Ukraine-Russia latest updates: Donetsk governor urges evacuation

Ukraine news from July 5: Governor of Donetsk says mass evacuation of civilians will save lives and enable Ukraine to better fight Russian forces.

A resident walks among debris next to a destroyed house in Sloviansk, Ukraine.
A resident walks among debris next to a destroyed house in Sloviansk, Ukraine, July 4, 2022 [Genya Savilov/ AFP]
  • Governor of Donetsk urges some 350,000 citizens to evacuate the region to help Ukrainian forces better fight Russian forces.
  • Russia’s capture of the Luhansk region was relatively quick and showed better coordination than in its earlier offensives, the United Kingdom’s defence ministry has said.
  • Sloviansk mayor claims Russia is pounding the town with “massive shelling”.
  • Russian legislators have given the first stamp of approval to two bills enabling war economy measures.
    [Al Jazeera]

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These were the updates on Tuesday, July 5:


Meeting between Blinken, Lavrov at G20 unlikely: State department

US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price has said he does not expect any meeting between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at this week’s meeting of G20 foreign ministers in Bali.

“I’m not in a position to walk through the choreography, but I certainly would not expect any meeting between Secretary Blinken and Foreign Minister Lavrov,” he added.

Turkey to ‘intensify’ negotiations for Ukraine grain deal

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he intends to “intensify” negotiations with Russia and Ukraine in the hope of reaching a deal on a United Nations plan to export Ukrainian grain to world markets.

Erdogan made the comments during a joint news conference with Italy’s prime minister, Mario Draghi.

Turkey is working with the UN, Ukraine and Russia on a UN plan that would allow millions of tonnes of Ukrainian grain sitting in silos to be shipped through safe corridors in the Black Sea.

“We will intensify our talks within a week or 10 days and try to reach a result,” he told reporters.

A worker loading a truck with grain in Ukraine's Odesa region.
A worker loads a truck with grain at a terminal during barley harvesting in the Odesa region, Ukraine [File: FiIgor Tkachenko/Reuters]

Donetsk governor urges evacuation of 350,000 citizens

The governor of the Donetsk regional administration has told reporters on Tuesday that citizens must evacuate the region to save lives, and enable the Ukrainian army to better defend towns.

“Once there are less people, we will be able to concentrate more on our enemy and perform our main tasks,” said Pavlo Kyrylenko, while speaking at a news conference in Kramatorsk.

The governor said that 350,000 citizens remain in the Donetsk region; adding that the population of areas controlled by the Ukrainian government was 1.6 million in peacetime.

“It’s a very significant quantity, that’s why my main goal is [to evacuate people],” said Kyrylenko.

West urges Russia removal from sport governing boards

Western powers are calling on international sport federations to remove state-affiliated Russians and Belarusians over the Ukraine invasion.

In a joint statement, 35 nations from the West plus Japan and South Korea reiterated a March 8 call for no international sporting events to take place in Russia or Belarus and for their citizens to be banned from international competitions.

In fresh recommendations, the 35 nations called for Russian and Belarusian governing bodies to be suspended from international sport federations.

Ukraine’s youngest MP: The world could do much more

Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s Russian-backed government collapsed in 2014 after Ukrainians protested against his decision not to sign a political association and free trade agreement with the European Union.

Sviatoslav Yurash had returned to Ukraine from studying international relations at the University of Calcutta, in India, to join what became known as the Euromaidan revolution. Then just 17 years old, Yurash became head of public relations for the activist group Euromaidan.

Now 26, he’s the youngest member of parliament in Ukraine – a member of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s Servant of the People party, which he joined in 2019.

Read more here.

Russian-held parts of Ukraine rife with arbitrary detention: UN rights chief

Arbitrary detention of civilians has become widespread in parts of Ukraine held by Russia’s military and affiliated armed groups, with 270 cases documented, the UN human rights chief said on Tuesday, announcing plans to boost monitoring in the country.

The findings were based on information from monitors’ field visits and interviews conducted with more than 500 victims and witnesses of human rights violations, as well as other sources of data, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet told the Geneva-based Human Rights Council.

“Despite restrictions on access, we have documented 270 cases of arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance. Eight of the victims were found dead,” Bachelet said in an update on the situation in Ukraine in the period from February 24 to May 15.

Service members of pro-Russian troops
Service members of pro-Russian troops ride an infantry fighting vehicle in the city of Lysychansk in the Luhansk region [Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters]

UN condemns ‘senseless war’ in Ukraine

The UN rights chief has condemned Russia’s “senseless war” in Ukraine as she demanded an end to the “unbearable” civilian suffering unleashed by the invasion.

Michelle Bachelet called for an immediate end to hostilities and redress for the war’s victims, in her final appearance before the UN Human Rights Council.

“As we enter the fifth month of hostilities, the unbearable toll of the conflict in Ukraine continues to mount,” the United Nations high commissioner for human rights said.

At least 2 killed in Sloviansk shelling: Governor

Two people have been killed and seven more injured amid Russian bombardment of Sloviansk, Pavlo Kyrylenko, governor of the Donetsk region said on Telegram. The mayor of the city said Moscow’s forces had targeted the city market.

“Once again the Russians are intentionally targeting places where civilians assemble. This is terrorism pure and simple,” Kyrylenko said on Telegram, urging local people to evacuate.

Read more here.

Security personnel halt motorists as smoke rises from the central market of Sloviansk
Security personnel halt motorists as smoke rises from the central market of Sloviansk, north of Kramatosk on July 5, 2022 [Miguel Medina/AFP]

Ice hockey ban on Russia, Belarus upheld on safety grounds

Appeals by Russia and its ally Belarus against bans from the world ice hockey championship following the invasion of Ukraine have been rejected by the international governing body.

The decision “was not a sanction but was a safety policy” and also “the safety policy was not discriminatory and was proportionate,” the International Ice Hockey Federation disciplinary board has ruled.

Russia attack kill at least one person Sloviansk: Police

Russian forces have hit a market in Sloviansk, killing a woman and wounding at least three other people, police said.

Police said the market had been closing for the day, but that some shops had still been open.

“Together with police we are documenting the shelling of the city,” Prosecutor Oleksandr Bakumenko, who was at the market after the attack and wore a vest that read “war crimes investigator”, told the Reuters news agency.

Firefighters spray water onto fire at the market after shelling, as Russia?s attack on Ukraine continues, in Sloviansk
Firefighters spray water onto a fire in a market after Russian shelling in Sloviansk, Donetsk region, Ukraine, July 5, 2022 [Marko Djurica/Reuters]

Russia’s speaker asks parliament to look at scrapping Norway sea treaty

The speaker of Russia’s lower house of parliament has asked a senior legislator to look into scrapping a treaty that establishes the country’s maritime border with NATO member Norway.

Responding to comments in parliament accusing Norway of blocking food deliveries destined for Russian-populated settlements on the Svalbard archipelago, State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin asked the head of the chamber’s international affairs committee to look into “denouncing” the treaty.

The treaty, which was signed in 2010, aimed to put an end to disputes between Russia and Norway in the Barents Sea, the part of the Arctic Ocean adjoining the northern coasts of Norway and Russia.

THE TAKE: Russia and Ukraine’s war over grain

Ukraine’s grain, which comprises 10 percent of the global supply, has been stopped at Ukraine’s ports. The EU’s chief of foreign affairs is calling it a war crime by Russia – but Russia says Ukraine is to blame.

What is causing the stoppage? The Take podcast hears from farmers harvesting the grain and the people trying to feed the world about what happened to Ukrainian grain and what can be done about it.

‘Massive’ Russian shelling on Ukraine’s Sloviansk: Mayor

Russian forces are pounding Sloviansk with “massive” shelling, its mayor has said, as the eastern Ukrainian city becomes Moscow’s next target in its campaign in the Donbas region.

“Sloviansk! Massive shelling of the city. The centre, the north. Everyone, take shelter,” Vadim Lyakh wrote on Facebook.

An elderly woman walks next to a building damaged by an overnight missile strike in Sloviansk, Ukraine,
An elderly woman walks next to a building damaged by an overnight missile strike in Sloviansk [File: Andriy Andriyenko/AP Photo]

Phosphorus bombs: What you should know about Russia’s alleged use

According to Ukrainian claims, Russian forces have used phosphorus bombs on several occasions in different areas of the country.

Most recently, on Friday, Ukraine’s army accused Russia of dropping munitions on Snake Island after Moscow withdrew its troops from the Black Sea outpost.

Anton Gerashchenko, a Ukrainian official, said they were used in Mariupol in May, a city now fully under Russian control.

Read more here.

FAO receives $17m for Ukraine grain storage

The United Nations’ food agency, or FAO, has said it received $17m from Japan to address grain storage problems in Ukraine and increase its exports as global food prices remain near-record levels amid war in the country.

The funds would help Ukraine, the world’s fourth largest grains exporter, store produce from the current July to August harvest in plastic sleeves and modular storage containers, FAO aid.

Russia claims weapons shipments to Ukraine spreading to Middle East

Russia has claimed some of the weapons the West sent to Ukraine are ending up on the black market across the Middle East.

Speaking in televised remarks, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said that Ukraine had received more than 28,000 tonnes of military cargo so far.

“According to information at our disposal, some of the foreign weapons supplied by the West to Ukraine are spreading across the Middle Eastern region and are also ending up on the black market,” Shoigu said, without providing any details to back up his claim.

Russian-backed forces head for Donetsk front: TASS

Forces of the Russian-backed Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics are moving towards the Donetsk region, TASS has reported.

The Russian state news agency cited Donetsk People’s Republic leader Denis Pushilin as the source of the information.

Though Russia took the final Ukrainian strongholds in Luhansk region last week, Kyiv still controls about 45 percent of the neighbouring Donetsk region.

NATO nations sign accession protocols for Sweden, Finland

NATO allies have signed off on the accession protocols for Sweden and Finland, sending the membership bids of the two nations to the alliance capitals for legislative approvals – and possible political trouble in Turkey.

“This is truly a historic moment for Finland, for Sweden and for NATO,” the head of the alliance, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, said.

NATO accession must be formally approved by all 30 member states, which gives each a blocking right.

Sloviansk warned to evacuate ahead of Russian assault

The mayor of a city in the path of Moscow’s offensive in Ukraine’s Donbas region has warned residents to evacuate ahead of an expected assault.

“It’s important to evacuate as many people as possible,” Sloviansk Mayor Vadim Lyakh said, adding that shelling damaged 40 houses on Monday.

In the south of the city, Russian forces were trying to push towards two more towns and shelling areas near Kramatorsk, the General Staff of the Ukrainian military said.

Russian forces also shelled several Donetsk towns and villages around Sloviansk in the past day but were repelled as they tried to advance towards a town about 20km (12.4 miles) to the city’s north.

Disputed Russian cargo ship remains stranded off Turkish coast

A Russian-flagged cargo ship at the centre of a fight over grain between Kyiv and Moscow has remained anchored off Turkey’s Black Sea coast four days after its unexpected arrival.

Ukraine alleges that the Zhibek Zholy vessel had set off from its Kremlin-occupied port of Berdyansk after picking up illegally seized wheat.

Ukraine’s ambassador to Turkey, Vasyl Bodnar, told Al Jazeera that Kyiv had presented evidence to authorities in Ankara and that an investigation was under way.

Moscow concedes that the 7,000-tonne vessel was sailing under the Russian flag but denies any wrongdoing.

Russian parliament passes first vote on war economy measures

Russian politicians have given the first stamp of approval to two bills enabling the government to oblige businesses to supply goods to the military and request their employees to work overtime.

Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov told parliament the moves were driven by the need to support the military at a time when Russia’s economy was under “colossal sanctions pressure” from the West, more than four months into what it calls its special military operation in Ukraine.

“The load on the defence industry has increased significantly. In order to guarantee the supply of weapons and ammunition, it is necessary to optimise the work of the military-industrial complex and enterprises that are part of cooperation chains,” he said.

Russian legislators attend a session of the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, in Moscow, Russia January 16, 2020.
Russian lawmakers attend a session of the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, in Moscow [File: Evgenia Novozhenina/Reuters]

Second woman to win Fields maths medal pays tribute to war-torn homeland Ukraine

Ukraine’s Maryna Viazovska has paid tribute to those suffering in her war-torn country as she became the second woman to be awarded the Fields medal, known as the Nobel prize for mathematics.

Viazovska, a 37-year-old Kyiv-born maths professor, received the prestigious award alongside three other winners at a ceremony in Helsinki.

The International Congress of Mathematicians, where the prize is awarded, was initially scheduled to be held in Russia’s second city Saint Petersburg and initiated by President Vladimir Putin.

Finland seizes hundreds of Russian freight cars following EU sanctions

Finland has seized nearly a 1,000 freight cars belonging to Russian companies as a result of European Union sanctions, according to Finnish state-owned rail operator VR and a letter from Russia’s rail monopoly seen by the Reuters news agency.

VR’s spokeswoman Taina Kuitunen confirmed by email that there were “around 800 units of sanctioned [freight] cars in Finland at the moment” and the company sought to return the non-seized ones to Russia as soon as possible.

Supporters outline principles for Ukraine’s recovery

Representatives from more than 40 countries and international organisations have signed the Lugano Declaration at a two-day conference in Switzerland, outlining a series of principles to steer Ukraine’s recovery.

Signatories including the United States, Britain, France and Japan condemned Russia’s military aggression “in the strongest terms” and urged Moscow to withdraw its troops without delay.

The principles include partnership between Ukraine and its international supporters and a focus on domestic reforms.

“Efficient and transparent governance by Ukraine and effective and nimble coordination between donors and with the government are critical for the recovery,” Alfred Kammer, the director of the International Monetary Fund’s European department, told the conference.

Russian-held part of south Ukraine aims to sell grain to Middle East: TASS

Russian-imposed authorities in the southeastern Zaporizhzhia region of Ukraine, which is partly under Russian control, say an agreement has been reached to sell grain abroad, mainly to the Middle East.

The countries involved are mainly Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia, Russian state news agency TASS reported, citing Yevgeny Balitsky, the head of the Russian-installed administration of the Zaporizhzhia region.

Ukraine and the West accuse Russia of stealing Ukrainian grain while Moscow denies this.

Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has called on Ukraine’s allies to crack down on Russian trade. “After all, what Russia really exports to the world today is death, crisis, and lies,” he said on Twitter.

No decision taken on switching Russian LNG sales to roubles: Kremlin

The Kremlin says no decision has been made on whether to switch sales of Russian liquefied natural gas (LNG) to roubles, its official currency.

Speaking to reporters, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that no presidential orders were currently planned on the proposal, which would see certain countries pay for LNG in roubles.

Russia’s Gazprom could propose expanding its roubles-for-gas scheme for pipeline gas to include LNG, the Interfax news agency quoted a senior manager as saying on Monday.

Ukraine, allies lay foundations for reconstruction

Allies of Ukraine meeting in Switzerland are due to adopt a declaration spelling out the principles and priorities of rebuilding the war-shattered country, estimated to cost at least $750bn.

Leaders from dozens of countries, international organisations and businesses have been meeting in the southern Swiss city of Lugano under tight security since Monday, discussing the best path forward for reconstruction, even as Russia’s war continues to rage in Ukraine.

“Reconstruction of Ukraine is not a local task of a single nation,” Zelenskyy said via video message. “It is a common task of the whole democratic world.”

The UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator in Ukraine said humanitarian agencies would support Ukraine “with any possible mean.”

Security services official takes over Moscow-occupied Kherson region

An official from Russia’s powerful FSB security services has taken over the government of the Moscow-occupied Kherson region in southern Ukraine, Kremlin-installed authorities have said.

Sergei Yeliseyev, until now the deputy head of government in the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, “became head of the government in the Kherson region”, Vladimir Saldo, who heads the Russian occupational administration, said.

“Ukraine is forever in the past for the Kherson region. Russia is here forever,” the Moscow-installed authorities said on instant messaging service Telegram.

Russia accuses Ukraine of torturing prisoners of war

Russia has said it is investigating the torture of Russian soldiers held prisoner in Ukraine and recently released as part of a prisoner swap with Kyiv in late June.

The Russian committee said Moscow’s soldiers told investigators about “the violence they had suffered”.

According to its statement, one of the soldiers said Ukrainian medics treated him without anaesthetic and that he was “beaten, tortured with electricity in captivity”.

The Russian Investigative Committee, which probes serious crimes, said in a statement that it was “verifying facts of inhuman treatment of Russia soldier prisoners in Ukraine”.

IKEA reopens for online fire sale in Russia before market exit

IKEA will open for business for a final time in Russia, with customers permitted to buy goods in an online-only fire sale, before the Swedish furniture company winds down its operations.

“From July 5 for a few weeks you can buy IKEA goods only on,” IKEA said on its Russian website. “Goods will be on sale for as long as they are in stock.”

IKEA said last month it would sell factories, close offices and reduce its 15,000-strong workforce in the country as it did not expect to resume sales in the foreseeable future. Its owner Ingka Group said in June it was open to returning to Russia one day but that the right conditions were not in place at present.

Russian gas flows to Europe via Nord Stream, Ukraine dip

The amount of Russian gas to Europe via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline and deliveries through Ukraine have decreased while eastbound gas flows via the Yamal pipeline to Poland from Germany have stopped, operator data showed.

Russian gas producer Gazprom said last month capacity through the pipeline would be cut to only 40 percent of capacity due to the delayed return of equipment being serviced by Germany’s Siemens Energy in Canada.

The Nord Stream 1 pipeline will undergo regular annual maintenance from July 11 to July 21, when flows usually fall to zero, raising concern over how promptly they will resume afterwards.

Ukrainian forces take up new defensive lines in Donetsk

Ukrainian forces are taking up new defensive lines in Donetsk, where they still control main cities, after Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed victory in neighbouring Luhansk province.

Putin told his troops to “absolutely rest and recover their military preparedness” ahead of a renewed offensive on the industrial region.

Pavlo Kyrylenko, the governor of Donetsk, said the towns of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk have been shelled overnight. “They are now also the main line of assault for the enemy,” he said of the towns. “There is no safe place without shelling in Donetsk region.”

Russia has demanded that Ukraine hand Luhansk and Donetsk – known together as the Donbas – to pro-Moscow separatists.

NATO poised to sign accession protocols for Sweden, Finland

The 30 NATO allies are set to sign off on the accession protocols for Sweden and Finland, sending the membership bids of the two nations to the alliance’s capitals for legislative approvals.

The 30 ambassadors and permanent representatives are to formally approve the decision taken at last week’s NATO summit, when the alliance invited the Nordic countries to join the military club.

The move will further increase Russia’s strategic isolation in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine. Despite the agreement in the alliance, parliamentary approval from member state Turkey could still pose problems for their final inclusion as members.

Russia continues to shell populated areas in Luhansk: Governor

The governor of the now Russian-occupied Luhansk region says Russian forces are continuing to shell populated areas.

“In the recently occupied territories, the Russians establish their own rules; tell nonsense about the opening of schools from September 1, [and] the rapid restoration of communications,” Haidai wrote on Telegram.

“This is all a lie, the same thing happened in Mariupol – everyone saw how water ran through the destroyed houses. The only thing the Rashists are capable of is terrorising the local population,” he added, using the popular term for “Russians” in Ukraine.

He said Russian forces had started looking for “activists” and “military families” to collaborate with them against Ukraine.

Belarus freezes foreign holdings in 190 companies

Belarus says it is freezing foreign shareholdings in 190 Belarusian companies, including the software engineering company EPAM Systems and Lukoil Belarus, in response to Western sanctions for its support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and human rights violations.

A decree published on the official legislative portal said shareholders from countries that “commit unfriendly actions against Belarusian legal entities and/or individuals are prohibited from disposing of their shares”.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko shake hands during their meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia, Saturday
Russian leader Putin, left, with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko during their meeting in St Petersburg, Russia, June 25, 2022 [File: Maxim Blinov/Sputnik/Kremlin Pool Photo via AP]

Ukraine says 345 children dead amid war

At least 345 children have died in Ukraine as a result of Russia’s invasion and 644 have been wounded, the prosecutor general’s office has reported.

Most child casualties occurred in the Donetsk region (345), followed by the regions of Kharkiv (185), Kyiv (116), Chernihiv (68), Luhansk (61), Mykolaiv (53), Kherson (52) and Zaporizhia (31), the prosecutor general said.

The office said figures were not final as work was still under way to establish them in places of active hostilities, temporarily occupied areas and territories “liberated” by Ukraine.

Japan, S Korea buyers not asked to pay roubles for Russian LNG imports

Major Asian buyers of Russian liquefied natural gas (LNG) say they have not yet received a request to pay for supplies in Russian roubles after a senior manager at gas producer Gazprom floated a proposal to expand the payment scheme.

The rouble payment proposal comes just days after Russia moved to seize operations of the Sakhalin-2 LNG plant in retaliation for Western sanctions, raising supply concerns for top buyers such as Japan and South Korea. Kirill Polous, a deputy department head of Russian gas producer, said Gazprom has proposed expanding its rouble-for-gas scheme to include LNG, the Interfax news agency reported on Monday.

Spokespeople at Japan’s biggest LNG importer JERA and South Korea’s state-run Korea Gas Corp (KOGAS) said they have yet to receive a request to pay for LNG supplies in roubles.

Russia’s Luhansk capture relatively quick, more coordinated: UK

Russia’s capture of the Luhansk region was relatively quick and showed better coordination than in its earlier offensives, the United Kingdom’s defence ministry has said.

“Unlike in previous phases of the war, Russia has probably achieved reasonably effective co-ordination between at least two groupings of forces, the Central Grouping likely commanded by General-Colonel Alexandr Lapin and the Southern Grouping probably under the recently appointed General Sergei Surovikin,” the ministry said.

In its latest intelligence briefing, the ministry said Ukrainian forces had withdrawn from the area “in good order” as they had been stationed at an outward “bulge” in Severodonetsk and Lysychansk, which allowed Russian troops to more easily attack from three sides.

Girl from Vietnam 1972 napalm-attack photo escorts Ukraine refugees to Canada

Phan Thị Kim Phuc, the girl in the famous 1972 Vietnam napalm attack photo, has escorted 236 refugees from Ukraine on a flight from Warsaw to Canada.

Phuc’s iconic Associated Press photo in which she runs with her napalm-scalded body exposed, was etched on the private non-governmental organisation plane that flew the refugees to the city of Regina, the capital of the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, on Monday.

Kim, 59, a Canadian citizen, said she wants her story and work for refugees to be a message of peace. With her husband, Bui Huy Toan, she travelled from Toronto to board the humanitarian flight.

The refugees, mostly women and children from across Ukraine, are among thousands of Ukrainians for whom Canada has provided humanitarian visas in the wake of Russia’s invasion.

Nine-year-old Kim Phuc, centre, runs with her brothers and cousins, followed by South Vietnamese forces, down Route 1 near Trang Bang
Nine-year-old Kim Phuc, centre, runs with her brothers and cousins, followed by South Vietnamese forces, down Route 1 near Trang Bang after a South Vietnamese plane accidentally dropped its flaming napalm on its own troops and civilians, June 8, 1972. The terrified girl had ripped off her burning clothes while fleeing [File: Nick Ut/AP Photo]

Russian missiles hit Mykolaiv: Mayor

Russian missiles struck the Black Sea port city of Mykolaiv on Tuesday morning, the mayor said as air raid sirens were activated across the city.

“In the morning, the occupiers fired rockets at Mykolaiv. Rescuers, medics, emergency crews and utility workers are already working on the ground. I will let you know more information later,” Oleksandr Senkevich said on Telegram.

Social media users also reported the strikes with one saying: “There is a column of thick black smoke over the city. The blow was strong!”

Missiles struck Mykolaiv several times over the last few days. On June 30, authorities said a strike on a residential building killed six people and wounded at least another six.

Luhansk is Russia’s last victory in Ukraine: Adviser

Moscow’s capture of the Luhansk region is “the last victory for Russia on Ukrainian territory,” an adviser to the head of Ukraine’s president’s office has said.

“These were medium-sized cities. And this took from 4th April until 4th July — that’s 90 days. So many losses…,” Oleksiy Arestovych said in an online post.

Arestovych said besides the battle for Donetsk, Ukraine was hoping to launch counteroffensives in the south of the country.

“Taking the cities in the east meant that 60 percent of Russian forces are now concentrated in the east and it is difficult for them to be redirected to the south,” he said. “And there are no more forces that can be brought in from Russia. They paid a big price for Severodonetsk and Lysychansk.”

Russia’s Lavrov to visit Hanoi ahead of G20 meeting

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will fly to Hanoi on Tuesday for a two-day visit to Vietnam before heading to a G20 meeting later this week in Indonesia, the Vietnamese government has said.

The visit at the invitation of Vietnamese Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son comes as the two nations mark the 10th anniversary of their “comprehensive strategic partnership”, the government said in a statement.

Russia is Vietnam’s biggest arms supplier and its companies are involved in several major energy projects in the country. The two nations have close ties dating back to the Soviet era and Vietnam has not so far condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In April, Vietnam voted against a resolution to suspend Russia from the UN Human Rights Council over the war.

Kramatorsk residents stock up on food in fear of Russian advance: Reuters

Dozens of mainly elderly people in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk queued up for hours on Monday to receive milk, bread and other groceries from World Central Kitchen.

Many are fearful that Russian forces will try to seize all of the Donetsk region after capturing Luhansk last week, the Reuters news agency reports. Bakhmut, Sloviansk and nearby Kramatorsk lie southwest of Lysychansk and are the main urban areas holding out against Russian forces in Donetsk.

Kramatorsk Mayor Oleksandr Honcharenko told Reuters that some residents were packing up to leave after three barrages of missiles hit the town over the weekend. He said the attacks did not kill anyone but one landed in a suburban area and injured one woman.

More than two-thirds of the city’s population has left since the war began, leaving just more than 60,000 people, he said. But many said they did not have any choice rather than stay as they could not afford to rent apartments and support their families away from their homes.

Russia to supply Crimea with electricity from Ukraine’s occupied power plant

The Russian-installed head of the occupied city of Enerhodar, home to the Zaporizhzhia power plant, says the city plans to provide electricity supplies to the annexed territory of Crimea once damage to the plant is restored, Russia’s state news agency TASS reports.

“We are ready to supply Crimea – according to approximate calculations – about 25% of the energy produced by the plant. But they are very slowly restoring the towers blown up in 2015 near Chonhar (village),” Yevgeny Balitsky told TASS adding that the towers were blown up by “Ukrainian nationalists”.

“And let’s face it: in eight years everything is already there (in Crimea). Everything is fine without us, there is no urgency for Crimea, although energy from nuclear power plants will be cheaper. But for us, there is both urgency and a need,” Balitsky said.

Ukraine now says no troops yet on recovered Snake Island to raise its flag

The Ukrainian flag has been delivered by helicopter to Snake Island in the Black Sea after Russian forces withdrew from the strategic outpost last week, and it will be raised as soon as Ukrainian troops arrive, Ukraine’s military has said.

Natalia Humeniuk, spokeswoman for Ukraine’s southern military command, had initially said the flag had been raised on the craggy outcropping in the Black Sea.

“The flag has been delivered to the island by helicopter,” Ukrainian media quoted Humeniuk as telling CNN television. “It will await the arrival of troops and will then be hoisted.”

Homeniuk said her original remarks to reporters should be viewed “metaphorically”. No troops had landed on the island and “No one is taking any risks for the sake of a media photo”.

UK says to strengthen internet laws to fight Russian disinformation

The United Kingdom is proposing a new law that will require social media companies to proactively tackle disinformation posted by foreign states such as Russia, the government has said.

The law would tackle fake accounts on platforms such as Meta’s Facebook and Twitter that were set up on behalf of foreign states to influence elections or court proceedings, the government said.

Digital Secretary Nadine Dorries said on Monday the invasion of Ukraine has shown how Russia uses social media to spread lies about its actions.

“We cannot allow foreign states or their puppets to use the internet to conduct hostile online warfare unimpeded,” she said. “That’s why we are strengthening our new internet safety protections to make sure social media firms identify and root out state-backed disinformation.”

Nearly 90 Ukrainian athletes, coaches have died amid war: Zelenskyy

Zelenskyy’s office has detailed the toll on Ukrainian sport during the Russian invasion, now in a fifth month.

A total of 89 athletes and coaches have died “as a result of hostilities,” 13 more have been captured by the Russians, and “more than a hundred thousand Ukrainian athletes do not have the opportunity of training,” Zelenskyy has said.

Zelenskyy praises IOC for supporting bans on Russian sport

Zelenskyy has thanked the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for supporting a ban on Russian teams and athletes competing in most Olympic sports, ahead of a court hearing Tuesday to challenge the ruling in international football.

Zelenskyy met in Kyiv on Sunday with IOC President Thomas Bach and praised “his unwavering position” on sports sanctions against Russia and its ally Belarus, according to a readout of the visit provided by his presidential office.

The IOC advised sports leaders on February 28 to act and football bodies FIFA and UEFA made a joint ruling later that day. It is the subject of an appeal Tuesday by the Russian football federation at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in the Olympic home city of Lausanne, Switzerland.

The IOC also said it has now tripled its fund for Ukrainian sport to $7.5m since the war started.

Putin has likely directed an ‘operational pause’: ISW

Putin has likely directed his troops to take an “operational pause” after they captured Severodonetsk and Lysychansk, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) has said.

After congratulating his troops on taking the Luhansk region, Putin said the forces participating in the recent gains should “absolutely rest and recover their military preparedness”.

“Putin‘s public comment was likely meant to signal his concern for the welfare of his troops in the face of periodic complaints in Russia about the treatment of Russian soldiers. His comment was also likely accurate – Russian troops that fought through Severodonetsk and Lysychansk very likely do need a significant period in which to rest and refit before resuming large-scale offensive operations,” the ISW said.

“It is not clear, however, that the Russian military will accept the risks of a long enough operational pause to allow these likely exhausted forces to regain their strength,” it added.

Putin did not congratulate Biden on July 4 due to ‘unfriendly’ relations: Kremlin

The Kremlin says Putin did not congratulate his American counterpart, Joe Biden, on the US’s Independence Day because of Washington’s “unfriendly” actions towards Moscow.

“Congratulations this year can hardly be considered appropriate,” Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call. “The United States’ unfriendly policies are the reason.”

Zelenskyy given 1711 letter recognising Ukraine independence

The Swedish prime minister has given Zelenskyy a letter written in 1711 by King Charles – previously kept in her country’s national archives –  in which the king instructs the Swedish ambassador in Constantinople to recognise the Zaporizhzhian Sich as an independent state.

The Zaporizhzhian Sich was a semi-autonomous quasi-state of the Cossacks, a predominantly eastern Slavic group originating in the steppes of Ukraine, that existed between the 16th to 18th centuries. It was centred around the region spanning the lower Dnieper River, where Ukraine’s current Zaporizhia region is located.

Zelenskyy showed the letter to journalists and read out a fragment he thought relevant, according to a statement from his office: “… to implement as soon as possible the article about the will of Ukraine and all Cossacks that all Ukraine and the Zaporizhzhia Army under the current commander Pylyp Orlyk regain the ancient freedom, possession of their land and its former borders, so that from now on this people will become an independent state and never again be subject to the obedience or protection of the king.”

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy showing letter from King Charles given to him by Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson at a news briefing, in Kyiv, Ukraine.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy showing a letter from King Charles given to him by Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson at a news briefing, in Kyiv, Ukraine, July 4, 2022 [Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via Reuters]

Ukraine is in talks with Turkey, UN on grain exports: Zelenskyy

Ukraine is holding talks with Turkey and the United Nations to secure guarantees for grain exports from Ukrainian ports, Zelenskyy has said.

“Talks are in fact going on now with Turkey and the UN [and] our representatives who are responsible for the security of the grain that leaves our ports,” Zelenskyy told a news conference alongside the Swedish prime minister.

“This is a very important thing that someone guarantees the security of ships for this or that country – apart from Russia, which we do not trust. We therefore need security for those ships which will come here to load foodstuffs.”

Zelenskyy said Ukraine was working “directly” with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on the issue and that the organisation was “playing a leading role, not as a moderator”.

Ukraine has not lost the war: Luhansk governor

Serhiy Haidai, the Ukrainian governor of the Luhansk region, has acknowledged his entire province was now effectively in Russian hands but told the Reuters news agency: “We need to win the war, not the battle for Lysychansk”.

He added, “It hurts a lot, but it’s not losing the war.”

Haidai said Ukrainian forces that retreated from Lysychansk were now holding the line between Bakhmut and Sloviansk, preparing to fend off a further Russian advance.

Russia captured the city of Lysychansk in eastern Ukraine on Sunday, bringing an end to one of the biggest battles in Europe in generations and completing its conquest of Luhansk province, one of two regions it has demanded Ukraine cede to separatists in the Donbas region.

Ukraine could have withdrawn from Luhansk weeks ago but chose to keep fighting to exhaust the invasion force. It hopes the ferocious battle will leave the Russians too depleted to hold gains elsewhere.

‘We need to break the occupiers’: Zelenskyy

Ukraine’s armed forces were undeterred in their efforts to “break” Russia’s will to pursue its ongoing war, Zelenskyy has said, after Putin hailed his military’s victory in the gruelling battle for Luhansk.

“There have been no significant changes on the battlefield in the past 24 hours,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly video message. “The Armed Forces of Ukraine respond, push back and destroy the offensive potential of the occupiers day after day. We need to break them. It is a difficult task. It requires time and superhuman efforts. But we have no alternative.”

Earlier on Monday, Putin congratulated Russian forces on “victories in the Luhansk direction”, after his troops captured the town of Lysychansk, Ukraine’s last stronghold in the region.

Sweden’s PM meets Zelenskyy in Kyiv

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson has met Ukraine’s president in Kyiv, with the two parties signing a joint statement on defence and energy cooperation.

“This is the first such document in the history of bilateral relations. The joint statement sets out key issues for both our states. This applies, in particular, to defence cooperation, sectoral cooperation in the fields of nuclear energy, energy efficiency, and financial support for Ukraine,” Zelenskyy said in a statement.

He also thanked Sweden for its humanitarian support for Ukraine.

“One hundred thousand Ukrainian citizens are in Sweden, and Sweden supports them. We will remember your sincere attention to the citizens of Ukraine in this difficult time of the Russian war,” he said.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy welcomes Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson in Kyiv, Ukraine.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy welcomes Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson in Kyiv, Ukraine, July 4, 2022 [Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via Reuters]

Read all the updates from July 4 here.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies