Ukraine: Boris Johnson makes second trip to Kyiv — live updates | News | DW

  • UK’s Johnson makes second visit to Kyiv
  • France’s Macron offers to visit Moscow
  • EU Commission proposes Ukraine become EU membership candidate
  • Ukraine calls for cease-fire to evacuate civilians from Sievierodonetsk chemical plant
  • Third American, ex-Marine, captured by Russian forces

This was last updated at 20:07 UTC/GMT

Scholz: German weapons will arrive in time to aid Donbas

German Chancellor Olaf  Scholz has insisted that German weapons will arrive in time to help Ukraine to fight Russian forces in the eastern Donbas region.

His comments, in an exclusive interview with DPA news agency, come amid criticism from Kyiv over the pace of weapons deliveries and the type of weapons sent.

Asked whether the heavy weaponry will arrive in time to make a difference in the Donbas, Scholz answered: “It will arrive in time.” He said the priority for who gets German weapons first had to be changed as Berlin has a “long list of customers” waiting for deliveries.

“The concrete things we can deliver now will be delivered after the training … without the training, you cannot use these weapons” Scholz added.

The chancellor promised to deliver an anti-ballistic system that is able to save Odesa or Kyiv and said Berlin had decided together with the UK and the United States that we will deliver multiple rocket launchers.

The comments were made as Russian missiles have almost completely destroyed the Azot chemical plant in the heavily embattled city of Severodonetsk according to the Ukrainian military.

Ukraine demands U-turn after Eurovision hosting snub

Ukraine has denounced a decision to strip it of the right to host next year’s Eurovision Song Contest.

Ukraine’s entry by Kalush Orchestra won the world’s biggest live music contest last month, and according to tradition, the country should stage next year’s competition.

However, the European Broadcasting Union announced on Friday that the country can’t host, organize or produce the event on security grounds due to the ongoing conflict.

Instead, Britain, whose singer Sam Ryder came second in this year’s contest, is being considered as a possible alternative.

“Ukraine does not agree with the nature of the decision taken by the European Broadcasting Union,” Ukrainian Culture Minister Oleksandr Tkachenko hit back in a statement.

He assured that the country had “fulfilled all the conditions” and “provided answers and guarantees on safety standards” for the contest.

“We will demand to change this decision because we believe that we will be able to fulfill all the commitments… We demand additional negotiations on hosting Eurovision-2023 in Ukraine.” 

Residents: Four dead in Russian strike on Lysychansk

A Russian air strike killed four people in the eastern Ukrainian cities of Lysychansk, local residents said.

The strike on a cultural center killed a mother and daughter, as well as a young man and a bedridden woman who had moved there to shelter from her home in Severodonetsk.

The bombing on Thursday sparked a fire that raged through Stalin-era Diamant Palace of Culture overnight and was still burning on Friday.  

Police said that around 10 people were injured, some seriously after being trapped by debris.

Meanwhile, a key highway out of Lysychansk is now impassable due to Russian shelling, Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Gaidai said in an online post on Friday.

Gaidai said the city was still completely under Ukrainian control.

However, reports suggest Ukrainian forces are preparing for possible street fighting with the Russians, as a battle continued for the city of Severodonetsk on the opposite river bank.

Latvian Deputy PM: If you do not want war yourself, help Ukraine now

Latvia’s Deputy Prime Minister Artis Pabriks has welcomed the European Commission’s recommendation for Ukraine to receive formal membership candidate status, saying it has “symbolic value.”

But he told DW that Western allies need to put forth “maximum military support” to Kyiv to help end the war, which may be drawn out.

“At this moment, what is the most needed and what can change this war situation is, first of all, the necessity for every leader in Europe to accept that our goal is that Ukraine must win and Russia must lose,” Pabriks, who is also Defense Minister, said.

“Ukraine must get its territory back,” he added. “We simply must understand that this war will be longer than somebody wants and the Western societies must prepare for resilience.”

“Yes, it is painful. Yes, gas prices are rising, inflation is rising. But if you do not want to war yourself, help Ukraine now,” said Pabriks.

Russian media show photos purportedly of Americans captured in Ukraine

Russian media has published images of what they said were two US citizens captured while fighting for Ukraine.

The Izvestia newspaper showed a video clip of what it said was a brief interview with Andy Huynh, 27, of Hartselle, Alabama. 

The RT channel posted an image of a man it identified as Alexander Drueke, 39, of Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Family members said on Wednesday the two men had been missing in Ukraine for a week and said they feared they had been taken prisoner.

The US State Department says three Americans are believed missing, part of an unknown number of mostly military veterans who have joined other foreigners volunteering alongside Ukrainian troops.

The third man, identified as a former US Marines captain with 20 years experience, was last heard from in late April, CNN quoted his wife as saying.

US President Joe Biden said he had been briefed on three Americans missing in Ukraine after volunteering to fight against Russia.

Speaking to reporters at the White House, Biden urged US citizens not to go to Ukraine.

Merkel regrets her waning influence on Putin

Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel says she tried in vain last year to pressure Russian President Vladimir Putin to sign a European security pact that could have prevented the Ukraine war.

But she admitted to the newspapers of the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland that she was unsuccessful as Putin would neither consider a fresh deal or hold a summit on the so-called Normandy format — the original talks mediated by Germany and France to resolve the 2014-15 war in eastern Ukraine.

“I simply have to state that various attempts last year didn’t achieve anything,” Merkel conceded.

On whether Putin waited until she was out of office to invade Ukraine, Merkel said: “My leaving may have been a contribution, as was, for example, the election in France, the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and the stalling of the implementation of the Minsk agreement.”

The 2015 Minsk Agreements were the peace settlement deals for eastern Ukraine, which eventually failed.

Merkel sidestepped a question, which she has faced before, on whether she would be willing to try to mediate with Putin and Russia, simply saying “that question is not being asked at the moment.”

Her comments came as Russia continues to try to seize swathes of its neighbor’s south and east.

Copenhagen: Ambassador summoned after Russian warship enters Danish waters

Denmark says a Russian warship has twice violated its territorial waters.

The Defense Command of the Danish armed forces said a Russian corvette entered Danish waters in the early hours of Friday near the island of Christiansoe in the Baltic Sea.

The vessel only left after it was contacted on marine radio by the Navy.

Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said Copenhagen had summoned the Russian ambassador to protest the incident.

“It has been communicated in very clear terms to the Russian ambassador that this type of action is completely inadmissible,” Kofod said in a statement. “We will not accept this type of Russian provocation.”

Both Sweden and Denmark have accused Russian jets of violating their airspace following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Turkey set for Brussels talks on Finland, Sweden NATO bids

Turkey’s foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu says Ankara will discuss its concerns over Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership bids during talks in Brussels on Sunday.

Three Turkish officials are due to meet with their NATO counterparts after responses to Ankara’s written demands failed to meet expectations.

“They (NATO) sent a document, one that could be signed in a trilateral way. We found these documents insufficient and sent our own document in response. We said ‘negotiations can continue through this’,” Cavusoglu said.

Last month, Sweden and Finland applied to join the military alliance in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but Turkey vowed to block their applications.

Any NATO membership requires unanimous approval from all 30 members and Turkey has been irritated by what it calls Swedish and Finnish support for Kurdish militants and arms embargoes on Ankara.

The Nordic bids are also due to be discussed at a summit of NATO leaders in Madrid on June 29-30.

Scholz hopeful EU leaders will agree to Ukraine accession plan

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz says he is “optimistic” that EU leaders will agree on a path at their summit next week for Ukraine to join the bloc

“Europe acted in unity after the Russian aggression against Ukraine and we will continue to do so, so I’m sure that we will find a way to make a common decision,” he told DPA news agency in an exclusive interview.

“We have to accept that this is a unanimous vote by 27 member states and we will have to find a common approach, but I am quite optimistic that we will be able to manage this,” he added.

Scholz also said maintaining open communication with Russian President Vladimir Putin is “absolutely necessary,” despite the ongoing war.

Scholz said he had told Putin he is mistaken “if you really believe that you will rob some land, and then hope that the times will change and everything will become normal.”

Russia has said it seeks to capture parts of eastern Ukraine in what it claims is a “special operation.”

Johnson arrives in Kyiv for second visit since invasion

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has arrived in Ukraine for a second meeting with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

“Mr. President, Volodymyr, it’s good to be in Kyiv again,” he wrote on Twitter on arrival, sharing an image of the two of them together. 

Zelenskyy described on Telegram how “Many days of this war have proved that Great Britain’s support for Ukraine is firm and resolute. Glad to see our country’s great friend Boris Johnson in Kyiv again.” 

Zelenskyy’s chief of staff Andriy Yermark said the two leaders discussed supplies of weapons and air defenses as well as further economic support and the need to ramp up sanctions against Russia.

Johnson said Britain would give Kyiv the “strategic endurance” needed to continue the war, by training up to 10,000 Ukrainian soldiers several times a year in an unspecified location outside the country.

The UK leader said he could “completely understand” why Ukraine can not compromise with Moscow and said the British-led training program could “change the equation of this war,” after Ukrainian forces recently took heavy casualties.

Johnson was the first leader of a G7 country to visit Kyiv on April 9, two weeks after Russian troops were driven back from the suburbs of the capital. 

His second trip comes a day after the leaders of Germany, France, Italy and Romania visited Kyiv where they offered their support for Ukraine’s bid for EU candidate status.

Putin downplays sanctions’ impact at economic summit

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday said that the Russian economy had withstood Western sanctions imposed following what Russia calls the “special military operation” in Ukraine.

In an address at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum, Putin called on Russian firms to boost domestic investment so the country could realize its “gigantic potential.”

Putin accused the European Union of having lost its “political sovereignty” during his fiery address and criticized the bloc’s economic policies, saying the EU was “printing money” in response to high inflation.

“Nothing will be as it used to be in global politics,” Putin said during his address, which the Kremlin said was delayed because of a cyberattack.

Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a call to reporters that the cyberattack had begun on Thursday and had targeted the accreditation and admission system. Read the full story here.

Ukraine scraps visa-free travel for Russians

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced on Friday that Russians would be required to obtain visas from July 1.

“Ukraine is introducing a visa regime for citizens of the Russian Federation,” Zelenskyy said on his Telegram account.

The move according to Zelenskyy’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, was a result of Russia’s invasion of the country on February 24, and was done to help bolster defensive efforts.

Russia and Ukraine used to have a reciprocal visa-free travel agreement.

However, since the invasion the neighbors’ borders have been officially closed.

Kremlin observing developments in ‘most careful way’

The Kremlin has reacted to news to the European Commission recommending Ukraine for candidate EU status.

“There are various transformations that we are observing in the most careful way,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters during a telephone briefing on Friday.

Peskov said that the matter “requires our heightened attention,” and that Moscow was monitoring what he described as the “strengthening of the defense component of the European Union.”

One reason Russia gives to justify its so-called “special military operation” in Ukraine is supposed Western encroachment on its doorstep, which Moscow considers a threat to its security.

Ukraine says 2 dead, 20 injured in Russian airstrike in Mykolaiv

A local governor said a Russian airstrike on the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv killed two people and wounded 20 others, including a child. 

Governor Vitaliy Kim said the attack also damaged four residential buildings and an infrastructure facility.

“Rescue work is ongoing,” he said on Telegram. 

EU Commission recommends candidate status for Ukraine

The European Commission recommended granting EU candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova.

Candidate status is not the same as EU membership — it denotes the start of an often lengthy process toward joining the bloc. 

“Ukraine has clearly shown commitment to live up to European values and standards,” Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said. 

The Commission gave its opinion on the matter to the EU’s 27 members after an agreement on the opinion in a meeting Friday. The bloc’s governments will have to decide how to proceed. 

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the issue “requires our heightened attention, because we are all aware of the intensification of discussions in Europe on the subject of strengthening the defense component of the EU.”

On Thursday, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, French President Emmanuel Macron and Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said in Kyiv that they backed Ukraine’s application for EU candidate status.

Ukraine and Moldova will likely face a long accession process. 

For Ukraine, the focus of the process will be promoting good governance, the rule of law and measures to tackle corruption.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky submitted Ukraine’s bid for EU membership shortly after the war started in February.

Ukraine claims hitting Russian boat in Black Sea 

Ukraine’s navy said they struck a Russian tugboat in the Blach Sea with two Harpoon missiles. The vessel was believed to be carrying Russian troops. 

It is the first time Ukraine says it hit a Russian vessel with anti-ship rockets supplied by the West. 

Italy, France’s operators say Gazprom cutting gas supplies 

French network operator GRTgaz said France has not received any natural gas from Russia via pipeline since June 15, while Italy’s Eni said it will receive only 50% of the gas requested Friday from the Russian energy giant. 

Italy had accused the Russian state-backed Gazprom of peddling “lies” over a series of cuts.

Gazprom said earlier this week that supply reductions to Europe via the undersea Nord Stream 1 pipeline were due to repair work. But officials in the EU accuse Russia of punishing Ukraine’s allies over sanctions against Moscow. 

Governor: Evacuations from Sievierodonetsk chemical plant ‘impossible’

Serhiy Haidai, the governor of the eastern Ukrainian region of Luhansk, said that there are 568 people sheltering in the Azot chemical plant in the city of Sievierodonetsk, where fighting has been raging. 

“It is now impossible and physically dangerous to get out of the [Azot] plant due to constant shelling and fighting,” Haidai said on Telegram, calling for a halt in fighting. 

“Exit from the plant is possible only with a complete cease-fire.”

DW correspondent in Ukraine Roman Goncharenko said most of the trapped civilians are believed to be workers of the chemical plant and their families. 

Attempts to evacuate them yesterday failed, Goncharenko added.

Donbas humanitarian situation ‘extremely alarming’ 

The United Nations’ humanitarian agency OCHA raised concerns that the humanitarian conditions in eastern Ukraine continue to deteriorate four months into the Russian invasion. 

“Nearly four months since the start of the war, the humanitarian situation across Ukraine — particularly in the eastern Donbas — is extremely alarming and continues to deteriorate rapidly,” the OCHA said in a statement. 

The situation in the key city of Sievierodonetsk, where heavy fighting has been taking place in recent weeks, is “particularly worrying,” the OCHA added.

Ukrainian officials have said that thousands of civilians remain in the city, with hundreds sheltering in a local chemical plant. 

According to the OCHA, the UN and its partners have delivered aid to more than 8.8 million people across Ukraine since the Russian invasion started. 

UK defense intelligence: War speeding up Russia’s trajectory toward authoritarianism 

In a regular intelligence report, the British Defense Ministry said Russia was increasingly cracking down on opposition to the war. 

“In Russia, the war has accelerated the state’s long-term trajectory towards authoritarianism,” the report said.

Citing migration applications, the ministry said some 15,000 Russian millionaires were likely trying to leave the country.

It added that the so-called Freedom for Russia Legion, which includes Russians fighting on Ukraine’s side, has “almost certainly deployed in combat alongside the Ukrainian military.” The report noted that Russia’s parliament was working to introduce a 20-year sentence for Russians who fight against the Russia.

US State Department confirms third American captured

The US State Department confirmed the capture of a third American, a former Marine named Grady Kurpasi, CNN reported.

His wife confirmed the report and said the last time Kurpasi was heard from was between April 23 and April 24.

According to a photo caption on the US Marines website, Kurpasi previously served as a captain in Korea.

Macron says he is ready to travel to Moscow under ‘preconditions’

French President Emmanuel Macron said Paris was on Ukraine’s side but it would move to avoid any escalation. While visiting Kyiv, Macron also discussed the possibility of going to Moscow to negotiate with Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

“I think that a trip to Russia today requires preconditions, that means gestures from President Putin. I will not go there just like that,” Macron told broadcaster TF1.

In turn, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy questioned if Putin was “ready to hear anything” and if talks with any world leader would change his mind.

Macron last visited Putin in Moscow on February 8, just weeks before Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine on February 24. The French president has since also talked to the Russian leader on the phone.

Standing side to side with Germany’s Olaf Scholz, Macron also defended his earlier comments about how the West should “not humiliate Russia.” He said France made this mistake with Germany at the end of WWI and “lost the peace” moving into WWII.

What happened in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Thursday

The leaders of Germany, France, Italy and Romania voiced support for Ukraine’s EU membership bid during a highly anticipated visit to Kyiv.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Berlin strongly favored Ukraine and neighboring Moldova being granted EU candidate status.

Standing side to side with Germany’s Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron defended his comments about how the West should “not humiliate Russia.” He said France made this mistake with Germany at the end of WWI and “lost the peace” moving into WWII.

By contrast, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow hoped the German, French and Italian leaders visiting Ukraine would “push President Zelenskyy to take a realistic look at the state of affairs.”

Serhiy Haidai, the governor of the eastern Ukrainian Luhansk region, said that around 10,000 civilians are still in the key city of Sievierodonetsk, where fighting has been raging amid a dire humanitarian condition.  

Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder sent a letter to the Bundestag budget committee that challenges the decision to revoke his right to a parliamentary office. Schröder was Germany’s chancellor from 1998 to 2005 after which point he was involved with Russian energy firms Gazprom and Rosneft.

Britain’s Foreign Office announced sanctions on Patriarch Kirill, the leader of Russia’s Orthodox Church, “for his support and endorsement” of President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Two US citizens were reportedly captured by Russian forces in Ukraine. They were identified as Alexander Drueke and Andy Huynh, US military veterans who had been living in the state of Alabama.

You can revisit our updates from Thursday here.

ar/jsi (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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