as well as setting up a logistics hub.

US hopeful for positive resolution soon for Sweden, Finland’s NATO bid

The US is hopeful there will soon be a positive resolution of the issues between Turkey, Finland and Sweden regarding the NATO accession bids of the two Nordic countries, the US Department of State’s top diplomat for Europe has said.

Karen Donfried, assistant secretary for Europe and Eurasian affairs, speaking at a Senate foreign relations hearing, said the US was “certainly pushing” to get all parties on the same page before next week’s NATO summit in Madrid.

G7, NATO leaders to ratchet up pressure on Russia: US officials

Leaders from the G7 and the NATO alliance will seek to increase pressure on Russia over its war in Ukraine at meetings next week, while making clear that they remain concerned about China, Reuters reported citing senior US administration officials.

NATO would announce new commitments to shore up European security, the officials said, while the participation of leaders from Australia, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand would show that the war in Ukraine had not detracted from focus on China.

G7 leaders were also expected to address China’s “coercive economic practices,” which have become even more aggressive in recent years, one of the officials said, according to Reuters.

Russia marks anniversary of Hitler’s USSR invasion

Russia commemorated the 81st anniversary of Nazi Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union on Wednesday, with Putin laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Kremlin wall.

Hitler’s forces launched surprise attacks on Kyiv, Moscow and Belarusian Brest on June 22, a day that marks the start of what Russia calls the Great Patriotic War and is today known in the country as Day of Remembrance and Sorrow.

The Main Cathedral of the Russian Armed Forces kicked off commemorations after midnight with a Divine Liturgy and a memorial service for the estimated 27 million Soviet soldiers and civilians killed in the war, the Moscow Times reports. Later 1,418 candles were lit outside the cathedral for each day the war lasted.

In Ukraine’s occupied port city of Mariupol, pro-Moscow activists lit 10,000 candles to spell out the phrase “Remember 22.06.1941”.

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a wreath-laying ceremony in Moscow, Russia.
Russian President Putin attends a wreath-laying ceremony, which marks the anniversary of the beginning of the Great Patriotic War against Nazi Germany in 1941, at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier by the Kremlin wall in Moscow, Russia, June 22, 2022 [Sputnik/Mikhail Metzel/Kremlin via Reuters]

Russia did the same in Ukraine as Germany when it invaded Soviet Union: Zelenskyy

Russia did the same on February 24 when it invaded Ukraine as Nazi Germany did on June 22, 1941, when it invaded the Soviet Union, Zelenskyy has said on the WW2 anniversary.

“Today, June 22, is the Day of Mourning and Remembrance of the Victims of War. A war that was to remain forever in the history of the 20th century and was never to be repeated. But it is repeated,” Zelenskyy said in his morning address.

“Today there is no shortage of words that Russia did the same on February 24 as the Nazis did on June 22 … And I want to add only one thing. Then 1418 days passed from the morning of the invasion to the defeat of the aggressor. We must liberate our land and achieve victory, but faster. Much faster,” he said.

“This is our national goal, and we must work to achieve it on a daily basis. Not only the state, but also every citizen – at the level at which it is possible.”

Ukraine expects EU-wide support for candidacy to join bloc

A Ukrainian official overseeing the country’s push to join the EU has said she is “100 percent” certain all 27 EU nations will approve Ukraine’s candidacy during a summit this week.

In an interview with The Associated Press news agency, Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Olha Stefanishyna said the decision could come as soon as Thursday, when the leaders’ summit starts.

Stefanishyna said the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark had been sceptical about starting accession talks with Ukraine while it is fighting Russia’s invasion but are now supportive. Asked how confident she was that Ukraine would be accepted as an EU candidate, she said: “The day before the summit starts, I can say 100 percent.”

EU candidate status, which can be granted only if the existing member countries agree unanimously, is the first step towards membership. It does not provide security guarantees or an automatic right to join the bloc. Ukraine’s membership bid is the top order of business for EU leaders meeting in Brussels.

You can read all the updates from June 22 here.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies