Ukrainian official shares footage of Wagner Base destroyed in the Donbas on Friday
Ukraine ignored a Russian ultimatum to surrender the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk today.
Russia told Ukrainian forces sheltering in a chemical plant in the ruined Donbas city to stop “senseless resistance and lay down arms” from Wednesday morning, pressing its advantage in the battle for control of eastern Ukraine.
Ukraine said more than 500 civilians, including 40 children, remained alongside soldiers inside the Azot chemical works as the Russian bombardment of the surrounding city continued. Officials made no reference to the Russian ultimatum in remarks to the press on Wednesday.
Moscow had said it would let civilians evacuate the plant on Wednesday but Russian-backed separatists said Ukrainian shelling had scuppered the plan.
Meanwhile, Volodymyr Zelensky urged Brussels to let his country start on the road to membership of the European Union, warning that Russia’s territorial ambitions stretched from Warsaw to Sofia – though he did not provide evidence for the claim.
In a streamed speech to the Czech parliament, Mr Zelensky also called for more EU sanctions against Russia.
‘Majority of Azovstal defenders are held in Donetsk’
Most of the Ukrainian defenders that had been holed up for months in the Azovstal steel plant are now in the Russian-occupied territory of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, according to a senior official.
Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council, reportedly said – according to news website Ukrayinska Pravda – that the situation is “very delicate” for the many hundreds of defenders captured by Russia after a months-long siege of Mariupol.
Mr Danilov said on Ukrainian television: “Not just our country is involved in these processes – there are international institutions that are helping in this.
“The main thing here is not to do any harm. There is a lot that should not be said. We will wait for existing agreements to be fulfilled, and all the men and women who are in captivity today, who have made it through Mariupol, are sure to return alive and well.
“I emphasise once again: the main thing here and now is not to take unnecessary steps so that the aggressor does not accuse us of disrupting certain things. This is a very delicate matter.
“There is information that they are in the Donetsk region. I emphasise once again: the number of people is not 100 or 200 people, it is much more. And that’s why we can’t say for sure that everyone is there.
“We can definitely say that the vast majority, maybe all, are in the Donetsk region.”
Lamiat Sabin16 June 2022 03:00
Americans told to not visit Ukraine after captures
The White House is urging Americans not to travel to Ukraine after reports emerged that Russian forces had captured two US nationals that were fighting alongside Ukrainian defenders.
John Kirby, a National Security Council spokesperson, told reporters that if the reports are true, the US “will do everything we can” to get them back.
Robert Drueke, 39, and Andy Huynh, 27, were reportedly captured while fighting with Ukrainians in Kharkiv, and are said to be the first Americans to be taken prisoner by the Russians since the war began.
Lamiat Sabin16 June 2022 02:00
‘Americans fighting for Ukraine captured by Russia’
Two American men who joined Ukrainian forces to fight against the Russian invasion have reportedly been captured.
They are believed to be the first Americans to be taken prisoner by the Russians since the war began.
Robert Drueke, 39, and Andy Huynh, 27, were allegedly captured while fighting with Ukrainians in Kharkiv.
Read the full story here by Graig Graziosi
Lamiat Sabin16 June 2022 01:00
Boris Johnson ‘hopes progress can be made on Ukraine grain export in days’
Boris Johnson told Volodymyr Zelensky he hopes progress could be made in the coming days on getting grain shipments out of the country, the British prime minister’s office said following a call between the pair.
Ukrainian grain shipments have stalled since Russia‘s invasion and ports blockade, shooting global prices for grains, cooking oils, fuel and fertiliser upwards. Russia today said it would allow Ukraine to safely ship grain from its ports but refused to assist Kyiv in clearing mines from the Black Sea.
International allies have been at pains to facilitate the shipments.
A spokeswoman for Mr Johnson’s office said in a readout of his call with the Ukrainian president: “The pair discussed Russia’s unforgivable blockade of Ukrainian grain, and the prime minister said he hoped progress on the issue could be made in the coming days.”
Liam James15 June 2022 23:30
‘I won’t apologise’: Angela Merkel defends relationship with Putin
Former German chancellor Angela Merkel has said she has “nothing to apologise for” in her handling of Russia during her 16 years in office (Maryam Zakir-Hussain writes).
In her first major interview since leaving her post, Ms Merkel denied that she and others appeased Russian president Vladimir Putin, ultimately leading to the Ukraine invasion.
Speaking at the Berliner Ensemble theatre to German journalist Alexander Osang, she said: “I tried to work toward calamity being averted, and diplomacy was not wrong if it doesn’t succeed.
“I don’t see that I should say now that it was wrong, and so I won’t apologise.”
She called Putin’s invasion “a big mistake on Russia’s part” and said there was “no excuse” for the “brutal” attack, adding that “it is a matter of great sorrow” that her efforts “didn’t succeed” but she said, “I don’t blame myself now for trying”.
Liam James15 June 2022 22:10
Biden announces new $1bn of weapons for Ukraine
Joe Biden has now announced a further $1bn (£0.8bn) in weapons for Ukraine that sources familiar with the package said included anti-ship rocket systems, artillery rockets and rounds for howitzers.
In a phone call with Volodymyr Zelensky, Mr Biden said he told the embattled leader about the new weaponry.
“I informed President Zelensky that the United States is providing another $1bn in security assistance for Ukraine, including additional artillery and coastal defense weapons, as well as ammunition for the artillery and advanced rocket systems,” Mr Biden said in a statement after the 41-minute call.
The US last month approved $40bn in aid to Ukraine, $12.5bn of which is set for weapons.
Elsewhere, Washington has been pressing allies to increase their support for Ukraine. At a meeting of Nato defence ministers in Brussels today, US defence secretary Lloyd Austin urged his counterparts to pledge further supplies, saying: “We can’t afford to let up and we can’t lose steam. The stakes are too high.”
Liam James15 June 2022 21:00
Ukraine ignores Russian ultimatum to surrender Sievierodonetsk
Ukraine ignored a Russian ultimatum to surrender the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk today.
The Donbas city, now largely in ruins, has for weeks been the main focal point of the war.
Russia had told Ukrainian forces holed up in the Azot chemical plant there to stop “senseless resistance and lay down arms” from Wednesday morning, pressing its advantage in the battle for control of eastern Ukraine.
Ukraine says more than 500 civilians, including 40 children, remain alongside soldiers inside Azot. Moscow had said it would let civilians evacuate from the plant on Wednesday but Russian-backed separatists said Ukrainian shelling had scuppered the plan, which would have involved taking people out towards territory they control.
The mayor of Sievierodonetsk, Oleksandr Stryuk, said Russian forces were trying to storm the city from several directions but the Ukrainians continued to defend it and were not totally cut off, even though all its river bridges had been destroyed.
Serhiy Gaidai, governor of the Luhansk region home to Sievierodonetsk, said Ukraine’s army continued to defend the city and to stop Russian forces from taking its twin city Lysychansk on the opposite bank of the Siverskyi Donets river.
The fall of the two cities would leave all of Luhansk in Russian hands.
Liam James15 June 2022 19:50
Grain ships should be able to avoid mines in Black Sea, says Turkey
Ships carrying grain out of Ukraine could be guided around mines in the Black Sea in order to save time exporting food that has been trapped in the country for months, Turkey’s foreign minister said.
Russia today said it had offered “safe passage” for Ukrainian grain shipments but would not establish the routes for ships to navigate the mine-strewn waters off the Black Sea coast.
Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu earlier on Wednesday said it would “take some time” to de-mine Ukraine’s ports but a safe sea corridor could be established in areas without mines under a UN proposal, adding that Ankara was still awaiting Moscow’s reaction to the plan.
“Since the location of the mines is known, certain safe lines would be established at three ports,” Mr Cavusoglu said. “These [commercial] ships, with the guidance of Ukraine‘s research and rescue vessels as envisaged in the plan, could thus come and go safely to ports without a need to clear the mines.”
Global prices for grains, cooking oils, fuel and fertiliser have shot up since Russia’s invasion and blockade of Ukrainian ports. The UN is trying to broker a deal to resume Ukrainian grain exports and Russian food and fertiliser exports, which Moscow says are harmed by sanctions.
The UN has been “working in close cooperation with the Turkish authorities on this issue,” said UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric, and was grateful for them “working so constructively to find a solution to this problem.”
Liam James15 June 2022 18:38
Biden expected to announce $1bn new weapons for Ukraine
The US is expected as soon as this afternoon to begin announcing around $1bn (£0.8bn) worth of new weapons aid for Ukraine, including anti-ship rocket systems, artillery rockets, and rounds for howitzers, people familiar with the packages said.
Three people said Joe Biden will announce more than $350m worth of arms transfers, including more rockets for Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS) that had been sent to Ukraine and artillery rounds for M777 howitzers and spare parts.
A second package, anticipated to be more than $650m in size and funded using USAI, could include ground based Harpoon anti-ship missile launcher capabilities, secure radios, night vision and training.
The White House declined to comment.
Ukraine is pressing the US and other western nations for speedy deliveries of weapons in the face of increased pressure from Russian forces in the eastern Donbass region.
The US last month approved more than $40bn in aid to Ukraine, $12.5bn of which was earmarked for weapons and military supplies. Washington’s aid commitments, totalling roughly $54bn, is nearly triple the value of all EU countries combined – though eastern European countries Poland, Estonia, Latvia have committed a greater share of their GDP than the US.
Liam James15 June 2022 17:40
Russia offers safe passage for Ukraine grain, not responsible for corridors
Russia can “provide safe passage” for Ukraine grain shipments from the country’s Black Sea ports, but is not responsible for establishing the corridors, Russia‘s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told reporters on Wednesday.
“We are not responsible for establishing safe corridors. We said we could provide safe passage if these corridors are established. Establish them. It’s obvious it’s either demine the territory, which was mined by the Ukrainians, or to ensure that the passage goes around those mines,” Nebenzia said.
Maryam Zakir-Hussain15 June 2022 16:50