Russia 'destroys up to 50 long-range rocket launchers in high-precision airstrike'

Russia's defence ministry has claimed it used high-precision weapons to strike Ukrainian army fuel tanks and military hardware near the southern city of Mykolaiv.

In a video statement, Russian defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said that Russia's air forces had destroyed “up to 50 multiple launch rocket systems located in combat vehicle hangars, including foreign-made ones” and 49 Ukrainian military fuel tanks in the Mykolaiv region yesterday.

One civilian was killed and two were wounded after seven 'Onyx' missiles hit Mykolaiv yesterday, according to the south district of the Ukrainian armed forces.

Explosions were also heard in Mykolaiv today, the city's mayor has reported.

Oleksandr Senkevych did not provide further details in his post on the messaging app Telegram and urged residents of the city to take shelter.

For latest updates see today's live blog.

That’s all for today        

Thank you for following, here are five key updates from today:

  • Russia's defence ministry claimed to have used high-precision weapons to strike Ukrainian army fuel tanks and military hardware near the southern city of Mykolaiv.
  • Three more cruise missiles hit Mykolaiv today, while Ukraine’s air defences shot down another two missiles near the southern city of Odesa.
  • Ukrainian troops in the frontline eastern city of Seveorodonetsk can still receive weapons and evacuate their wounded despite damage to supply routes, a senior Ukrainian military official said.
  • However, the region’s governor warned that Ukrainian troops may need to retreat from the city of Lysychansk to avoid encirclement after Russian forces captured two settlements to its south.  
  • And finally, two Britons and a Moroccan who were captured while fighting for Ukraine and sentenced to death are preparing to appeal, a Russian news agency cited one of their lawyers as saying.

EU says countries preparing for possible further gas cuts 

European Union countries have so far been able to compensate for reduced gas supply from Russia, but are increasing preparation in case of further supply cuts, the European Commission said today.

"According to our exchange with the national authorities, the gas security of supply in Germany – and in the EU – is currently guaranteed. Lower inflows of gas from Russia can so far be compensated," a Commission spokesman said.

The EU's energy chief and EU countries' ministers will discuss on Monday possible measures to reduce gas demand, and are increasing preparations for if the situation worsens, the spokesman added. 

Kremlin: BRICS support Russia-Ukraine talks

The BRICS group of emerging economies said that they supported talks between Russia and Ukraineafter a video conference summit today, according to the text of a declaration published on the Kremlin website.

The BRICS countries comprise Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

Russia has looked to fellow BRICS members to replace some of the trade links that have been ruptured by sweeping Western sanctions imposed in response to its decision in February to send a huge contingent of troops into Ukraine.

Cisco to wind down business in Russia and Belarus

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

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

Cisco joined US sportswear maker Nike which also said on Thursday it was making a full exit from Russia, alongside others with have previously announced plans to leave, ranging from US chain McDonald's to French carmaker Renault.

Scholz: EU must make itself ready for expansion

The European Union should make itself ready for enlargement, now that Ukraine and Moldova will be granted candidate member status, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said today.

"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", Mr Scholz said before a meeting with EU leaders in Brussels.

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

Watch: Russia 'destroys army fuel tanks with high-precision weapons'

Zelensky criticises Israel over refusal to sanction Russia 

Volodymyr Zelensky has intensified his criticism of Israel's refusal to sanction Russia, during an address by the Jewish leader to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

The Ukrainian President's  speech four months into Russia's war on Ukraine comes amid a fresh political crisis in Israel that will likely see Naftali Bennett replaced as prime minister by Foreign Minister Yair Lapid within days.

Mr Bennett has refrained from criticising Russia's invasion and stressed Israel's close ties with Moscow and Kyiv while his administration has not imposed sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin's government.

Mr Zelenksy, who has family in Israel and has visited the country several times, told Hebrew University in a video address that he has struggled to understand Israel's soft approach towards Russia.

"How can you not help the victims of such aggression," Mr Zelenksy said, lamenting Israel's refusal to offer Ukraine military aid.

"I am grateful to the people of Israel. I am grateful for the sincere and emotional support to the people of Ukraine... but we would like to also get support from your government," he added.

Russian defence minister: Russia and Belarus need to strengthen defence capabilities

Russia and Belarus must take urgent joint measures to improve their defence capabilities and troops' combat readiness in the current circumstances, Russian news agencies quoted Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu as saying today.

"Circumstances dictate the need to take urgent joint measures on strengthening the defence capabilities of the union state, increase the combat readiness of troop groupings and the unified regional air defence system," Interfax quoted Shoigu as telling his Belarusian counterpart in Moscow.

Missiles hit Ukraine's southern port city of Mykolaiv

Three cruise missiles hit Ukraine's southern port city of Mykolaiv today, while air defences shot down another two missiles near the southern city of Odesa, the Ukrainian armed forces said in a statement.

It said one civilian was wounded in the strikes on Mykolaiv.

Putin calls on BRICS to cooperate and defy West's 'selfish actions' 

Vladimir Putin has called on the leaders of Brazil, India, China and South Africa to cooperate in the face of "selfish actions" from the West, as Moscow is pummelled by Western sanctions over Ukraine.

"Only on the basis of honest and mutually beneficial cooperation can we look for ways out of this crisis situation, which developed in the global economy because of the ill-conceived, selfish actions of certain states," Putin said in televised remarks at the BRICS leaders virtual summit, referring to Western sanctions on Russia.

He said these countries "using financial mechanisms, in fact, shift their own mistakes in macroeconomic policy onto the whole world".

"We are convinced that now, more than ever, the leadership of BRICS countries is needed to develop a unifying, positive course towards the formation of a truly multipolar system of inter-government relations," Putin said.

He added that BRICS nations "can count on the support of many Asian, African and Latin American states striving to pursue an independent policy".

Britain's trade secretary calls on more states to penalise Russia

Britain's trade secretary has urged more nations to punish Russia for its war in Ukraine during an interview in the United Arab Emirates, which along with other Gulf states has so far resisted Western pressure to take sides.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan, secretary of state for international trade, told Reuters that the invasion of Ukraine was "outrageous, unprovoked and an illegal war".

"We encourage all countries to stand alongside us in making that very clear and bringing in the sorts of sanctions and limitations to those who choose to support Putin," she said.

Ukrainian troops may need to pull back from Lysychansk, says governor

Ukrainian troops may need to retreat from the frontline city of Lysychansk to avoid encirclement after Russian forces captured two settlements to its south, regional governor Serhiy Gaidai said today.

"In order to avoid encirclement, our command could order that the troops retreat to new positions," he said on national television.

"All of Lysychansk is within reach of their fire. It is very dangerous in the city."

He said Lysychansk could still be reached by road, allowing civilian evacuations to continue.

Russia's TASS news agency had earlier cited Russian-backed separatists as saying the city was surrounded and cut off from supplies.

Kyiv says US precision artillery systems arrived in Ukraine 

Ukraine said it had taken delivery of precision artillery systems from the United States, which is the latest country to answer Kyiv's plea from allies for advanced weapons.

"Himars have arrived to Ukraine. Thank you to my colleague and friend Lloyd Austin [US Secretary of Defence] for these powerful tools! Summer will be hot for Russian occupiers. And the last one for some of them," Ukraine Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov wrote on Twitter.

Ukrainian forces not cut off in Seveorodonetsk says military official

Ukrainian troops in the frontline eastern city of Seveorodonetsk can still receive weapons and evacuate their wounded despite damage to supply routes, a senior Ukrainian military official said in an online briefing today.

Oleksiy Gromov, Deputy Chief of the Main Operational Department of the General Staff, said the situation in the city was difficult but stable.

Italian MPs in chaotic protest over sending of arms to Ukraine

Amid tensions in Italy over the sending of weapons to Ukraine, a group of MPs staged a protest in parliament on Wednesday, reports Nick Squires in Rome.

A small group of around 10 politicians held up placards calling for no more arms to be sent to Ukrainian forces in their fight against Russia.

A few moments of chaos ensued, with ushers confiscating the placards and telling the MPs to return to their seats.

The protest came at the end of an address by Mario Draghi, the prime minister, who has been marshalling support for the dispatch of military help to Ukraine.

Tensions within the ruling coalition, which includes every major party bar the hard-Right Brothers of Italy, have been simmering for weeks.

The once-populist Five Star Movement and the hard-Right League party, both of which have been soft on Moscow in the past, have objected to the dispatch of more armaments to Kyiv and have called for immediate peace talks.

Russia trying to encircle Ukrainian forces around Lysychansk

Russian forces are trying to encircle Ukrainian troops defending the frontline eastern city of Lysychansk, a senior Ukrainian defence official said in an online briefing.

"The enemy has not stopped trying ... to create conditions for the encirclement of units of our forces in the Lysychansk area," said Oleksiy Gromov, Deputy Chief of the Main Operational Department of the General Staff. 

No peace in Europe until Putin removed, former Nato commander warns

There will be no peace in Europe until Putin is removed, a former Nato commander has warned, claiming that the alliance has to be prepared for war with Russia, reports Craig Simpson.

General Sir Richard Shirreff, Nato's former Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe, has said the West has missed numerous warning signs about military expansion and is now “back where we were in 1938”.

Nato now has to be prepared for war with Russia, the general said:  “There will never be peace in Europe while Putin is in the Kremlin, or while the Putin regime is in the Kremlin.”

He added:  “We are facing a blood-stained autocrat in the Kremlin who has brought the politics of iron and blood back to Europe” which could see the end “of our long Elizabethan peace”.

Sir Richard said that any ceasefire would allow Putin to regroup and overwhelm Ukraine, and then “have a go” at the Baltic states.

Britons sentenced to death for fighting in Ukraine prepare appeal 

Two Britons and a Moroccan who were captured while fighting for Ukraine and sentenced to death are preparing to appeal, Russia's TASS news agency cited one of their lawyers as saying on Thursday.

The court in the self-proclaimed breakaway Donetsk People's Republic (DPR), which is armed and supported financially by Russia, found the three men - Britons Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner and Moroccan Brahim Saadoun - 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.

Read the full story here.

Ukraine admits Russia has captured two villages around Severodonetsk 

Ukraine has said that its troops have lost control over two settlements in the eastern Donbas region where it is fighting fiercely to retain control of the twin cities of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk.

"We lost control over Loskutivka and Rai-Oleksandrivka," said the Luhansk regional governor, Sergiy Gaiday, referring to two hamlets south east of Lysychansk.

Their capture puts Russian troops deeper in the Donbas region where they appear closer to encircling the two urban hubs which are separated by the Donets river.

Mr Gaiday added that Russian forces were working to capture Severodonetsk, an industrial town with a pre-war population of around 100,000 where Ukrainian and Russian troops have been fighting in a brutal standoff for weeks.

"Severodonetsk is being destroyed, all positions of our forces are shelled around the clock," he said.

The Russians are "storming Syrotyne," he added, referring to a settlement directly adjacent to Severodonetsk's southern edges.

'Historic' day for Ukraine EU candidacy 

EU chief Charles Michel says he expects the bloc's leaders to take the "historic" decision to accept war-torn Ukraine and its neighbour Moldova as candidates for EU membership.

EU leaders are meeting in Brussels to discuss the move, which would send a strong message of support for Ukraine, four months into the war.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky tells the nation to get ready for a "historic decision".

Securing candidate status is the first step on the road to EU membership, a process that can take years.

Kremlin insists Russia has not stolen Ukrainian grain as Turkey investigates 

The Kremlin has reiterated its assertion that Russia has not stolen any grain from Ukraine, as Turkey said it was probing allegations from Kyiv and would not allow any such grain to be brought to Turkey.

Kyiv's ambassador to Ankara said in early June that Turkish buyers were among those receiving grain that Russia had stolen from Ukraine, adding he had sought Turkey's help to identify and capture individuals responsible for the alleged shipments.

Asked about Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu's comments that Ankara would investigate, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: "You should ask the foreign ministry. Russia has not stolen any grain."

Ukraine 'waiting for green light' on EU candidacy

Kyiv said it was "waiting for the green light" to receive EU candidacy status as European leaders met in Brussels to discuss Kyiv's future, four months into the Russian invasion.

"We are waiting for the green light, Ukraine has earned candidate status," the head of the Ukrainian presidency Andriy Yermak said on Telegram.

He added that Ukraine's goal is "full membership in the EU."

Kremlin: Russia is a very reliable energy supplier to Europe 

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russia was a very reliable energy supplier to Europe and "strictly fulfils all its obligations".

He also 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 11-21.

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

Watch: Ukrainian Kamikaze drone attacks Russian oil refinery

Iran's foreign minister says only diplomacy can resolve Ukraine crisis

The Ukraine crisis can only be resolved diplomatically, Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian has said during a press conference in Tehran alongside his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

The Russian foreign minister arrived in Tehran on Wednesday for a two-day visit to discuss Iran's 2015 nuclear deal, boosting bilateral and energy cooperation, and international and regional issues, according to Iranian state media.

"In regards to Ukraine, we believe that American actions done through Nato are part of the crisis' causes. However, the Islamic Republic does not see war as a solution and welcomes political talks on this issue," Mr Amirabdollahian said.

Russia says it struck Mykolaiv with high-precision weapons

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

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

Ukraine to begin first trial of Russian soldier accused of rape 

Ukraine is expected to hold a preliminary hearing today in its first trial of a Russian soldier charged with raping a Ukrainian woman during Russia's invasion, the first of what could be dozens of such cases.

The suspect, Mikhail Romanov, 32, who is not in Ukrainian custody and will be tried in absentia, is accused of murdering a civilian in the Kyiv capital region on March 9 and then repeatedly raping the man's wife, according to court files.

Romanov is accused of raping a 33-year-old woman after he and another Russian soldier allegedly shot her husband Oleksiy at point blank in the village of Bohdanivka to the northeast of Kyiv.

The two soldiers then left and later returned twice more to rape her, the court files said. The identity of the second soldier has not been established.

German economic minister does not rule out gas rationing

German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said that he hopes gas supply to industry will never have to be rationed but cannot rule out such a scenario.

Asked when rationing of gas for German industry could be expected, Mr Habeck told reporters: "Hopefully never."

But he added: "Of course, I can't rule it out." 

Breaking: UK announces new trade sanctions against Russia 

Britain has introduced a new tranche of trade sanctions against Russia.

The UK Government's list of new measures includes 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.

Ukrainians in Belgium call for country to be admitted to EU

Credit: JOHANNA GERON /REUTERS 

UN: Over 150 cultural landmarks in Ukraine destroyed 

UN experts have confirmed the full or partial destruction of 152 cultural and historic heritage sites in Ukraine since Russia invaded the country.

They include museums and monuments, churches and other religious buildings, and libraries and other exceptional buildings, UNESCO said it an update of its efforts to assist Ukraine authorities in documenting the damage.

"These repeated attacks on Ukrainian cultural sites must stop. Cultural heritage, in all its forms, should not be targeted under any circumstances," UNESCO'S director general Audrey Azoulay said in a statement.

Her agency has been helping Ukraine authorities to mark landmarks with the distinctive "blue shield," meaning they are protected under the 1954 Hague convention on culture in armed conflicts, of which both Russia and Ukraine are signatories.

Yet, dozens of sites have been damaged since the start of the Russian invasion on February 24, with three-quarters in the eastern regions of Kharkiv and Donetsk as well as near the capital Kyiv, UNESCO said in its update.

Explosions heard in southern city of Mykolaiv

Explosions were heard in Ukraine's southern city of Mykolaiv today, the city's mayor has said.

Oleksandr Senkevych did not provide further details in his post on the messaging app Telegram and urged residents to take shelter.

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

'We must all reduce gas consumption', German economic minister tells public

German Economy Minister Robert Habeck has called on Germans to reduce their gas consumption in a national effort to conserve energy for the winter as the government triggered Phase Two of its three-stage emergency gas plan.

"We are in an economic confrontation with Russia," Mr Habeck told reporters as Germany entered Phase Two due to reduced gas supply from Russia. 

Albania: Ukraine should have no 'illusions' about EU candidacy

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama hailed Ukraine potentially joining his country as a candidate for European Union membership, but warned against any unreasonable hopes for a speedy process.

"North Macedonia is a candidate for 17 years if I have not lost count, Albania since eight, so welcome to Ukraine," Mr Rama said as he arrived for an EU summit with western Balkan countries.

"It's a good thing to give Ukraine the status. But I hope that Ukrainian people will not make many illusions."

Liz Truss: Grain crisis must be solved within next month to prevent 'devastating consequences'

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has warned that the grain crisis in Ukraine must be solved by global leaders within the next month, otherwise the world could see "devastating consequences".

During a visit to Ankara, Ms Truss said that she had spoken to Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu about co-operation between the two countries to ensure grain can leave Ukraine

"This grain crisis is urgent and needs to be solved within the next month, otherwise we could see devastating consequences," she said during a press conference.

Ms Truss added that the UK is offering its own "expertise" on ways to bypass a Russian blockade of Ukrainian grain.

"It is going to require an international effort," she warned.

Turkey says it is investigating claims of stolen Ukrainian grain 

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

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

Con Coughlin: Britain must be prepared to go to war with Russia

Putin’s latest threats show he is not beaten, but we are dangerously ill-equipped for a conventional conflict, argues Con Coughlin.

After the terrible drubbing the Russian military has suffered during the Ukraine conflict, Western leaders might be forgiven for concluding that Vladimir Putin no longer has the ability to threaten his European neighbours.

Russian generals have been forced to cobble together front-line battalions consisting primarily of instructors, trainers and cooks. It has even been suggested that the Kremlin is considering granting an amnesty to prisoners convicted of minor crimes on condition they agree to fight in Ukraine.

In short, the Russian war effort in Ukraine is in dire straits, a predicament that one might expect would encourage Putin to adopt a less confrontational tone with his Western rivals. A country that finds itself incapable of winning one conflict would be well-advised to avoid provoking another confrontation with its European neighbours.

Yet, to judge by the constant stream of threats emanating from the Kremlin, Putin’s enthusiasm for intimidating his adversaries remains unabated.

Read Con's full piece here.

Germany to enter Phase Two of emergency gas plan, reports suggest

Germany will enter Phase Two of its three-stage emergency gas plan today but a clause that would allow utilities to pass on soaring energy costs to customers will not be triggered yet, Reuters has reported.

The measure would be the latest escalation in a clash between Europe and Moscow that has exposed the bloc's dependence on Russian gas supplies and the difficulty of finding alternatives for several years.

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

Russian gas cuts have hit 12 countries, EU climate chief says 

A dozen European Union countries have been affected by cuts to gas supply from Russia, EU climate policy chief Frans Timmermans said this morning.

Mr Timmermans said ten 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 facing death penalty in Donetsk preparing 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, the Russian news agency TASS cited one of their lawyers as saying today.

The court in DPR, one of Russia's proxies in eastern Ukraine, found the three men - Britons Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner and Moroccan Brahim Saadoun - guilty of "mercenary activities and committing actions aimed at seizing power and overthrowing the constitutional order of the DPR".

Ukrainian servicemen mourn Battalion Commander Oleh Kutsyn

Credit: AFP 

Global food crisis caused by war 'will kill millions', health executive warns 

The global food crisis sparked by the war in Ukraine will kill millions by leaving the hungriest more vulnerable to infectious diseases, potentially triggering the world's next health catastrophe, the head of a major aid organisation has warned.

A Russian naval blockade of Ukraine's Black Sea ports has stopped grain shipments from the world's fourth-largest exporter of wheat and corn, raising the spectre of shortages and hunger in low-income countries.

The knock-on effects of the food shortages mean many will die not only of starvation but from having weaker defences against infectious diseases due to bad nutrition, Peter Sands, executive director of the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria told AFP this week.

"I think we've probably already begun our next health crisis. It's not a new pathogen but it means people who are poorly nourished will be more vulnerable to the existing diseases," he said in an interview on the sidelines of a G20 health minister meeting in the Indonesian city of Yogyakarta.

How President Zelensky became the latest celebrity accessory 

Given the Ukrainian leader’s previous life as a comic actor, it stands to reason that he would revere Ben Stiller Credit: Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP

From Hollywood actors to the British prime minister, everyone wants a piece of the Ukrainian leader, writes Ed Cumming.

Typical, isn’t it? You go years without an invasion and then two come along at once. President Zelensky had enough on his plate with the advancing Russian troops laying waste to the east of his country.

Increasingly, the Ukrainian president has to contend with another army pouring across his border from the West: the legions of political leaders, celebrities and other groupies yearning to bask in his presence.

In the inchoate field of “Zelensky-washing”, reflected glory is the best disinfectant. Problems at home? Get to Kyiv. 

Read the full piece here.

Russian forces capture two settlements near Lysychansk

Russian forces have captured the settlements of Loskutivka and Rai-Oleksandrivka south of Ukraine's cities of Lysychansk and Severodonetsk, which are the focus of the Russian offensive in the region, Luhansk governor Serhiy Gaidai said today.

Ukrainian forces continue the defence of Severodonetsk and the nearby settlements of Zolote and Vovchoyrovka, he added.

MoD issues Ukraine intelligence update

Dispatch: 'We will wait for our heroes to liberate us'

The sound of distant outgoing artillery rumbles daily through the deserted streets of the Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk, not far from the fierce fighting around Severodonetsk.

Many people have already fled as the war crawls ever closer, but those refusing to leave grow increasingly anxious amid the thuds of shells.

Some have even been put off their knitting.

“I used to have a lot of hobbies, like sewing and knitting, but now in the circumstances my hands don’t want to do that. I have no inspiration,” Larissa said.

Her and Natalya, middle-aged neighbours who struck up a friendship after Russia invaded Ukraine in February, walk daily in the city’s beautiful Jubilee Park to pick berry leaves to make tea.

“We are collecting herbs and waiting for peace,” said Larissa, one of the last who do not want to abandon their homes as the Russian army closes in.

Soldiers in Kramatorsk, Ukraine, the city which could be Russia's next targetCredit:  Getty Images

 Read the full story here

Listen to our new podcast episode: Battle for the Donbas

Severodonetsk under 'massive' Russian bombardment

Russia has taken several villages in the past few days, raising fears that its forces will soon be in a position to seize the key eastern cities of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk.

Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, acknowledged in an online video that “the threat of a tactical Russian victory is there, but they haven’t done it yet” following Russian gains to the southeast of Lysychansk.

Serhiy Haidai, the governor of Ukraine’s Luhansk region, confirmed on Wednesday morning that Russian forces had captured the villages of Pidlisne and Myrna Dolyna and were making a “partially successful” attack towards the settlement of Bila Gora, targeting police, state security and prosecutors’ buildings as they went.

“Hellish battles in Severodonetsk and surrounding villages, massive shelling on Lysychansk, and hostile attempts to cut the ‘road of life’,” he said in an update on Telegram.

“The enemy is trying to establish full control over Severodonetsk.”

 Read the full story here

In pictures: Kharkiv under siege as Russia's attacks kill at least 20

Eastern Ukraine regions continue to be the main focus of attacks by the Russian troopsCredit: Shutterstock
A least 20 people have been killed and more than a dozen injured in the Kharkiv regionCredit: Shutterstock
Rubble is mounting in Kharkiv as Russia's bombardment continuesCredit: Shutterstock

 

Residents flee Kharkiv as Russia bombards city

Reporters on the ground in the northeastern city of Kharkiv under siege said streets were near empty on Wednesday. 

Leyla Shoydhry, a young woman in a park near the opera house, told AFP the situation was "very bad".

"Last night the building next to mine collapsed from the bombardment while I was sleeping," she said.

Roman Pohuliay, a 19-year-old wearing a pink sweatshirt, said most residents had fled the city.

"Only the grannies are left," he said.

At least 20 people have been killed after artillery fire and air strikes blasted Kharkiv this weekCredit: Shutterstock

EU set to make historic offer of candidate status to Ukraine

European leaders will formally set Ukraine on the long road to EU membership at a summit in Brussels on Thursday.

Ukrainian  President Volodymyr Zelensky said he had spoken to 11 European Union leaders on Wednesday about Ukraine's candidacy and will make more calls on Thursday.

He said earlier he believed all 27 EU countries would support Ukraine's candidate status.

"We deserve it," he told crowds in Amsterdam via video link.

It will take Ukraine a decade or more to meet the criteria for joining the EU.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday hailed the European Union's expected offer of candidate statusCredit: Future Publishing

Captured Briton Aiden Aslin told his execution will go ahead

A British fighter sentenced to death during a show trial in a Ukrainian rebel region has been told the execution will be carried out, it was reported on Wednesday night.

Aiden Aslin, 28, and Shaun Pinner, 48, were captured in the besieged city of Mariupol in April after their unit surrendered after holding off the Russian army for 48 days.

They were convicted of attempting “a violent seizure of power” by the “Supreme Court” of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR).

The men were told to expect execution by firing squad after pleading guilty to mercenary and terrorist activities.

On Wednesday night, the family of Mr Aslin told the BBC that his captors had informed him that the UK has yet to make any attempt to negotiate on his behalf.

Aiden Aslin was told to expect execution by firing squadCredit: AP

Read the full story here

Today's top stories

  • A British fighter sentenced to death during a show trial in a Ukrainian rebel region has been told the execution will be carried out
  • Pro-Russian separatists claimed they were close to surrounding the Ukrainian forces defending the twin cities of Lysychansk and Severodonetsk, the site of fierce weeks-long fighting
  • Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky has warned fighting may escalate before the EU summit, saying Russian occupiers were determined to destroy the Donbas
  • Russian missile strikes killed at least one person and damaged a school in the southern city of Mykolaiv
  • A suspected Ukrainian combat drone hit a major oil refinery in Russia’s south and caused a large fire, in what appears to be a fresh attack by Kyiv on Russian soil
  • The head of the International Energy Agency warned that Russia may cut off gas to Europe entirely as it seeks to bolster its political leverage
  • German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Ukraine needs massive financial help to rebuild after the devastation wrought by Russia's invasion