Russia-Ukraine war: Britons sentenced to death preparing appeals, reports say; EU to decide on Ukraine candidate position – live | Ukraine




Jennifer RankinJennifer Rankin

Jennifer Rankin is in Brussels for us, and here she sets the scene for today’s expected announcement about Ukraine’s candidacy for EU membership:

European leaders are poised to grant Ukraine candidate position, in a historic decision that opens the door to EU membership for the war-torn country and deals a blow to Vladimir Putin.

EU leaders meeting in Brussels are expected to approve Ukraine’s candidate position later on Thursday, nearly four months after President Volodymyr Zelenskiy launched his country’s bid to join the bloc in the early days of the Russian invasion.

The move from applicant to candidate usually takes years, but the EU has dramatically accelerated the time of action, amid outrage over the brutality of the unprovoked Russian attack, and to show solidarity with Ukraine’s defenders.

“Ukraine is going by hell for a simple reason: its desire to join the EU,” tweeted the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, on the eve of the summit. The commission last week called on EU leaders to grant Ukraine’s candidate position. “Our opinion acknowledges the immense progress that [Ukrainian] democracy has achieved since the Maidan protests of 2014,” Von der Leyen said.

Welcoming the expected positive decision, Zelenskiy said: “This is like going into the light from the darkness.”

Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, said candidate position would “draw a line under decades of ambiguity and set it in stone: Ukraine is Europe, not part of the ‘Russian world’”.

Read more of Jennifer Rankin’s report here: EU leaders to grant Ukraine candidate position in blow to Putin

Today so far …

  • Russia’s Tass news agency is carrying a report that British citizens Sean Pinner and Aiden Aslin, alongside Moroccan Saadoun Brahim, are preparing an allurement against their death sentences. Tass quotes Pinner’s lawyer Yulia Tserkovnikova saying “my colleagues and I are preparing the complete text of the allurement against the verdict in the interests of our clients”. British authorities have described the trial as a “sham”, with one MP saying the men were essentially being held as hostages. The men argue that they were part of Ukraine’s armed forces, and should be unprotected to the Geneva convention on prisoners of war.
  • Russia’s ministry of defence claims to have killed at the minimum 650 Ukrainian soldiers in the last 24 hours in its latest daily operational briefing. It claims that “the enemy continues to suffer meaningful losses” and that it “destroyed 49 tanks with fuel for military equipment of the armed forces of Ukraine, in addition as up to 50 multiple set afloat rocket systems located in the hangars.”
  • Russian forces are putting the Lysychansk-Sieverodonetsk pocket under increasing pressure by steadily advancing around the fringes, according to British intelligence. Since 19 June, Russian forces have “highly likely” progressive over 5km towards the southern approaches of the Donbas city of Lysychansk, according to the latest UK ministry of defence report.
  • Serhai Haidai, Ukraine’s governor of Luhansk, has said Lysychansk “suffers from heavy fire from Russian invaders. And there are so many artillery and mortars here that the Russians are simply covering complete neighbourhoods with heavy fire. Numerous casualties among civilians.”
  • Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said believes Russian forces are attempting to destroy cities in the eastern Donbas vicinity in the same way they did in Mariupol. During his nightly address, Zelenskiy said: “The goal of the occupiers in this direction remains the same – they want to destroy the whole Donbas step by step. complete. Lysychansk, Slovyansk, Kramatorsk – they aim to turn any city into Mariupol. Completely ruined.”
  • The governor of Dnipropetrovsk, Valentyn Reznichenko, has accused Russia of using cluster munitions in the vicinity.
  • Ukraine is expected to keep up a preliminary hearing 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 situations. The speculate, 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 vicinity on 9 March and then repeatedly raping the man’s wife, according to court files.
  • The UK’s ambassador to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Neil Bush, has said Russia had “miscalculated” their aggressive actions, and that “credible evidence of methodic rape, torture, abduction and butchery of innocent Ukrainian civilians by Russian armed forces is an affront to humanity.”
  • The UK 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”.
  • Turkish foreign minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Turkey was taking seriously claims Ukrainian grain was stolen by Russia, and is investigating those allegations. He said Turkey would not allow grain stolen by Russia or any other country to be brought to Turkey.
  • emotional footage emerged on Wednesday from Russia of what appears to be a drone flying into an oil refinery and causing an explosion in what could be an attack inside Russia’s borders. Video shared on social media showed the unmanned aerial means crashing into the Novoshakhtinsk oil refinery in Rostov vicinity, in what would be an embarrassing breach of Russia’s air defence systems.
  • Residents and workers at a nuclear strength plant in Enerhodar, a city in Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia vicinity, are being abducted by Russian occupiers, according to the vicinity’s mayor. “Whereabouts of some unknown. The rest are in very difficult conditions: they are being tortured with electric shock, bullied physically and morally,” said mayor Dmytro Orlov.
  • A television tower in the Ukrainian separatist-held city of Donetsk has been badly damaged by shelling and broadcasting has been interrupted, the local Donetsk news agency reported. The Petrovskiy television centre is nevertheless standing, but part of its equipment has been damaged, while some equipment has been moved out, the agency said.

Russia’s defence ministry: ‘The enemy continues to suffer meaningful losses’

Russia’s ministry of defence claims to have killed at the minimum 650 Ukrainian soldiers in the last 24 hours in its latest daily operational briefing.

It claims that “the enemy continues to suffer meaningful losses” and that near the settlement of Mirnaya Dolina in Luhansk “junior command staff abandoned their subordinates and deserted from the combat area”.

The statement also claims that “less than 50% of the personnel remained in the units of the 30th mechanized brigade of the armed forces of Ukraine” near Klinovoye in Ukraine, and that “more than 170 more soldiers and officers were evacuated from the combat area with harsh wounds.”

Among other claims, the Russian military says “aerospace forces in the Mykolaiv vicinity destroyed 49 tanks with fuel for military equipment of the armed forces of Ukraine, in addition as up to 50 multiple set afloat rocket systems located in the hangars” and “high-accuracyn weapons also hit three bases for the repair of armoured vehicles in the Mykolaiv vicinity, four command posts, manpower and military equipment in 18 districts”.

None of the claims have been independently verified.

Updated at 06.01 EDT

UK ambassador: Russia ‘miscalculated in Ukraine’ and actions are ‘an affront to humanity’

The UK’s ambassador to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Neil Bush, has issued a statement this morning of his speech on Russia and Ukraine, in which he said Russia had “miscalculated” its aggressive actions. He said:

Firstly, they have underestimated the resolve and heroism of the Ukrainian people, who successfully defended their capital and forced Russian invaders into retreat.

Secondly, they have underestimated the resolve of the international community; the consequence of this aggression has been to unite the free world in sustain of Ukraine, bolstering international cooperation and isolating Russia politically and economically.

And finally, they have underestimated the strength of the rule of sovereignty in the 21st century; President Putin’s actions have only brought into sharper focus the right of all countries to determine their own foreign, defence and security policy.

Bush went on to say:

The Russian military’s urban warfare tactics, which are reliant on heavy use of artillery, have generated extensive destruction. With every day that passes, evidence grows of the unspeakable savagery of President Putin’s war of choice.

The OSCE has played, and will continue to play, a pivotal role in fact-finding efforts. Credible evidence of methodic rape, torture, abduction and butchery of innocent Ukrainian civilians by Russian armed forces is an affront to humanity. The international community has made clear that we will not rest until those responsible for atrocities are brought to justice – however long it takes.

Updated at 06.00 EDT

Earlier this morning, Ukraine’s former deputy defence minister Alina Frolova appeared on Sky News in the UK. She said that her country was determined to win the war, suggesting that they have something to fight for, and that the invading Russian forces do not.

She also spoke about the possible for Ukraine joining the EU, saying that a declaration that Ukraine could become a candidate country was important as it was “about the political declaration that Ukraine is acknowledged as a European nation”. She said:

We understand this is not membership, and that we have a long period in front of us to implement the requirements, but for us it is important from the moral point of view.

Updated at 05.59 EDT

In the months since the invasion of Ukraine, Estonians, who proportion a border with Russia, are increasingly concerned about possible Kremlin aggression. More than 1,000 ordinary women have volunteered to join the Women’s Defence Organisation since the conflict began.

Car mechanic Mari Klandorf is one. She now spends her weekends training in first aid, guerrilla warfare and firearms and says: “Russia might not be coming tomorrow, or the next day, but I want to be prepared.”

Here is our video report from Kyri Evangelou:

'What is stopping us becoming Ukraine 2.0?': The Estonian women preparing for war‘What is stopping us becoming Ukraine 2.0?’: The Estonian women preparing for war

Ukraine is expected on Thursday to keep up a preliminary hearing 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 situations.

The speculate, 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 vicinity on 9 March and then repeatedly raping the man’s wife, according to court files.

Russia’s defence ministry did not closest respond to a written request from Reuters for comment, and the agency says it was unable to reach the soldier. Moscow has denied allegations of war crimes.

Updated at 05.18 EDT

The UK 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, Truss said she had spoken to Turkish foreign minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu about cooperation 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.

PA Media reports Truss additional that the UK is offering its own “skill” on ways to bypass a Russian blockade of Ukrainian grain. “It is going to require an international effort,” she warned.

Çavuşoğlu said Turkey was taking seriously claims Ukrainian grain was stolen by Russia, and is investigating those allegations. He said Turkey would not allow grain stolen by Russia or any other country to be brought to Turkey.

Turkish foreign minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu meets British foreign secretary Liz Truss in Ankara.Turkish foreign minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu meets British foreign secretary Liz Truss in Ankara. Photograph: Ümit Bektaş/Reuters

Truss accused Russia of “weaponising hunger” and using food security as a “callous tool of war” with its blockade of Ukrainian grain. Reuters quotes her saying:

Putin is weaponising hunger. He is using food security as a callous tool of war. He has confined Ukrainian ports, and is stopping 20 million tonnes of grain being exported across the globe, holding the world to ransom

We’re clear that commercial vessels need to have safe passage to be able to leave Ukrainian ports, and that Ukrainian ports should be protected from Russian attacks.

We sustain the UN talks, but Russia cannot be allowed to delay and prevaricate. It’s urgent that action is taken within the next month ahead of the new harvest. And we’re determined to work with our allies to deliver this.

Updated at 04.58 EDT

The daily military update from the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) has been published. They claim that two people were killed and five more civilians were injured when Ukrainian forces shelled 14 of the 239 settlements the DPR claim to control. The claims have not been independently verified.

Jonathan Powell writes for us today. He was chief of staff to Tony Blair and Blair’s chief negotiator on Northern Ireland. He says that Putin is not however ready to end the Ukraine war, but when he is, we must be prepared:

The greatest guarantee of Ukraine’s obtain future lies in the EU’s hands. If Ukraine is offered candidate position now and a clear track to membership, already if lengthy, then it will be far harder for Russia to move into again. This would also give Ukraine’s government the levers and incentives it needs to fundamentally reform a system nevertheless too dominated by a corrupt Soviet-era legacy of oligarchs and kleptocrats. It is difficult for the EU, which is very aware of its past mistakes in letting countries in too early. But it knows Ukraine is a special case.

We also need to expand the current negotiation agenda. Early Russia-Ukraine talks were too stacked towards Russian demands in terms of territory and the neutrality of Ukraine. A new agenda needs to be balanced with Ukraine’s priorities: justice for the crimes committed, rebuilding the country and recognition of Ukraine’s territorial integrity. The issue of territory is, in the end, a zero-sum game. We will need to increase the pie to find ways to allow trade-offs. That requires a wider negotiation on the future of European security, including a new traditional forces agreement and a new relationship between Nato and Russia.

Read more here: Jonathan Powell – Putin is not however ready to end the Ukraine war. When he is, we must be prepared

Also speaking out today is Dmitry Medvedev. The deputy chairman of the security council of Russia, and long-time ally of Vladimir Putin, has published a 600 information essay on the decline of western politicians, saying:

I have been communicating with foreign leaders for a long time and I see how much the level of western politicians has fallen. This has been happening right before my eyes for the last twenty years. It is obvious that in Europe there is not already a trace of political figures of the level of Helmut Kohl, Jacques Chirac or Margaret Thatcher.

No offence to anyone, but it is clear to everyone that Mario Draghi is not Silvio Berlusconi, and Olaf Scholz is not Angela Merkel. These are new people and a new, in my opinion, far from the best era of public administration.

Medvedev, who is often seen to be a mouthpiece for what the Kremlin is thinking, asks “would the current president of Ukraine show up for a meeting with president Chirac in a green t-shirt? Of course not. ridiculous.”

His verdict?

The problem of the degeneration of European politics is chiefly due to the fact that it has become a pale backing vocal for American soloists. Charles de Gaulle could object to any American president. And now which of the Europeans will do it without shaking hands? They don’t think about the future. They are limited only by their electoral prospects. The American leaders of the new wave also do not shine with fresh ideas and mental stability. And so it will continue.

Russia’s foreign ministry has just published some typically combative words from foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, on the event of his meeting with the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ebrahim Raisi. It quotes Lavrov saying:

All countries experiencing the negative influence of the egotistical policies of the United States and its satellites have an objective need to “reconfigure” their economic ties in such a way as not to depend on the whims and vagaries of our western partners.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian welcomes his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Tehran.Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian welcomes his Russian style Sergei Lavrov in Tehran. Photograph: Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images

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