Russia-Ukraine war: Kyiv orders troops to pull out of Sievierodonetsk as fears grow Lysychansk also set to fall – live | World news

Last Ukrainian forces in Sievierodonetsk ordered to withdraw

Peter Beaumont

Peter Beaumont

The last Ukrainian forces fighting in the heavily contested eastern city of Sievierodonetsk have been ordered to withdraw in order to avoid being encircled, as fears grow that the neighbouring city of Lysychansk could also fall to Russia within days.

The anticipated loss of Sievierodonetsk is the latest battlefield reverse for Kyiv after its defeat in the port city of Mariupol. According to some estimates about 12,000 civilians remain in Sievierodonetsk, out of a prewar population of 160,000.

All three bridges offering escape routes west over the Siverskyi Donets River to the twin city of Lysychansk have been destroyed in fighting, and the mayor, Oleksandr Striuk, says the humanitarian situation is critical.

The Luhansk governor, Serhiy Haidai, said on Friday: “The situation right now is as such that staying at these destroyed positions just for the sake of being there doesn’t make sense.” He said Ukrainian forces had “received the order to retreat to new positions and continue fighting there”, but did not give further details.

Russians were also advancing toward Lysychansk from Zolote and Toshkivka, and Russian reconnaissance units had been conducting forays on the city edges but were driven out by its defenders, he added.

Haidai said Sievierodonetsk had been “nearly turned to rubble” by continual bombardment. “All critical infrastructure has been destroyed. Ninety per cent of the city is damaged, 80% [of] houses will have to be demolished.”

Read more of Peter Beaumont’s report here: Last Ukrainian forces in Sievierodonetsk ordered to withdraw

Footage has emerged of the ruins in central Popasna in the Luhansk region of Ukraine, Euromaidan Press reports.

After two months of intensive fighting against Russian forces, Ukrainian troops left the city in early May, leaving behind numerous buildings that have been destroyed by the Russian military.

Video of ruins of central Popasna, Luhansk Oblast

Ukrainian troops left the city on 8 May after two months of heavy fighting. Most of the buildings in the city have been destroyed by the multiple Russian artillery, rocket, missile, aircraft attacks.https://t.co/IkHelKzsO2 pic.twitter.com/TkV9xcXYX8

— Euromaidan Press (@EuromaidanPress) June 24, 2022

The Canadian senate passed prime minister Justin Trudeau’s budget on Thursday, allowing it to seize and dispose of assets sanctioned as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Canadian government will now be allowed to seize and dispose of assets of people and entities that have been sanctioned due to the invasion. The government will then be able to use the funds to support Ukraine.

The European Council on Friday has approved 9 billion euros of financial aid to Ukraine.

In a statement made by Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki at the European Council summit in Brussels, he said, “There is a war in Ukraine, and there is nothing to pay nurses, teachers, police, border guards, or many other public services.”

Morawiecki added that European countries such as his are continuing to provide military assistance to Ukraine.

“The advantage [of Russia] in artillery, according to the allies and our own sources is 1:8, 1:10. How difficult it is to fight such an overwhelming enemy force. That is why Poland, as well as the United States, Great Britain, and the Baltic States, are doing everything possible to help Ukraine get the weapons,” he said.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki talks to the media as he arrives at the second day of a EU Summit in Brussels, Belgium, 24 June 2022.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki talks to the media as he arrives at the second day of a EU Summit in Brussels, Belgium, 24 June 2022. Photograph: Albert Zawada/EPA

Ukraine’s main domestic security agency said on Friday it had uncovered a Russian spy network involving Ukrainian lawmaker Andriy Derkach who was previously accused by the United States of being a Russian agent.

Reuters reports:

The State Security Service (SBU) said Derkach, whose whereabouts were not made clear, set up a network of private security firms to use them to ease and support the entry of Russian units into cities during Moscow’s Feb. 24 invasion.

Derkach could not immediately be reached for comment. He has previously denied wrongdoing and said he has been targeted for exposing corruption.

In a statement, the SBU cited testimony from Derkach’s parliamentary aide Ihor Kolykhayev. It said he was arrested at the beginning of the war, and accused him of being a go-between between Derkach and Russia’s military intelligence agency.

Kolykhayev said Derkach’s security firms “had to ensure the passage of (Russian) vehicles, get into armoured vehicles with Russian flags, and thus ensure (the Russian army’s) peaceful entry into the city.”

The SBU said Derkach received sums of $3-4 million every several months in order to fulfil the plan.

Derkach was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury in September 2020 for what it said were attempts to influence the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

The Treasury’s sanction announcement at the time said Derkach had been “an active Russian agent for over a decade.”

Ukrainian lawmaker Andriy Derkach attends a news conference titled “Publication of facts of pressure of U.S. Embassy on Ukraine’s law enforcement agencies to interfere in electoral process in U.S.”, in Kiev, Ukraine October 9, 2019.
Ukrainian lawmaker Andriy Derkach attends a news conference titled “Publication of facts of pressure of U.S. Embassy on Ukraine’s law enforcement agencies to interfere in electoral process in U.S.”, in Kiev, Ukraine October 9, 2019. Photograph: Gleb Garanich/Reuters

Over 3,000 dolphins in the Black Sea have died as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, according to Ukrainian scientists working in the “Tuzlovsky Lymans” reserve, a national nature park.

NEXTA reports that the “work of sonar and explosions prevent them from finding food” and that dead dolphins have been increasingly found on the coasts of Bulgaria and Romania, in addition to Ukraine.

At least 3,000 dolphins have died in the Black Sea because of the war, according to scientists of #Ukrainian “Tuzlovsky Lymans” reserve. The work of sonar and explosions prevent them from finding food. Dead dolphins are increasingly found on coast, even in #Bulgaria and #Romania. pic.twitter.com/C3FZzW7bWD

— NEXTA (@nexta_tv) June 24, 2022

It would require Ukraine a decade to rebuild infrastructure of its Black Sea ports, whose blockade by Russia is preventing global grain exports, according to Ukraine’s deputy agriculture minister.

“For alternative routes, it would take 10 years of investment to try to build the necessary infrastructure to replace this Black Sea port infrastructure, which we spent about 20 years building, starting in 2000,” Taras Vysotskiy said on Friday.

Since the Russian invasion in February, millions of tonnes of wheat and other grain have been stuck in Ukrainian ports, prompting international concern surrounding food prices an hunger.

“These alternative routes are important” but can only carry around a third of Ukraine’s exports, he said.

Ukraine’s Western allies are looking for ways to unblock the ports, particularly Odessa, the main point of departure for the country’s agricultural produce.

“Without very concrete guarantees allowing ships to enter and leave safely, we cannot allow such actions,” Vysotskiy said, adding that Russia was not ready to provide these assurances.

Meanwhile, about 20 million tonnes of grain from last year’s harvest are still stuck in Ukraine, he said. However, he noted that the grain could be “stored very efficiently for up to two years” under the right conditions.

“10 to 15 percent of the port infrastructure was destroyed by rockets from Russia,” Vysotskiy also said, referring to a recent Russian strike on one of the country’s biggest grain terminals in Mykolaiv.

Vysotskiy said that Kyiv had “evidence that about half a million tonnes were stolen from the regions partially occupied,” referring to Kherson, Zaporizhzhia and Lugansk.

“We have received evidence from satellite images showing grain has been transported to Syria,” Vysotskiy added.

Russia has condemned the European Union’s decision to accept Ukraine and Moldova as membership candidates.

Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for the Russian foreign ministry said, “With the decision to grant Ukraine and Moldova the status of candidate countries, the European Union has confirmed that it continues to actively exploit the CIS on a geopolitical level, to use it to ‘contain’ Russia,” referring to Russia’s sphere of influence within the Commonwealth of Independent States consisting of former Soviet states.

Although it could take years for the countries to join the European bloc, the decision to accept them as candidates is a symbol of the EU’s intention to reach deep into the former Soviet Union.

“They are not thinking of the negative consequences of such a step,” she added.

By expanding to Ukraine and Moldova, two former Soviet republics, Zakharova said, the EU was sacrificing its democratic ideals at the expense of “unrestrained expansion and the political and economic enslavement of its neighbours.”

Mass kidnappings have been occurring in Melitopol, said the mayor of the southeastern Ukrainian city.

“More than 500 people have been abducted in the last four months,” Ivan Fedrov said, adding that mass kidnappings have resumed in the Russian-occupied territory last week.

⚡️Mayor: Russian occupiers kidnap people in Melitopol.

According to Mayor Ivan Fedorov, mass kidnappings resumed in Russian-occupied Melitopol in Zaporizhzhia Oblast last week. “More than 500 people have been abducted in the last four months,” he said.

— The Kyiv Independent (@KyivIndependent) June 24, 2022

Fedorov also said that Russian forces have been extracting harvest grain from the city’s silos.

“As for the latest crops, the rucists announce the following harvesting criteria: they either take 50% or 70% of the crops. They also announce the price at which they are willing to buy – less than $80 per tonne. This is less than the actual cost price. Meanwhile, only one person was authorized by the occupiers to run such negotiations and buy out the crops,” he said.

Russia has launched 70 missiles at Odesa since February 24, the southwestern city’s regional prosecution has said.

According to the prosecution, the majority of the missiles have targeted residential areas and public utilities.

Summary

It’s 9pm in Kyiv. Here’s where we stand:

  • The last Ukrainian forces fighting in the heavily contested eastern city of Sievierodonetsk have been ordered to withdraw in order to avoid being encircled. The anticipated loss of Sievierodonetsk is the latest battlefield reverse for Kyiv after its defeat in the port city of Mariupol, as fears grow that the neighbouring city of Lysychansk could also fall to Russia within days.
  • A district south of the city of Lysychansk in Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk region has been “fully occupied” by Russian forces, a local Ukrainian official said. The loss of Hirske and several other settlements around it leaves Lysychansk in danger of being enveloped from three sides by advancing Russian forces.
  • Ukraine will need at least a decade to clear all the mines and explosives from its land and territorial waters after the war, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s state emergency service has said. So far Ukraine has managed to clear 620 sq km of land littered with thousands of explosive devices, Oleksandr Khorunzhiy said. Nearly 300,000 sq km are still seen as “contaminated”, he said.
  • An oil refinery in the south of Russia that was hit by a drone attack earlier this week has resumed operations, according to reports. Both primary crude-oil distillation units at the Novoshakhtinsk refinery were down after the attack, but at least one was back online as of Friday, according to sources.
  • Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, addressed crowds at Glastonbury festival and asked them to “spread the truth about Russia’s war” and “prove that freedom always wins”. In a video message to festivalgoers, Zelenskiy said Ukrainians would not allow Russia’s war to break them and that he wanted to stop the invasion before it “ruined people’s lives in other countries of Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America”.
  • The lawyer defending Aiden Aslin, one of two Britons sentenced to death by a Russian proxy court, said they had not yet submitted an appeal because the Britons seemed to be holding out for intervention from the UK. Appeals must be lodged by 8 July but Aslin’s lawyer said “they hope that the British authorities will still contact either the Russian Federation or the Donetsk People’s Republic”.
  • G7 foreign ministers have called on Russia to “cease its attacks and threatening actions” and to unblock the Ukrainian Black Sea ports for food exports. Russia is exacerbating food insecurity with its blockades and bombing attacks on key infrastructure in Ukraine, they said in a statement. The UN’s secretary general, António Guterres, said there could be no effective solution to the looming food crisis unless Ukraine and Russia found a way to properly resume trade.

That’s it from me, Léonie Chao-Fong, today. My colleague Maya Yang will be here shortly to take over.

Russia’s foreign ministry has said the decision by the EU to grant candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova will have “negative consequences”.

In a statement, the ministry’s spokesperson, Maria Zakharova, said:

With the decision to grant Ukraine and Moldova the status of candidate countries, the European Union has confirmed that it continues to actively exploit the CIS on a geopolitical level, to use it to ‘contain’ Russia.

They are not thinking of the negative consequences of such a step.

An oil refinery in the south of Russia that was hit by a drone attack earlier this week has resumed operations, according to reports.

The Novoshakhtinsk oil refinery in the Rostov region said the first of two drones flying from the direction of Ukraine struck on Wednesday morning, hitting a crude distillation unit and triggering a blast and ball of fire.

Video shared on social media showed what appeared to be an unmanned aerial vehicle crashing into the oil refinery, in what would be an embarrassing penetration of Russia’s air defence systems.

Footage purports to show Ukrainian drone striking oil refinery in Russia – video

Vasily Golubev, the governor of the Rostov region, appeared to confirm the incident, writing that fragments of two drones had been found on the territory of the Novoshakhtinsk oil refinery, where a large fire broke out on Wednesday morning.

Both primary crude-oil distillation units at the refinery were down after the attack, but at least one was back online as of Friday, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

One source said:

The refinery is back online after the fire. June refining will be little affected, while in July they will have maintenance. It is not clear how much it may affect the output.

Ukraine will need at least a decade to clear all the mines and explosives from its land and territorial waters after the war, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s state emergency service has said.

So far Ukraine has managed to clear 620 sq km of land littered with thousands of explosive devices, including 2,000 bombs dropped from the air, Oleksandr Khorunzhiy said.

Nearly 300,000 sq km – roughly half the size of Ukraine’s territory – are still seen as “contaminated”, he said at a news conference.

Khorunzhiy said:

Up to 10 years, that’s the optimistic figure. Because we don’t know what’s happening on the territories where active combat is ongoing right now.

Munitions experts remove a defused 500kg bomb that did not detonate when it landed on an apartment building in March, in the Saltivka neighbourhood, in Kharkiv, Ukraine.
Munitions experts remove a defused 500kg bomb that did not detonate when it landed on an apartment building in March, in the Saltivka neighbourhood, in Kharkiv, Ukraine. Photograph: Leah Millis/Reuters

He added:

Just imagine the number of bombs that have been dropped on us by the enemy.

The first priority was to demine infrastructure, residential areas and roads, and it would take longer to clear woods, rivers and the coastline, he said.

A Ukrainian goat has been hailed a national hero after it triggered a string of Russian grenades around a hospital in Zaporizhzhia, injuring at least 40 Russian soldiers.

Russian forces were setting up a tripwire and had pinned grenades around the edge of a local hospital in the village of Kinski Rozdory, placing the trap as a “circular defence”, according to Ukraine’s chief intelligence directorate.

The goat, who had escaped from a farm, is said to have headed straight for the boobytrap, with the Russian munitions exploding in a chain reaction, injuring dozens of soldiers who were waiting in ambush.

A goat on a destroyed Russian tank on display in Saint Michaels Square in Kyiv, Ukraine.
A goat on a destroyed Russian tank on display in Saint Michaels Square in Kyiv, Ukraine. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Ukraine’s defence intelligence said:

As a result of the goat’s ‘chaotic’ movements, the animal ‘disposed of’ several grenades. As a result of a chain reaction, several [Russians] sustained injuries of varying degrees of severity.

At least 40 Russian soldiers are thought to have been injured. The condition of the animal is not currently known.

The goat has since been hailed as “the Goat of Kyiv”, a reference to the mythical pilot, the Ghost of Kyiv, who is credited to have downed as many as 40 enemy planes during Russia’s invasion of the capital.

In a video address to the Glastonbury festival, the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, called on crowds to support Ukraine by sharing his message about Russia’s war on his country.

‘The more people join us in defending freedom and truth, the sooner Russia’s war in Ukraine will end,” he said.

‘Spread the truth about Russia’s war’: Volodymyr Zelenskiy addresses Glastonbury – video

The lawyer defending Aiden Aslin, one of two Britons sentenced to death by a Russian proxy court, said they had not yet submitted an appeal because they seemed to be holding out for intervention from the UK.

Aslin, 28, and Shaun Pinner, 48, were sentenced on charges of “terrorism” by a court that is not internationally recognised earlier this month in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR).

Russian state-owned news agency Tass quoted Pinner’s lawyer, Yulia Tserkovnikova, that the defence attorneys were preparing an appeal, which must be lodged by 8 July.

British citizen Aiden Aslin in a courtroom in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic.
British citizen Aiden Aslin in a courtroom in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic. Photograph: AP

But Pavel Kosovan, defending Aslin, said the appeals had not yet been filed. He told Reuters:

I suspect they hope that the British authorities will still contact either the Russian Federation or the Donetsk People’s Republic.

Earlier this week, Aslin’s family said he had been told the execution will be carried out. His captures claimed there had been no attempt by UK officials to negotiate on his behalf, Aslin said.

Patrick Wintour

Patrick Wintour

Russia has transformed an existing life-threatening wave of food crises into a tsunami by blocking the export of 25m tonnes of grain from Ukraine’s ports, Germany’s foreign minister has said.

Speaking at the start of an inter-ministerial food conference in Berlin, a precursor to the G7 meeting in Germany starting this weekend where aid groups will demand a big financial commitment to help Africa, Annalena Baerbock said 345 million people worldwide were currently threatened by food shortages.

She said the hunger crisis was building “like a life-threatening wave before us” but it was Russia’s war that had “made a tsunami out of this wave”, and she said Russia was using hunger as a weapon of war. In an international blame game playing out across Africa, Russia claims it is western sanctions that are slowing the flow of Russian food.

As many as 25 African countries, including many of the least developed countries, import more than one-third of their wheat from Ukraine and Russia, and 15 of them more than half.

Her remarks led Dmitry Medvedev, the former Russian president and prime minister, to make a reference to the German starvation tactics in the second world war. He said: “German officials are accusing Russia of using hunger like a weapon. It is amazing to hear this from officials whose country kept Leningrad in blockade for 900 days, where almost 700 thousand people died of starvation.”

But Baerbock’s criticism of Russia was backed by Arif Husain, the chief economist at the UN World Food Programme, who said it was not sanctions that were causing the food crisis but war. “We tend to address the symptoms and forget the root cause, and the root cause is war,” he said.

Read the full article here.

Vladimir Putin said Russia was not responsible for the global food crisis, blaming the west instead for preventing the export of Russian grain.

Speaking at a Brics Plus virtual summit that brought together the leaders of 17 countries including China, India, Brazil and South Africa, the Russian leader described the food market as “unbalanced in the most serious way”.

Putin accused western countries, in particular the US, of “destabilising global agricultural production” with restrictions on the delivery of fertiliser from Russia and Belarus, and by making it difficult for Moscow to export grain.

He said rising prices on agricultural staples such as grain have most affected developing countries, “where bread and flour are a necessary means of survival for the majority of the population”.

He dismissed the “hysteria” surrounding grain that has been trapped in Ukrainian ports, and claimed it would not solve any problems on the global grain market.

Russia was a “responsible actor” in the global food market, he claimed.

Today so far…

It’s 6pm in Kyiv. Here’s where we stand:

  • The last Ukrainian forces fighting in the heavily contested eastern city of Sievierodonetsk have been ordered to withdraw in order to avoid being encircled. The anticipated loss of Sievierodonetsk is the latest battlefield reverse for Kyiv after its defeat in the port city of Mariupol, as fears grow that the neighbouring city of Lysychansk could also fall to Russia within days.
  • A district south of the city of Lysychansk in Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk region has been “fully occupied” by Russian forces, a local Ukrainian official said. The loss of Hirske and several other settlements around it leaves Lysychansk in danger of being enveloped from three sides by advancing Russian forces.
  • No town is safe for residents in Ukraine’s eastern region of Donetsk as fighting intensifies, local officials claim. “There is no place, no town in Donetsk region where it would be safe,” Pavlo Kyrylenko told Agence France-Presse, citing the latest intelligence data. “It is extremely dangerous for residents to stay in any places of the region.”
  • Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, addressed crowds at Glastonbury festival and asked them to “spread the truth about Russia’s war” and “prove that freedom always wins”. In a video message to festivalgoers, Zelenskiy said Ukrainians would not allow Russia’s war to break them and before it “ruined people’s lives in other countries of Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America”.
  • G7 foreign ministers called on Russia to “cease its attacks and threatening actions” and to unblock the Ukrainian Black Sea ports for food exports. Russia is exacerbating food insecurity with its blockades and bombing attacks on key infrastructure in Ukraine, they said in a statement. The UN’s secretary general, António Guterres, said there could be no effective solution to the looming food crisis unless Ukraine and Russia find a way to properly resume trade.

Hello everyone, it’s Léonie Chao-Fong still with you today to bring you all the latest developments from the war in Ukraine. Feel free to get in touch on Twitter or via email.

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