Ukraine war live updates: Russia ‘under pressure’ after failed Donbas assault, says UK

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People look at a Russian military vehicle destroyed by the Ukrainian troops in a battle against the Russian invaders and taken to the capital as a reminder of war in Ukraine.

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In the third month of Russia’s war against Ukraine, fighting continues in the country’s east and south, with Moscow forces struggling to make any progress. 

Meanwhile, the Kremlin is threatening neighbouring European countries with retaliation as the likes of Finland and Sweden express their interest in joining NATO — a consequence of Vladimir Putin’s actions against Kyiv.

**Follow Friday’s events as they unfold in our blog below, or watch the latest updates by clicking the video player above.
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06:33

Friday’s key developments

    A glowing report has paved the way for Sweden’s NATO membership, despite warnings by Russia that there will be “consequences” if it and Finland sign up to the alliance. 

    G7 talks with Ukraine have entered their second day, with France saying the group will support the country until its ‘victory’. 

    The EU is planning to send a €500 million package of military aid to Ukraine, although it still needs approval. 

    Russia is stealing Ukrainian grain and trying to sell it on global markets, Ukraine’s foreign ministry claims.

    Ukraine’s top prosecutor disclosed plans for the first war crimes trial of a captured Russian soldier.

    Moscow has still not given up on Kyiv, and it wants to take Mykolayiv and Odesa to create a land bridge to the Moldovan separatist region of Transinstria, Ukrainian military believes. 

    Ukraine has asked the G7 to seize and hand over Russian assets.

    The UN’s refugee agency says more than 6 million people have now left Ukraine.

14:32

75-minute call between Russian and German leaders over Ukraine war 

Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz has spoken with Putin by phone on Friday for the first time since March. 

During the 75-minute phone call, the pair discussed the ongoing war in Ukraine and “efforts to end it,” said German government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit.

Scholz urged the Russian leader to strike a ceasefire with Ukraine as soon as possible, and improve conditions on the ground for civilians, he said. 

The German leader also “clearly rejected the Kremlin accusation that Nazism was widespread in Ukraine,” according to Hebestreit.

Speaking about the global food situation, Scholz “reminded (Putin) that Russia has a special responsibility” with regard to the issue as a major world supplier, Hebestreit said in a statement.

(AP)

14:19

Putin’s ‘shady network’ hit with new UK sanctions 

The United Kingdom has slapped fresh sanctions on Putin’s inner circle and financial network, according to the country’s Foreign Office (FCO). 

Those targetted include the Russian president’s wife, his cousins and Alina Kabaeva, who is reported to have a close relationship with Putin.

“We are exposing and targeting the shady network propping up Putin’s luxury lifestyle and tightening the vice on his inner circle,” said UK foreign secretary Liz Truss. 

“We will keep going with sanctions on all those aiding and abetting Putin’s aggression until Ukraine prevails,” she added. 

While Putin’s official assets are modest, his lifestyle is funded “by a cabal of family, friends and elites”, whom he rewards with state positions and wealth in return for “undying loyalty”, the FCO said.

(Reuters)

14:05

Germany starts training Ukrainian soldiers to use powerful artillery guns

Germany says it has started to teach Ukrainian troops how to use its Panzerhaubitze (PzH) 2000 howitzer artillery system on Friday. 

The PzH 2000 is one of the most powerful artillery weapons in the German army. 

It can fire three rounds in nine seconds and hit targets up to 40 kilometres (25 miles) away. 

(AP/Reuters)

13:53

Ukraine asks G7 to hand over seized Russian assets 

Ukraine asked the G7 group of wealthy nations on Friday to confiscate Russian assets that it could use to help rebuild the country. 

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kouleba made the remarks during a meeting with the G7’s top diplomats in Germany. 

“Today, I asked the G7 states to adopt legislation and put in place all the necessary procedures in order to seize Russian assets and give them to Ukraine for the reconstruction of the country,” said Kouleba. 

“Russia must pay politically, economically but also financially” for the damage caused by its invasion,” he added. 

Kouleba pointed to Canada, which vowed to give Russian assets to Ukrainian victims in April. 

“Canada has done it before and I have a feeling the others are going to do it sooner or later,” he said.

Last week, European Council President Charles Michel called for the confiscation of frozen Russian assets in the EU as part of broader sanctions against Moscow.

“Personally, I am absolutely convinced that it is extremely important not only to freeze the assets, but also to make possible their confiscation, in order to make them available for the country which is rebuilding,” he said. 

Frozen assets are still owned by their original owners, whereas confiscated assets would no longer be under their control. 

German Finance Minister Christian Lindner said on Wednesday he was “open” to the idea of ​​using frozen money belonging to the Russian Central Bank to help rebuild Ukraine. 

Yet, seizing and redistributing the property of private individuals and companies is more complicated he said because “of law which we cannot ignore at the political level”.

12:58

Report greenlights Sweden’s NATO membership 

An official report has paved the way for Sweden to join NATO, after it drew favourable conclusions on the benefits of membership for the country. 

The 40-page strategic review, which was presented on Friday, highlighted several advantages of the Nordic country joining the defensive alliance. 

However, it stopped short of formally expressing a recommendation. 

Neighbouring Finland, which shares a 1,340 kilometres (830 miles) long border with Russia, is expected to formalise its NATO candidacy this week. 

“Sweden’s membership in NATO would raise the threshold (of triggering) of military conflicts and would thus have a deterrent effect in Northern Europe,” the report concluded. 

Although Moscow has said there will be “consequences” if Sweden and Finland were to enter NATO, the report dismissed an armed attack as very unlikely, although it did recognise the possibility of Russian “provocations” and “realisations.” 

The report added that outside of NATO Sweden currently has no “guarantees” of support in the event of Russian aggression. 

“Our opinion is that we would not suffer a conventional military attack in reaction to a possible candidacy for NATO,” Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde said at a press conference.

But she stopped short of ruling out a military attack on the country, reiterating a government position.

Russia is strongly against a larger and expanded NATO on its borders, which it views as a threat to the country’s security.

The Russian leadership has previously warned that nuclear weapons will be deployed near Scandinavia and the Baltics, should Finland or Sweden decide to sign up. 

A formal decision on whether Sweden will join NATO is expected in the coming days. 

11:45

EU set to give €500 million military aid package to Ukraine 

The European Union will provide 500 million euros worth of military assistance to Ukraine in a bid to help it resist the Russian invasion.

Friday’s announcement was made by the EU’s head of diplomacy, Josep Borrell, at a G7 gathering in Germany.

But the head of EU foreign affairs said the funds would only be released if approved by all member states. 

Borrell said the cheque would be spent on heavy weaponry, such as armoured vehicles, tanks, heavy artillery and ammunition, although stopped short of promising finance for fighter jets – a key Ukrainian demand. 

If ratified, it would mean that the bloc has provided Ukraine with a grand total of 2 billion euros in both lethal and non-lethal support.

Some EU member states are hesitant about providing more military aid to Ukraine, although other figures in the bloc, such as the EU Council president, have thrown their support behind the measure. 

The package will likely take weeks to be greenlit by the EU. 

Borrell also hoped that the EU would agree on an oil embargo against Russia, which has been discussed in recent weeks. 

Answering questions from reporters, he said “I am sure we will have an agreement – we need this agreement, and we will have it.

“We have to get rid of the oil dependency on Russia,” he added.

11:04

UK: Russian commanders ‘under pressure’ in Ukraine 

The UK Ministry of Defense (MOD) has said Moscow’s military leaders are under pressure to make progress in eastern Ukraine, following recent heavy Russian losses. 

British military officials said on Friday that Ukrainian forces had repelled a Russian column of armour, which was trying to cross the Siverskyi Donets river in the Donbas, eastern Ukraine, on a pontoon bridge. 

“Significant” elements of at least one Russian battalion tactical group, alongside equipment used to deploy the floating bridge, were lost by Russia, the MOD said.  

“Conducting river crossings in a contested environment is a highly risky manoeuvre and speaks to the pressure the Russian commanders are under to make progress in their operations in eastern Ukraine,” the MOD said in its daily intelligence update.

It added that Russia has failed to make any major significant advances in eastern Ukraine, despite concentrating forces in the Luhansk and Donbas regions of the country. 

(AP)

10:41

Boy, 15, survives the attack that killed his father in front of him 

After the Russian troops’ retreat from the outskirts of Kyiv, revelations of mass graves with dozens of civilians, some with their hands tied behind their back and most shot to the head in towns like Bucha shocked the world. 

Fourteen-year-old Yura Nechyporenko from Bucha feared he would become one of them after his horrifying encounter with Russian forces who were occupying the streets he grew up in.

He also witnessed his father die, unable to do anything to save his life.

Read more below 

Boy, 15, survives the attack that killed his father in front of him

10:34

G7 united in support of Ukrainian victory, says France

France assured Kyiv on Friday that the G7 group of western nations would support Ukraine “until victory.”

“We will continue to support Ukraine’s fight for its sovereignty over time until Ukraine wins,” said French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian at a meeting of the G7 in Wangels, northern Germany, adding that the G7 would support Kyiv “in the long term.” 

“We are not at war with Russia, it is Russia that is at war with Ukraine: there is an aggressor and an attacked and we support the attacked,” he said.  

Britain’s Foreign Secretary also called for “more weapons” to be delivered to Ukraine in the face of the Russian invasion. 

“It is very important at this time to keep the pressure on Vladimir Putin by supplying more weapons to Ukraine and increasing sanctions,” she said.  

“G7 unity has been vital during this crisis to protect freedom and democracy and we will continue to work together to achieve this,” she added.

These remarks come as foreign ministers of the G7 are meeting with their Ukrainian counterparts until Saturday in Germany to find out how to help Ukraine defend against the Russian invasion. 

The G7 is a group of powerful advanced economies, including Germany, France, Italy, Canada, the US, Japan and the UK.

(AFP)

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