Ukraine news – latest: Russia attacks on eastern cities ‘entering fearsome climax’

Ukrainian drone strikes major Russian oil refinery

The battle for the east Ukrainian cities of Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk is “entering a sort of fearsome climax”, one of president Volodymyr Zelensky’s advisers has said.

Oleksiy Arestovych made the comment as Ukrainian forces try to cling onto this part of Luhansk province in the face of fierce Russian attacks.

The Kremlin’s troops have recently captured more territory in the industrial Donbas region, taking control of the settlements of Loskutivka and Rai-Oleksandrivka to the south of Lysychansk, according to the Luhansk governor Serhiy Gaidai.

In its latest report on the battle for the Donbas, the British Ministry of Defence said on Thursday that Russian soldiers had most likely advanced 3 miles towards Lysychansk from the south since Sunday.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky spoke of the massive Russian strikes in the east of the country. “The goal of the occupiers in this direction remains the same – they want to destroy the whole Donbas step by step,” he said in his late night address.

This comes as the EU is set to decide whether to grant Ukraine candidacy status.


Germany warns of possible gas rations as Russia reduces supplies

Germany’s economy minister has warned the country may have to introduce gas rationing because of the risk of dwindling deliveries from Russia, our international editor David Harding reports.

Robert Habeck said the situation in Germany was “serious” and that Europe’s biggest economy faces a “crisis” over storing enough gas for the winter.

“The reduction in gas supplies is an economic attack on us by Putin. We will defend ourselves against this. But our country is going to have to go down a stony path now,” Mr Habeck said.

Asked about the threat of rationing, he said there would “hopefully never” be a need for such a move, but crucially added: “Of course, I can’t rule it out.”

Russia last week reduced gas flows not only to Germany but also Italy, Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia just as European Union countries are scrambling to refill storage of the fuel used to generate electricity, power industry and heat homes in the winter.

Andy Gregory23 June 2022 14:51


Ukrainian minister welcomes US delivery of long-range weapon systems

Ukraine’s defence minister has welcomed the arrival of US supplies of powerful long-range weapon systems which Kyiv hopes can help turn the tide of Vladimir Putin’s invasion.

Ukraine says it needs the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) to better match the range of Russian rocket systems which it says are being extensively used to pummel the Donbas region.

Washington has said it has received assurances from Kyiv that those longer-range weapons would not be used to attack Russian territory, fearing an escalation of the conflict. Moscow has warned it will strike targets in Ukraine which they “have not yet been hitting” if the West supplies longer-range missiles to Ukraine for use in high-precision mobile rocket systems.

Andy Gregory23 June 2022 14:32


Ukrainian forces may need to retreat to avoid encirclement, governor says

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

The general staff of Ukraine’s armed forces earlier confirmed the loss of Rai-Oleksandrivka and Loskutivka, which lie around 3 miles from Lysychansk, and said Russian troops were trying to surround Ukrainian forces there.

Governor Gaidai suggested that Ukrainian troops might have to draw back, saying on national TV: “In order to avoid encirclement, our command could order that the troops retreat to new positions.

“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 – contrasting with claims carried by Russia’s Tass news agency from Russian-backed separatists who said the city was surrounded and cut off from supplies.

Andy Gregory23 June 2022 14:10


Britons sentenced to death by pro-Russian separatists to appeal against verdict

Two Britons and a Moroccan are preparing to appeal against the death sentences they received earlier this month from pro-Russian separatists, one of their lawyers has said.

Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner, from the UK, and Brahim Saadoun, from Morocco, were captured while fighting for Ukraine and were convicted by a court in the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) for alleged “mercenary activities”. They insist they were regular soldiers serving in the Ukrainian army.

The verdict was condemned internationally, with British politicians calling the result of a “show trial”, and Yulia Tserkovnikova, Mr Pinner’s lawyer, has confirmed that she will now be challenging the decision.

“My colleagues and I are currently preparing the full text of an appeal against the sentence in the interests of our defendants,” she said, according to the Russian state Tass news agency.

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

My colleague Rory Sullivan has the full report here:

Andy Gregory23 June 2022 13:52


European Parliament reacts to Ukraine candidacy vote

Here is the response from the European Parliament after its approval of a resolution stating that Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova should be granted official EU candidacy status.

The final decision on the countries’ candidacy will be made by the leaders on the EU Council.

My colleague Rory Sullivan has more on the vote here:

Andy Gregory23 June 2022 13:35


Russians trying to encircle troops defending Lysychansk

Russian forces are trying to encircle Ukrainian troops defending the frontline eastern city of Lysychansk, a senior Ukrainian defence official has told reporters.

“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 Ukraine’s General Staff.

Earlier, one of president Volodymyr Zelensky’s advisers warned the battle for the cities of Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk was “entering a sort of fearsome climax”.

Andy Gregory23 June 2022 13:20


Three Russian missiles hit Mykolaiv, says Ukrainian army

Three Russian missiles hit the Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv on Thursday, the Ukrainian army said on Thursday.

One civilian was injured in the strikes, it added.

The Ukrainian armed forces claimed to have shot down two other Russian missiles close to the southern port city of Odesa today.

Rory Sullivan23 June 2022 13:00


Estonia hopes to be designated more Nato troops

Amid fears over Russian aggression, Estonia has expressed its wish to be designated extra Nato soldiers at the defensive alliance’s summit in Madrid next week.

Speaking to Reuters, Estonian prime minister Kaja Kallas acknowledged the forces are unlikely to be stationed in her country, but could be deployed quickly from elsewhere in times of need.

“Considering how mobile the forces right now are, and how very difficult it is to send permanently troops, we have proposed such a structure of allocated forces,” she said on Wednesday evening.

“There troops are, for example, in the United Kingdom or other allies, but … if something happens, they are immediately able to come here and defend us from the first day.”

Rory Sullivan23 June 2022 12:45


European Parliament overwhelmingly approves EU candidacy status for Ukraine and Moldova

The European Parliament has approved EU candidacy status for Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia in a convincing vote on Thursday.

In total, 529 votes were made in support of the resolution to defer the status on the three countries, while 45 votes were made against the proposal. A further 14 politicians abstained.

Rory Sullivan23 June 2022 12:37


Lithuania to increase defence spending

Lithuania needs to raise its defence spending to 3 per cent of GDP due to the changed security outlook in Europe, its president has said.

Gitanas Nauseda said the increase would allow the country to host more Nato troops.

“Infrastructure-wise, we are not ready to deploy a brigade-sized unit in Lithuania because there is no accommodation infrastructure here. I hope that by 2027 we will be ready,” he said.

“We are talking about hundreds of millions of euros for that purpose. And this is also a serious amount of money which allows me to talk about the necessity of achieving 3% of defence spending in the coming years.”

His country has been threatened by Russia in recent days over its decision to stop sanctioned goods from being transported through its territory to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.

Rory Sullivan23 June 2022 11:45

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