Ukraine latest updates: Putin says war not started in ‘earnest’

Ukraine news from July 7: In an address to Russian legislators, President Putin says the prospects for peace negotiations will diminish the longer the war drags on.

Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks to winners of the Leaders of Russia Competition, the flagship project of the Russia - Land of Opportunity presidential platform in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia on Thursday, July 7, 2022 [Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik/Kremlin Pool Photo via AP]
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin warns Kyiv and its Western allies that Moscow has not yet started its military campaign in Ukraine “in earnest”.
  • The cities of Kramatorsk and Sloviansk in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region have been targeted in Russian raids, according to Ukraine.
  • The Ukrainian army claims it has regained control of the symbolic Snake Island in the Black Sea.
  • Australia’s Foreign Minister Penny Wong asks China to exert its influence on Russia to halt the war in Ukraine.
(Al Jazeera)

This live blog is now closed. Thank you for joining us.

These were the updates on Thursday, July 7.

Germany will continue to help Ukraine: Scholz

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said he is determined that Germany will keep supporting Ukraine despite growing economic problems at home.

“I believe that you can only ever act with the support of citizens,” he told television broadcaster ZDF.

“But I think that it will be possible for a long time, and necessary for a long time, to maintain solidarity with Ukraine through Germany’s efforts,” he said.

Western Balkans face ‘no imminent threat’: NATO

A senior NATO official has said Western Balkan countries don’t face an “imminent threat” from the war in Ukraine, and are of strategic interest to the Western alliance.

“We have a strategic interest … in the Western Balkans. I want to send a message of hope for all the people to the Western Balkans that ultimately all of us will find ourselves in the European and Euro-Atlantic family,” NATO’s Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoana told The Associated Press news agency in Pristina, Kosovo.

NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoana
NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoana [File: Petras Malukas/AFP]

UN refugees chief visits Ukraine

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi has warned that Ukraine faces tremendous challenges after invading Russian forces destroyed thousands of homes while also traumatising residents, separating families and creating widespread anxiety during the conflict.

Grandi made the remarks while visiting the towns of Irpin and Bucha near the capital Kyiv.

“This war is also having a ripple effect, a global ripple effect around the world. Inflation, high prices, food shortages that are creating deep food insecurity in many parts of the world – in the Middle East, in Africa and Asia, even as far as Latin America – and energy challenges. So, all these impacts, all these effects of the Russian invasion and of the war in Ukraine, happen in places where there were already big humanitarian crises, big refugee crises,” Grandi said.

Putin warns Russia has not started Ukraine campaign ‘in earnest’

Putin has warned Kyiv and its Western allies that Moscow has not even started its military campaign in Ukraine “in earnest”.

“Everyone should know that we have not started in earnest yet,” he told senior lawmakers. “At the same time we are not refusing to hold peace negotiations, but those who are refusing should know that it will be harder to come to an agreement with us [at a later stage].”

Russia’s Putin: If West wants to beat us on battlefield, let them try

President Vladimir Putin has said that if the West wanted to defeat Russia on the battlefield, it was welcome to try.

Russia was just getting started in Ukraine, Putin said in a hawkish speech to Russian parliamentary leaders, and the prospects for any negotiation would grow dimmer the longer the conflict dragged on.

“Today we hear that they want to defeat us on the battlefield. What can you say? Let them try,” Putin said in televised remarks to parliamentary leaders. “We have heard many times that the West wants to fight us to the last Ukrainian. This is a tragedy for the Ukrainian people, but it seems that everything is heading towards this.”

Johnson critics believe he used Ukraine crisis to distract from domestic issues: AJ correspondent

Al Jazeera’s Alan Fisher, speaking from Kyiv, says some of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s critics in Downing street felt he used the war in Ukraine to “distract” from the problems at home.

“There were those in the United Kingdom who believed that Boris Johnson’s trips to Kyiv and also his phone calls to President Zelenskyy were some sort of political cover to use that to distract from problems at home,” he said.

“But there is no doubt that people here [in Ukraine] deeply respect Boris Johnson. In fact, there is a bakery here that sold out of a pastry that they developed in his honour called the ‘Boris Johnson’. It was an apple cake, which had a meringue top to replicate his hectic hairstyle.”

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and British PM Boris Johnson
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv, Ukraine [Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via Reuters]

Zelenskyy meets US senators

Ukrainian President Zelenskyy has met with two US senators in Kyiv, according to a statement from his office, which published images of the president with United State Senators Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, and Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut.

Zelenskyy spoke with them about Ukraine needing more air defences before the scheduled start of its school year in September.

“We must ensure such a level of security in the sky [so] that our people are not afraid to live in Ukraine,” Zelenskyy said.

Russian prosecutor seeks 7 years in jail for councillor over Ukraine criticism

A Russian prosecutor has requested a seven-year prison term for a Moscow city councillor for criticising Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, AFP news agency reported from court.

Alexei Gorinov, a 60-year-old lawyer by training, was arrested in late April for spreading “knowingly false information” about the Russian army and is now on trial.

Ukraine claims control of Snake Island

The Ukrainian army claims it has regained control of the symbolic Snake Island in the Black Sea, after raising its flag there this week following the withdrawal of Russian forces.

“We have effectively re-established our control over Snake Island,” a senior Ukraine military official, Oleksiy Gromov, said according to Ukraine’s Interfax news agency.

Ukrainian forces have “physical control” of the island, he said.

Ukrainian service members install a national flag on Snake (Zmiinyi) Island
Ukrainian service members install a national flag on Snake (Zmiinyi) Island [Armed Forces/Handout via Reuters]

Zelenskyy expresses ‘sadness’ at Johnson’s resignation

Ukrainian President Zelenskyy has called Britain’s leader Johnson to express his “sadness” over the UK leader’s resignation as Conservative leader and his impending departure as prime minister, Kyiv said.

“We all welcome this news with sadness. Not only me, but also all of Ukrainian society which sympathises with you a lot,” the presidency quoted Zelenskyy as saying, reiterating how grateful Ukrainians were for Johnson’s support since the Russian invasion.

“We don’t doubt that Great Britain’s support will continue, but your personal leadership and your charisma made it special,” said Zelenskyy.

NASA says Russia occupies 22 percent of Ukrainian farmland

Russian forces now occupy about 22 percent of Ukraine’s farmland since the invasion, impacting one of the major suppliers to global grain and edible oils markets, NASA has said.

Satellite data analysed by scientists at the US space agency shows that Russia’s occupation of eastern and southern Ukraine gives it control of land that produces 28 percent of the country’s winter crops, mainly wheat, canola, barley, and rye, and 18 percent of summer crops, mostly maize and sunflower.

“The world’s breadbasket is at war,” said Inbal Becker-Reshef, director of NASA’s Harvest programme, which uses US and European satellite data to study global food production.

US basketball player pleads guilty to drugs charges in Russia

American basketball player Brittney Griner has pleaded guilty in a Russian court to drugs charges for carrying a vape pen containing cannabis oil, and she could face up to 10 years in prison, a Reuters news agency journalist reported from the courtroom.

“I’d like to plead guilty, your honour. But there was no intent. I didn’t want to break the law,” Griner said, speaking English that was then translated into Russian for the court. “I’d like to give my testimony later. I need time to prepare.”

Brittney Griner
US basketball player Brittney Griner [File: Evgenia Novozhenina/Reuters]

What you should know about the Zhibek Zholy

The case of the Zhibek Zholy, a Russian ship allegedly carrying stolen Ukrainian grain, highlights food crisis fears and has tested Turkey’s delicate relationship with Moscow and Kyiv.

Read more here.


British PM addresses Ukrainians as he steps down

In his speech announcing he was stepping down as Conservative Party leader but planned to stay on as prime minister until a replacement was picked, Johnson addressed the people of Ukraine, pledging that the United Kingdom would “continue to back your fight for freedom for as long as it takes”.

Johnson’s support of Ukraine has been so staunch that he has been affectionately known as “Borys Johnsoniuk” by some in Kyiv. He sometimes ended his speeches with “Slava Ukraini” – or “glory to Ukraine”.

Even before President Vladimir Putin ordered the February 24 invasion, Johnson had repeatedly criticised Putin, casting him as a ruthless and possibly irrational Kremlin chief who was a menace to the world.

Russia rejoices over Boris Johnson’s downfall, says the ‘stupid clown’ has gone

Russian politicians are celebrating the downfall of Boris Johnson, casting the British leader as a “stupid clown” who had finally got his just reward for arming Ukraine against Russia.

“He doesn’t like us, we don’t like him either,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said shortly before Johnson stood in Downing Street to announce his resignation.

Russian tycoon Oleg Deripaska said on Telegram that it was an “inglorious end” for a “stupid clown” whose conscience would be blighted by “tens of thousands of lives in this senseless conflict in Ukraine”.

“The clown is going,” Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of Russia’s lower house of parliament, said. “He is one of the main ideologues of the war against Russia until the last Ukrainian. European leaders should think about where such a policy leads.”

Kazakhstan mulls diversifying oil exports amid Russia troubles

Kazakhstan’s president has ordered officials to find oil export routes bypassing Russia in a move that risks deepening tensions that have emerged between the two countries over Ukraine.

Kazakhstan has already seen two notable interruptions to its crude exports via a pipeline that unloads at the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiysk in the months since Moscow sent troops into Ukraine in February.

The route accounts for around three quarters of Kazakhstan’s total oil exports and the stoppages have triggered speculation that the Kremlin might be punishing its Central Asian ally for its neutral stance on Ukraine.

Ukraine adviser thanks UK’s Johnson for supporting Ukraine

An adviser to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has thanked outgoing British Prime Minister Boris Johnson for always being at the forefront of supporting Ukraine.

Mykhailo Podolyak added in a video accompanying a Twitter post that Johnson, who said he would quit as prime minister, was “a person who began to call a spade a spade from the beginning” of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Ukraine says Russian missile hits tanker drifting in Black Sea

A Russian missile has hit a tanker that has been drifting in the Black Sea for over four months and had been carrying diesel, the Interfax-Ukraine news agency reported, citing Ukraine’s military which called the ship an “ecological bomb”.

The Moldova-flagged tanker Millennial Spirit has now been struck twice since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24. Ukraine’s southern military command said when the vessel was struck the first time it had more than 500 tonnes of diesel on board. Since then, it had been drifting without a crew.

“Probably the remainder of the cargo is burning,” the military said in a statement cited by Interfax-Ukraine saying the tanker had been hit for a second time.

It called the vessel a “delayed-action ecological bomb” and blamed the fact it was drifting without a crew on a Russian blockade of Ukrainian ports. It said a Russian Kh-31 air-to-surface missile had struck the ship.

Russian raid hits Kramatorsk, casualties reported

A Russian raid has killed at least one person and wounded several others in Kramatorsk, an administrative centre of Ukraine’s eastern region under Russian attack.

Mayor Oleksandr Goncharenko said on Facebook that an “air strike on the central part of Kramatorsk” had caused casualties, providing no further details.

The explosion left a large crater in a courtyard located between a hotel and residential buildings, AFP journalists have said. They saw the body of one person who had been killed and several others with wounds, as well as two cars on fire.

Russia has set its sights on Kramatorsk, the regional administrative capital of Donetsk region, and its twin city Sloviansk as it steps up its offensive in Ukraine’s war-torn east.

China’s Wang meets Lavrov in Bali ahead of G20 talks

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has met Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Bali for talks ahead of a G20 ministerial meeting overshadowed by Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

The pair were pictured holding a bilateral meeting on the Indonesian resort island. China has refused to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and has been accused of providing diplomatic cover for the Kremlin by blasting Western sanctions and arms sales to Kyiv.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will be in attendance and is set to hold bilateral talks with Wang on Saturday but he will shun a direct meeting with his Russian counterpart even though they are set for their first showdown since the outbreak of war.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov meets with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Denpasar. Indonesia [Russian Foreign Ministry/AFP]

Russia hopes ‘more professional people’ will lead UK

The Kremlin has said it hoped that “more professional people” would come to power in the UK after the BBC reported Boris Johnson will resign as Conservative party leader.

“We would like to hope that some day in Great Britain more professional people who can make decisions through dialogue will come to power,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

Johnson’s government sanctioned dozens of wealthy, Kremlin-connected Russians, saying their money was no longer welcome in the UK.

Russia to jail citizens who cooperate with foreigners

Russia’s parliament has introduced harsh prison terms for cooperating with foreigners and calling to undermine national security.

In a bill harkening to the Soviet era, establishing and maintaining “confidential” cooperation with a foreigner or international organisation and helping them act against Russia’s interests will be punishable by up to eight years in prison.

Public calls to act against Russia’s security will be punished by up to seven years in prison.

Civilians evacuated from Sloviansk as Donbas offensive continues

Civilians are being evacuated from the flashpoint eastern city of Sloviansk as Russian forces continue their relentless offensive in the Donbas region at the heart of the war.

Sloviansk mayor Vadym Lyakh says 23,000 people out of a pre-war population of 110,000 have yet to leave but that people are being bussed out every day.

He says 17 people have been killed in Sloviansk since Russian forces focused their offensive on the Donetsk area of Donbas after conquering neighbouring Luhansk.

Security personnel halt motorists as smoke rises from the central market of Sloviansk, north of Kramatosk on July 5, 2022, following a suspected missile attack amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Security personnel halt motorists as smoke rises from the central market of Sloviansk [File: Miguel Medina/AFP]

Russia to create Soviet-style youth movement

Russian legislators approve legislation to create a patriotic youth movement reminiscent of Soviet-era youth organisations that will be headed by President Vladimir Putin.

The movement will aim to enhance Russian values among children from the age of six.

“The state must create conditions that contribute to the comprehensive spiritual, moral, intellectual and physical development of children, to the learning of patriotism, civil responsibility and respect for adults,” the authors of the legislation said.

Russia taking ‘operational pause’ in Ukraine, analysts say

Foreign analysts say Russia may be temporarily easing its offensive in Ukraine as the Russian military attempts to reassemble its forces for a renewed assault.

Russian forces made no claimed or assessed territorial gains in Ukraine on Wednesday “for the first time in 133 days of war,” according to the Institute for the Study of War.

The think-tank based in Washington suggested that Moscow may be taking an “operational pause” that does not entail “the complete cessation of active hostilities.”

Russian defence ministry says warplane hit Ukrainian troops on Snake Island

Russia’s defence ministry has said a Russian warplane struck Ukraine’s Snake Island in the Black Sea overnight, shortly after Ukrainian troops claimed to have raised their flag over the island.

Andriy Yermak, the Ukrainian President’s chief of staff, posted a video on Twitter of three soldiers raising a large Ukrainian flag on the island, from which Russian forces withdrew on June 30 after coming under heavy bombardment from Ukrainian artillery.

At the Russian defence ministry’s daily briefing, spokesman Lieutenant General Igor Konashenkov said that part of the Ukrainian detachment on the island was “destroyed”.

Ukraine ‘regrets’ Zhibek Zholy departure despite ‘criminal evidence’: Official

Ukraine’s Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko says “we regret that Russia’s ship Zhibek Zholy … was allowed to leave Karasu port despite criminal evidence presented to the Turkish authorities.”

Turkey’s ambassador in Kyiv will be called to provide an explanation for this “unacceptable situation”, he added.

The Russian cargo vessel was detained by Turkish authorities on Sunday. Ukraine claims it was carrying stolen Ukrainian grain from the occupied port of Berdyansk.

Russia says prisoner swaps ‘difficult’ amid Brittney Griner trial

Russia has said it will be difficult to exchange prisoners with the United States and suggested Washington be silent about the fate of Brittney Griner, the US basketball player detained in Russia on drugs charges.

Referring to a letter that US President Joe Biden that NBC news reported he intends to send to Griner, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that “hype” around the case does not help, and that “this kind of correspondence does not help”.

Griner was arrested on February 17 at Moscow’s Sheremteyevo airport, after cannabis-infused vaporiser cartridges were allegedly found in her luggage. She faces 10 years in prison on drugs charges.

Finland passes laws to strengthen security on Russian border

Finland’s parliament has voted in favour of legislation that would allow barriers on the country’s border with Russia and enable the closure of the 1,300-km (807-mile) frontier from asylum seekers in case of exceptional circumstances.

The bill on preparedness, while contested in terms of European Union asylum rules, was passed by a supermajority that allows parliament to fast-track laws, amid fears Russia could retaliate over Finland’s plans to join the NATO military alliance.

It will also allow the government to decide to build fences or other barriers near Finnish borders and direct all asylum applications to one or several border crossings, such as an airport.

Russia plans to exploit shifting opinions on Ukraine: Report

Russia’s propaganda machine is preparing to exploit coming divisions in European public opinion as inevitable cracks in the support for the Ukrainian war effort appear, a US intelligence firm has said.

The longer the war goes on the more it will “further strain the relationship between Western populations and their governments”, Recorded Future, a private US threat assessment firm based in Massachusetts, said in a report.

“Over time, this will likely result in a natural dwindling of support for the Western coalition resulting from both exhaustion with the war and a lack of appetite for long-term economic pain,” it said.

G20 meeting cannot be business as usual due to Russia’s invasion: US official

This week’s Group of 20 meeting of foreign ministers in Bali cannot be business as usual due to the situation with Russia, a senior US Department of State official has said.

The United States wants to make sure nothing from the G20 lends legitimacy to what Russia is doing in Ukraine, the official said, adding the meeting would be a good opportunity to focus on the food security agenda.

The official said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken would hold a trilateral meeting with his Japanese and South Korean counterparts, and that his meeting with China’s foreign minister was about managing their relationship responsibly.

Russian forces made little progress in Donetsk: UK

Heavy shelling occurred along the front line in the Donetsk region on Wednesday, but Russian forces made few advances, the United Kingdom’s defence ministry has said.

The defence ministry said this was likely due to the fact the Russian units, involved in last week’s gains in the Luhansk region, were “reconstituting”.

The ministry also said legislation that passed the first reading in Russia’s lower house on Tuesday was likely Kremlin’s attempt to put in place economic measures to support its Ukraine offensive without formally announcing state mobilisation, “which remains politically sensitive”.

“The legislation would give the authorities special powers over labour relations; the reactivation of mobilisation facilities; and to release assets from state reserves,” the ministry said.

Russian grain ship leaves Turkish port: Data

A Russian-flagged cargo ship, the Zhibek Zholy, which was suspected of carrying stolen Ukrainian grain, left the Turkish northwest port of Karasu late on Wednesday, Refinitiv ship tracking data shows.

On Sunday, Ukraine’s ambassador to Turkey said Turkish authorities had detained the ship. Ukraine had previously asked Turkey to arrest the ship.

On Wednesday, Russia’s foreign ministry dismissed as false reports of the ship’s detention by authorities.

Kyiv has accused Moscow of stealing grain from territories seized by Russian forces since their invasion began in late February. The Kremlin has previously denied that Russia has stolen Ukrainian grain.

Read more here.

Australia’s foreign minister calls Russia’s war ‘immoral’

Australia’s foreign minister has called Russia’s war in Ukraine “immoral” before the G20 meeting in Indonesia.

“[These] themes of strengthening multilateralism and addressing food and energy security, which the foreign ministers meeting will be addressing tomorrow, really do bring into highlight the implications and the impacts of Russia’s illegal, unjust, and immoral war on Ukraine,” Penny Wong said in Bali.

“If you ever wanted an example of a nation which has chosen to denigrate and weaken multilateralism, if you ever wanted an example of a nation which has demonstrated its willingness, its disregard for the need for food security, for a world recovering from a pandemic, it is Russia,” she said.

“And it is Russia in its persistent, persistent refusal to comply with the UN Charter and international law and its illegal, immoral invasion of Ukraine.”

Russia cannot be allowed to use G20 meeting as a platform: Germany

Germany’s foreign minister has said Russia must not be allowed to use the G20 meeting as a platform given its war in Ukraine.

“It is in the interest of us all to ensure that international law is respected and adhered to. That is the common denominator,” Annalena Baerbock said in a statement before her arrival in Bali.

“And it is also the reason why we will not simply stand aside and allow Russia to use the meeting as a platform.”

Russia’s Lavrov lands in Bali for G20 set to be dominated by Ukraine

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has flown into Indonesia’s resort island of Bali for a meeting of G20 foreign ministers, which is set to be overshadowed by tensions triggered by the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

The G20 gathering runs until Friday in host country Indonesia, which this year has grappled with the balancing act of running a global summit buffeted by geopolitical pressures and a global food crisis blamed on the war.

Lavrov plans to meet some G20 counterparts on the sidelines of the summit, Russian news agency TASS reported, but ministers including US’s Blinken and his German counterpart Annalena Baerbock have ruled out meeting Lavrov.

Discussion of energy and food security are on the agenda in the two-day meeting, with Russia accused of stoking a global food crisis and worsening inflation by blockading shipments of Ukrainian grain. Russia has said it is ready to facilitate unhindered exports of grain.

Ukrainian forces advancing in Russian-occupied areas: Zelenskyy

Zelenskyy has told Ukrainians his troops are advancing in areas of the country occupied by Russian forces, particularly in the southern regions of Kherson and Zaporizhia.

“Today, the general public became aware that in the south of our country, in the occupied areas, access to social networks, messengers and YouTube was closed. Russian forces have blocked any possibility for people to know the truth about what is happening and about our potential, which we are gradually increasing,” he said in his nighttime address.

The president urged everyone who could, to let people in the occupied areas know Ukraine’s army was working on recovering its territories.

“Use every opportunity to tell the people in the occupied areas that we remember them and we are fighting for them. We are fighting for our entire south, for the entire Ukrainian Donbas – the most brutal confrontation is currently there, near Sloviansk and Bakhmut. We are fighting for the Kharkiv region. The occupiers should not think that their time on this land is long-lasting and that the superiority of their artillery is eternal,” he said.

Drone bought by Lithuanians on its way to Ukraine

Lithuania’s defence minister has shared a photograph of the Turkish Bayraktar drone that was bought from funds raised by Lithuanians for Ukraine.

“Last hours of Bayraktar ‘Vanagas’ in Lithuania,” Arvydas Anusauskas said on Twitter. “Very soon it will be delivered to Ukraine”.

Hundreds of Lithuanians contributed to the fundraiser, and the target of five million euros ($5.1m) for the Bayraktar TB2 uncrewed aerial vehicle was raised in just three and a half days.

Ukraine has bought more than 20 Bayraktar TB2 armed drones from Turkish company Baykar in recent years and ordered another 16 on January 27. That batch was delivered in early March.

Australia urges China to help end war

Australia’s Foreign Minister Penny Wong has urged China to exert its influence on Russia to halt the war in Ukraine.

In a speech in Singapore on Wednesday night, Wong said it was vital that powerful countries should “exert their influence” on Putin to end the conflict.

“This includes China, as a great power, a permanent member of the [United Nations] Security Council, and with its ‘no-limits partnership’ with Russia,” Wong said. “Exerting such influence would do a great deal to build confidence in our own region.

“The region and the world is now looking at Beijing’s actions in relation to Ukraine,” she added.

Russia logs weekly inflation for first time since May

Prices rose across the Russian economy in the week to July 1 for the first time since late May, when a surging rouble and a drop in consumer demand led Russia to record weekly deflation, data published on Wednesday showed.

Russia’s consumer price index rose 0.23 percent during the seven-day period, the Rosstat state statistics service said – an increase from its flat reading a week earlier and three consecutive weeks of falling prices in late May and early June.

So far this year, prices have jumped 11.77 percent, Rosstat said, far above the central bank’s inflation target of 4 percent.

Russia saw weekly inflation hit a two-decade high of 2.22 percent in early March after it sent troops into Ukraine – a move that triggered unprecedented economic sanctions from the West, putting pressure on Russian households struggling after almost a decade of stagnant or falling wages.

Biden speaks with wife of basketball star jailed in Russia

US President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have spoken with the wife of US basketball player Brittney Griner, who is jailed in Russia.

“The President called Cherelle [Griner] to reassure her that he is working to secure Brittney’s release as soon as possible, as well as the release of Paul Whelan and other US nationals who are wrongfully detained or held hostage in Russia and around the world,” the White House said in a statement after the call.

Read more here.

Western artillery ‘working very powerfully’: Zelenskyy

Ukraine’s president has said his troops have been able to inflict “noticeable” damage on Russian targets using Western artillery.

The Western weapons have “finally … started working very powerfully”, Zelenskyy said in his nighttime address.

“Its accuracy is exactly as needed. Our defenders inflict very noticeable strikes on depots and other spots that are important for the logistics of the occupiers,” he added.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said he had spoken Wednesday with his German and US counterparts, where he noted the importance of continuing military aid was discussed.

Mykolaiv mayor urges residents to evacuate

The mayor of Mykolaiv has reported heavy shelling in the southern port city on Wednesday and said air alarms were also activated several times on Thursday morning.

The city has already shed about half of its pre-war population of 500,000.

“There are no safe areas in Mykolaiv,” Oleksandr Senkevych told a briefing. “I am telling the people … that they need to leave.”

‘No hiding places’ for culprits of war crimes: Irish PM

Ireland’s prime minister has labelled Russia’s invasion of Ukraine a gross violation of international law and said there will be “no hiding places” for those committing war crimes.

“The use of terror against and the deliberate targeting of civilian populations are war crimes. Those responsible, those carrying out these actions, and those directing them will be held fully accountable,” Martin said during his visit with Zelenskyy in Kyiv.

Martin also visited several cities in the Kyiv region, such as Bucha and Borodyanka, that were affected by the Russian invasion. He said that Irish people have been enormously moved by the suffering of the Ukrainian people, adding that “every Irish town and city is a sea of yellow and blue”.

Zelenskyy said he discussed with Martin the preparation of the seventh package of sanctions against Russia, as well as a common response to the issues created by war.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy shakes hands with Ireland's Prime Minister Micheal Martin before a meeting in Kyiv.
Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy welcomes Ireland’s Prime Minister Micheal Martin before a meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine, July 6, 2022 [Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via Reuters]

Russia pounds Kharkiv city, Dnipropetrovsk region: Officials

Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, is being subjected to “constant” longer-range Russian shelling, its mayor has said.

“Russia is trying to demoralise Kharkiv but it won’t get anywhere,” Ihor Terekhov said on Ukrainian TV. Ukrainian defenders pushed Russian armoured forces well back from Kharkiv early in the war, and Terekhov said about 1 million residents remained there.

Zelenskyy said the National Pedagogical University in Kharkiv was destroyed by a Russian missile raid on Wednesday, “the main building, lecture halls, university museum, scientific library”.

South of Kharkiv, the governor of Dnipropetrovsk said that the region had been battered by missiles and shelling.

Deadly shelling reported in Sloviansk

The city of Sloviansk has been shelled for the last two weeks, its mayor has said.

“The situation is tense,” Vadym Lyakh told a video briefing, adding that 17 residents had been killed there since President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian forces into Ukraine on February 24.

Ukraine holding Russian forces back from northern Donetsk: Military

The Ukrainian military says it has so far staved off any significant Russian advance into the north of its Donetsk region, but pressure is intensifying with heavy shelling on the city of Sloviansk and nearby populated areas

In its evening note on Wednesday, Ukraine’s military suggested Russian forces were intensifying pressure on Ukrainian defenders along the northern flanks of Donetsk province. It said Russian forces were bombarding several Ukrainian towns with heavy weaponry to enable ground forces to advance southward into the region and close in on Sloviansk.

“The enemy is trying to improve its tactical position … [They] advanced … before being repulsed by our soldiers and retreating with losses,” the military update said.

Other Russian forces, it said, aimed to seize two towns en route to the city of Kramatorsk, south of Sloviansk, and were also trying to take control of the main highway linking Luhansk and Donetsk provinces.

Read all updates from July 6 here.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies