Ukraine latest news – live: Boris Johnson plays down Putin’s nuclear threats

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Prime minister Boris Johnson has played down the estimated 35 nuclear threats made by president Vladimir Putin since the start his military operation - insisting instead that he would be able to overcome Ukrainian resistance by conventional means.

In an interview marking the end of the Nato summit in Spain, Mr Johnson told LBC’s Nick Ferrari : “I think it’s very, very important that we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be side-tracked by this kind of sabre-rattling.

“Because fundamentally, what Putin is trying to do is to reframe this as about Russia versus Nato.

“It’s not. It’s about his attack on an entirely innocent country, with conventional weapons, with artillery, bombardments with planes, shells and so on.

“And it’s about the Ukrainians’ right to protect themselves. That is what this is about.

“And what we had today at Nato was, yet again, the alliance being tested, being asked, being interrogated. Are we resolved? Are we determined? Will we give the Ukrainians the means to protect themselves?

“And the answer was absolutely yes and, if anything, the strength of the unity is greater than it was before.”

Key Points

  • Kremlin refuses to rule out Putin attending G20 summit

  • Russia ordered to prevent death sentence of captured Britons

  • Vladimir Putin an 'appalling dictator' who is perpetrating illegal war, Truss says

  • UK promises extra £1 billion of military aid for Ukraine

  • Russia withdraws troops from Snake Island

Putin can hold onto power in Russia if he backs down over Ukraine, Boris Johnson says

19:55 , Emily Atkinson

Vladimir Putin still has a way to get out of the war in Ukraine without losing his grip on power in Moscow, Boris Johnson has suggested.

Ever since Russia’s invasion of its neighbour on 24 February, Mr Johnson has made clear that, while supporting Ukraine’s efforts to drive Putin’s troops out of the country, he was not seeking regime change in the Kremlin.

He has previously been critical of Western leaders, like France’s Emmanuel Macron, who have suggested that Putin must be offered a ladder to climb down to allow him to end the conflict without losing face.

Our political editor Andrew Woodcock has the story:

Putin can hold onto power in Russia if he backs down over Ukraine, Boris Johnson says

Russian strikes more than double in fortnight, Kyiv claims

19:30 , Emily Atkinson

Missile strikes have more than doubled over the last fortnight, figures show.

It comes a Ukrainian brigadier general said on Thursday that Moscow was using inaccurate Soviet-era missiles for more than half of the attacks.

General Oleksii Hromov estimated that 68 civilian sites had been hit in the second half of this month.

Watch: Russian oil transfers off England's coast

19:05 , Emily Atkinson

Ankara seeks intensified efforts for lasting Ukraine ceasefire

18:40 , Emily Atkinson

Efforts must be intensified for a lasting ceasefire in Ukraine, Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan has said.

He was speaking at a news conference in Madrid at the end of a Nato summit on Thursday.

UK ‘underspend’ on climate crisis to be used to bolster military aid for Ukraine

18:15 , Emily Atkinson

The UK’s expanded £1bn commitment to military aid for Ukraine will be partly funded through underspending on climate finance, the business minister Kwasi Kwarteng has said.

Following the British government’s announcement it would nearly double support to Ukraine to help stave off the Russian invasion, Mr Kwarteng tweeted: “My department has contributed to the effort by surrendering climate finance and foreign aid underspends.”

The admission comes a month after The Independent revealed the UK government failed to deliver almost a quarter of a billion pounds in green projects aimed at hitting net zero emissions even as Boris Johnson urged governments around the world to drastically raise their investment in tackling the climate crisis.

Our environment correspondent Harry Cockburn reports:

UK ‘underspend’ on climate crisis to be used to bolster military aid for Ukraine

Putin downplays Ukraine grain blockage

17:50 , Emily Atkinson

Vladimir Putin has denied that Moscow was blocking Ukrainian grain exports and questioned the impact of missing Ukrainian agricultural goods on the world food market.

“We do not prevent the export of Ukrainian grain. The Ukrainian military has mined the approaches to their ports, no one prevents them from clearing those mines and we guarantee the safety of shipping grain out of there,” Putin said, speaking alongside visiting Indonesian President Joko Widodo.

Putin repeated Russia’s assertion that Western sanctions are to blame for problems on the global food market and rising prices.

He also downplayed Ukraine‘s impact on the global market, saying there were only 5 million tonnes of wheat currently stuck in the country.

“This is a quantity which does not affect the world markets in any way,” he added, saying it represented just 0.5 per cent of global production.

Reuters

Indonesia’s Widodo calls for ‘peaceful resolution of Ukraine conflict’ after Putin talks

17:25 , Emily Atkinson

Indonesia’s president has said the country will continue to cooperate with Russia following a meeting with his Moscow counterpart on Thursday.

Speaking through a translator, president Joko Widodo also told reporters it was important to move towards a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Ukraine following talks with president Vladimir Putin in the Russian capital.

Estonia and Latvia jointly purchase mid-range air defence system

17:01 , Emily Atkinson

Two Baltic states have jointly agreed to purchase a mid-range air defence system, defence officials have announced.

The purchase, confirmed today by Estonia and Latvia, will be managed by the former on the advice of the defence chiefs of the two states, under a letter of intent signed by the defence ministers during the Nato summit in Madrid, a statement from the Estonian defence ministry said.

“Russia’s aggression in Ukraine clearly demonstrates the need for air defence systems,” Latvian defence minister Artis Pabriks was quoted in the statement as saying.

Watch: 'Third World War has already started', Ukraine defence minister claims

16:37 , Emily Atkinson

Watch: Footage shows Ukrainian military 'repelling Russian forces' from Snake Island

15:46 , Thomas Kingsley

Watch: Biden says drivers to pay higher gas prices for ‘as long as it takes’ Ukraine to win

15:20 , Thomas Kingsley

ICYMI: Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky meets Sir Richard Branson in Kyiv

15:05 , Thomas Kingsley

British billionaire Sir Richard Branson travelled to Ukraine to meet president Volodymyr Zelensky and see some of the devastation wrought by Vladimir Putin’s “appalling invasion”.

Following an invitation from the Ukrainian leader, the entrepreneur and founder of Virgin Group met with Mr Zelensky, foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba and a group of Ukrainian business leaders on Wednesday.

Sir Richard said the purpose of the meeting was to “learn what business, in partnership with civil society and governments, can do to support Ukraine most effectively”.

Read the full story below:

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky meets Sir Richard Branson in Kyiv

14:50 , Thomas Kingsley

US president Joe Biden on Thursday said Washington will announce $800 million (£658 million) of additional weapons aid to Ukraine in the coming days.

“We are going to support Ukraine as long as it takes,” Mr Biden said at a press conference on the sidelines of the Nato summit in Madrid. He suggests it will cover air defence, artillery, counter-battery systems and other weaponry.

It's the latest in a series of announcements of support the US has given Ukraine since Russians' invasion began. The US has sent more than $50bn of aid to Ukraine so far.

It comes after the UK pledged an additional £1 billion in military aid to Ukraine.

President Joe Biden speaks during a news conference on the final day of the NATO summit in Madrid, Thursday, June 30, 2022 (AP)
President Joe Biden speaks during a news conference on the final day of the NATO summit in Madrid, Thursday, June 30, 2022 (AP)

New 'iron curtain' is descending between Russia and West, Moscow says

14:45 , Thomas Kingsley

Russia's foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday that a new “iron curtain” was descending between Russia and the West.

“It's practically already coming into place. Let them just behave carefully,” Mr Lavrov said of Western countries during a press conference.

The UK’s defence secretary Ben Wallace, also feared that an Iron Curtain could descend in Europe. The comments come as Nato members gather in Madrid to discuss the conflict in Ukraine with the UK and USA pledging new military aid packages to Kyiv further cementing support for Volodymyr Zelensky.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (AFP via Getty Images)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (AFP via Getty Images)

Watch: 'Third World War has already started', Ukraine defence minister claims

14:27 , Thomas Kingsley

Britain to boost defence spending to 2.5% of GDP by end of decade

14:05 , Thomas Kingsley

Britain will boost defence spending to 2.5 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP) by the end of this decade, prime minister Boris Johnson said on Thursday, making a new commitment to bolster the military budget after Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

“We need to invest for the long term in vital capabilities like future combat air, whilst simultaneously adapting to a more dangerous and more competitive world,” Mr Johnson told a news conference at a Nato summit in Madrid dominated by the Ukraine conflict.

“The logical conclusion of the investments on which we propose to embark, these decisions, is that we'll reach 2.5 per cent of GDP on defence by the end of the decade.”

His comments came after Nato on Wednesday branded Russia the biggest “direct threat” to Western security and agreed plans to modernise Ukraine's beleaguered armed forces.

Former F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone condemned for ‘extraordinary’ Putin comments

13:50 , Thomas Kingsley

Former Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone drew condemnation on Thursday after the 91-year-old defended Russian President Vladimir Putin in a television interview as a "first class person" he would "take a bullet" for.

The Briton, who is no longer involved in Formula One, also told ITV's Good Morning Britain that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy could have ended the Russian invasion of his country by talking to Putin.

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the comments were "absolutely extraordinary".

Formula One said in a statement they were "his personal views and are in very stark contrast to the position of the modern values of our sport".

Ecclestone had warm relations with Putin, establishing the now-cancelled Russian Grand Prix.

"He's a first-class person and what he's doing is something that he believes is the right thing he was doing for Russia," said Ecclestone, who has a history of controversial statements.

Kremlin will decide later if Putin to attend G20 in Indonesia

13:30 , Thomas Kingsley

The Kremlin said on Thursday it has not yet decided whether President Vladimir Putin will attend November's G20 summit in Indonesia.

In a call with reporters, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Russia had an invitation to attend and would decide "at the necessary time" whether Putin will go in person.

Western leaders are weighing up how to approach the summit should Putin go, with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson calling on leaders not to boycott if the Russian president does decide to attend.

Boris Johnson has indicated he will attend the G20 summit in Bali later this year even if “pariah” Vladimir Putin is at the event.

Indonesia is hosting the summit in November and the Russian President, as a member of the Group of 20 leading economies, is invited.

The prime minister said that boycotting the event in protest at the invitation extended to Mr Putin would hand a “propaganda opportunity” to the Russian leader.

Some captured Azov fighters will face trial, Putin ally says

13:10 , Thomas Kingsley

Some captured members of Ukraine's Azov Regiment will face trial, the speaker of Russia's lower house of parliament said on Thursday, a day after Russia's top court postponed a decision on whether to brand the unit as a terrorist entity.

Vyacheslav Volodin, an ally of President Vladimir Putin, said Russia would carry out a "substantial investigation" into every member of Azov to find out "who was involved in what."

Those who are determined to have "blood on their hands" will face trial, the State Duma speaker said in a post on Telegram.

The Azov Regiment, part of Ukraine's National Guard, was founded in 2014 as one of many volunteer militias to fight pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region. Its fighters were feted as national heroes for defying Russian forces who laid seige on the city of Mariupol for weeks.

The militia originally emerged from a political organisation that championed white nationalist far-right ideas.

Kyiv says it has been reformed away from its origins and that it has nothing to do with politics. Russia says it is still made up of dangerous far-right neo-Nazis and made destroying the unit a war aim.

Russia leaving Snake Island shows Ukraine can fight back, Boris Johnson says

12:48 , Thomas Kingsley

British prime minister Boris Johnson said on Thursday Russia’s decision to abandon the strategic Black Sea outpost of Snake Island was evidence of Ukraine‘s ability to fight back.

“If you wanted evidence of the amazing ability of the Ukrainians to fight back to overcome adversity and to repel the Russians then look at what has happened just today on Snake Island, where again Russia has had to cede ground,” Mr Johnson told a news conference at the Nato Summit in Madrid.

“In the end it will prove impossible for Putin to hold down a country that will not accept his rule.”

 (2022 Maxar Tech/AFP/Getty Images)
(2022 Maxar Tech/AFP/Getty Images)

Putin rejects Boris Johnson’s claim a woman wouldn’t have invaded Ukraine

12:30 , Thomas Kingsley

Russian president Vladimir Putin on Thursday dismissed Boris Johnson’s claim that he wouldn’t have invaded Ukraine if he were a woman.

Speaking at a news conference in the early hours of Thursday during a visit to Turkmenistan, Mr Putin pointed to former British leader Margaret Thatcher's decision to send troops into the Falklands as a rebuttal.

Mr Johnson on Wednesday dubbed Mr Putin’s decision to launch what Moscow calls a “special military operation” against Ukraine a “perfect example of toxic masculinity” and mocked Mr Putin's macho posturing.

Read the full story below:

What about Thatcher? Putin rejects Johnson claim over Ukraine invasion

Russia says over 6,000 Ukrainian servicemen have surrendered or been captured

12:10 , Thomas Kingsley

Russia says over 6,000 Ukrainian servicemen have been captured or surrendered, RIA news agency cited the defence ministry as saying on Thursday.

The ministry said the exchange of 144 prisoners of war with Ukraine, announced on Wednesday by Ukrainian intelligence, was organised by direct order of President Vladimir Putin, RIA cited the ministry as saying.

It comes as Russia claimed it has withdrawn from Snake Island which it first attacked early in its invasion.

 (AP)
(AP)

Watch: Dog rescued in Ukraine after deadly missile strikes apartments

12:00 , Thomas Kingsley

Russia's Medvedev says sanctions could be justification for war

11:50 , Thomas Kingsley

Russia's Deputy Security Council Chairman Dmitry Medvedev said on Thursday that in certain circumstances, sanctions against Moscow may be seen as an act of aggression and a justification for war.

“I would like to point out once again that under certain circumstances such hostile measures can also qualify as an act of international aggression. And even as a casus belli (justification for war),” Mr Medvedev said, adding that Russia has the right to defend itself.

Mr Medvedev, a former Russian president who was once seen as a liberal, has emerged as one of the most hawkish proponents of the war, delivering a series of scathing denunciations of the West

 (AP)
(AP)

Western leaders, including Boris Johnson, would look ‘disgusting’ topless, says Putin

11:40 , Thomas Kingsley

A thin-skinned Vladimir Putin has hit back at the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other Western leaders who mocked his tough-man topless exploits, with the Russian leader claiming they would look “disgusting” if they tried to copy him.

Earlier this week, Mr Johnson jested that G7 leaders could take their clothes off to “show that we’re tougher than Putin” amid Russia-West tensions over Moscow’s military action in Ukraine.

He added that we need to “show our pecs”.

Read the full story below:

Putin says Boris Johnson topless would be a ‘disgusting sight’

Putin still wants to capture most of Ukraine despite weakened troops, say US intelligence agencies

11:20 , Thomas Kingsley

Russian president Vladimir Putin still wants to seize most of Ukraine despite his weakened troops, according to US intelligence officials.

The consensus among US spy agencies was that the war in Europe will grind on “for an extended period of time”, director of national intelligence Avril Haines said on Wednesday.

Outlining their assessment of the over four-month war, she said: “The picture remains pretty grim and Russia’s attitude toward the West is hardening.”

Read the full story below:

Putin still wants to capture most of Ukraine, say US intelligence agencies

Pope Francis calls conflict ‘a cruel and senseless war of aggression'

11:00 , Thomas Kingsley

Pope Francis on Thursday implicitly accused Russia of “armed conquest, expansionism and imperialism” in Ukraine, calling the conflict a “cruel and senseless war of aggression”.

The pope was speaking to a delegation of Orthodox leaders who had come to Rome for a religious celebration on Wednesday.

Pope Francis has been outspoken about the conflict in Ukraine since Russia began its “special military operation” on 24 February. Earlier this month he blasted the “ferocity and cruelty” of Russian troops in Ukraine while praising the “heroism” and “courage” of Ukrainians to defend their land.

While sharply criticizing Russia’s invasion, Francis also insisted there weren’t “good guys and bad guys” and that Russia was in some ways provoked by Nato’s expansion east.

Italy Pope (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Italy Pope (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Russian forces withdraw from Snake Island, defence ministry says

10:41 , Thomas Kingsley

Russian forces have withdrawn from Snake Island off Ukraine's coast in the Black Sea as a “gesture of goodwill”, the defence ministry said on Thursday.

The ministry said the move showed Russia is not impeding United Nations efforts to organise a humanitarian corridor to export agricultural products out of Ukraine.

Snake Island, which Russia occupied on the first day of its invasion, achieved worldwide fame when Ukrainian border guards stationed there rejected a Russian warship's demand for their surrender.

Read the full story below:

Russian forces retreat from Snake Island, defence ministry claims

Watch: Ukrainian soldiers train on range of complex weapons with British Army in UK

10:20 , Thomas Kingsley

Ukraine says Russian forces have withdrawn from Snake Island

10:00 , Thomas Kingsley

The head of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's office, Andriy Yermak, said on Thursday that Russian forces had withdrawn from Snake Island, a strategic Black Sea outpost.

“KABOOM! No Russian troops on the Snake Island anymore. Our Armed Forces did a great job,” Mr Yermak wrote on Twitter.

The 100-acre Snake Island outpost has proved to be a valuable strategic position for both sides, sitting some 80 miles off Ukraine's southern coastline in the Black Sea.

Russia Ukraine (Planet Labs PBC)
Russia Ukraine (Planet Labs PBC)

Deadly airstrike on Mariupol theatre a ‘clear war crime’, Amnesty inquiry finds

09:38 , Thomas Kingsley

Russian forces committed a “clear war crime” in Ukraine’s coastal city of Mariupol when they launched a deadly airstrike on a theatre they knew was sheltering hundreds of civilians, according to a new investigation by Amnesty International.

The global rights group has urged the International Criminal Court, and all other courts with jurisdiction, to immediately investigate the attack as a war crime in light of the evidence they unearthed.

The human rights organisation spent three months examining the 16 March strike on the city’s Drama Theatre, which they say killed at least a dozen people and injured many more.

Read more from our international correspondent, Bel Trew, in Kyiv:

Deadly airstrike on Mariupol theatre a ‘clear war crime’, Amnesty inquiry finds

European court tells Russia to ensure two Britons do not face death penalty

09:16 , Thomas Kingsley

The European Court of Human Rights issues said on Thursday it had issued interim measures to instruct Russia to ensure the death penalty on two Britons who were captured after fighting for Ukraine was not carried out.

“The Court indicated in particular to the government of the Russian Federation, under Rule 39 (interim measures) of the Rules of Court, that they should ensure that the death penalty imposed on the applicants was not carried out,” the court said in a statement.

British citizens Aiden Aslin (L) and Shaun Pinner (R) and Moroccan Saaudun Brahim (C) attend a sentencing hearing at the Supreme Court of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) in Donetsk (EPA)
British citizens Aiden Aslin (L) and Shaun Pinner (R) and Moroccan Saaudun Brahim (C) attend a sentencing hearing at the Supreme Court of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) in Donetsk (EPA)

Watch: Bernie Ecclestone says he would still 'take a bullet' for 'first-class' Vladimir Putin

09:00 , Thomas Kingsley

UK promises extra £1 billion of military aid for Ukraine’s fight against Russia

08:46 , Thomas Kingsley

The UK will provide an extra £1 billion of military aid for Ukraine, dramatically increasing its support for Volodymyr Zelensky’s defence of his country.

The new funding amounts to a 77 per cent increase on the £1.3 billion already provided, with Boris Johnson claiming British support was “transforming Ukraine’s defences” against the Russian onslaught.

The promise of extra military support comes after Ukraine’s president urged Nato leaders to do more to help his country resist Vladimir Putin’s invasion.

At the Nato summit in Madrid, which ends on Thursday, the UK promised funding towards capabilities including sophisticated air defence systems, drones and electronic warfare equipment.

Read the full story below:

UK promises extra £1 billion of military aid for Ukraine’s fight against Russia

Watch: Vladimir Putin an 'appalling dictator' who is perpetrating illegal war, Truss says

08:40 , Thomas Kingsley

Bernie Ecclestone says he would ‘take bullet’ for Putin in bizarre GMB interview

08:26 , Thomas Kingsley

Former F1 executive Bernie Ecclestone has called Vladimir Putin a “first class person” and claimed he “would take a bullet for him”.

In a bizarre interview with Good Morning Britain, the 91-year-old was asked whether he still stood by his friend Mr Putin. To which, Mr Ecclestone replied: “I would still take a bullet for him. I’d rather it didn’t hurt but I would still take a bullet.”

When asked why he would take such drastic action, Mr Ecclestone said: “Because he’s a first class person, and what he’s doing is something that he believed was the right thing.”

Read the full report below from our reporter, Holly Bancroft:

Bernie Ecclestone says he would ‘take bullet’ for Putin in bizarre GMB interview

Liz Truss has called Russian President Vladimir Putin an ‘appalling dictator'

08:05 , Thomas Kingsley

Speaking from the Nato summit in Madrid, the foreign secretary told Sky News: “I would describe him as an appalling dictator perpetrating a war that was neither legal nor justified in any possible way.

“I've not met Vladimir Putin, I don't know the motivation for carrying out this appalling war. All I know is that we have to make it our absolute priority to stop this war and to push Vladimir Putin and the Russian troops out of Ukraine.”

It comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson called Mr Putin “evil” and defence secretary Ben Wallace said he was a “lunatic”.

Russia attacks grain warehouse in Ukraine, 40 tonnes of food torched

07:07 , Arpan Rai

A Russian attack has destroyed a warehouse containing grains in central Ukraine’s Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, reported The Kyiv Independent.

Regional governor Valentyn Reznichenko confirmed the attack on early Thursday and said that at least 40 tonnes of grain was destroyed and the Russian offensive led to a fire.

Russian forces also attacked Velyka Kostromka village, however, no casualties were reported.

Russia Ukraine ground combat focussed around oil refinery in Lysychansk

07:01 , Arpan Rai

The British ministry has said that Ukrainian troops are continuing to hold their positions in the eastern city Lysychansk after capturing and withdrawing from Sievierodonetsk.

“Russian forces continue to pursue an approach of creeping envelopment from the Popasna direction, removing the need to force a major new crossing of the Siverskyi Donets River in this sector,” the ministry said in its latest intelligence update.

It added: “Current ground combat is likely focused around the Lyschansk oil refinery, 10km south-west of the city centre”.

However, the Russian fighters are making “limited progress” at the operational level as they try to encircle “Ukrainian defenders in northern Donetsk Oblast via advances from Izium”, the British MoD said.

“It is highly likely that Ukrainian forces’ ability to continue fighting delaying battles, and then withdraw troops in good order before they are encircled, will continue to be a key factor in the outcome of the campaign,” it added.

Volodymyr Zelensky meets Sir Richard Branson in Kyiv

06:38 , Arpan Rai

British billionaire Sir Richard Branson said his visit to the war-torn Ukraine was a “humbling and emotional experience”.

Mr Branson travelled to Ukraine on Wednesday to meet Volodymyr Zelensky on invitation and to witness the destruction wrounght by Russia’s “appalling invasion”.

He visited a residential area with a destroyed kindergarten that was recently hit by a Russian missile strike. Mr Branson also travelled to Gostomel Airport to see the remains of Antonov AN-225, the world’s largest transport plane that had been known as Mriya (Dream).

Condemning the Russian attacks, he said: “It is clear these kinds of attacks are not unintended and arbitrary. They are part of a deliberate strategy to spread fear and terror among Ukraine’s civilian population”.

“I hope the Russian perpetrators of these shocking acts will be held to account,” he said.

Read the full story here:

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky meets Sir Richard Branson in Kyiv

Mariupol theatre attack a 'clear war crime' - Amnesty International

05:46 , Arpan Rai

Amnesty International has said that the Russian military’s attack on the Mariupol drama theatre in March, which was sheltering hundreds of civilians, was a “clear war crime”.

In its latest investigation, Amnesty International released a new report showing how the Russian forces “likely deliberately targeted the theatre despite knowing hundreds of civilians were sheltering there on 16 March, making the attack a clear war crime”.

The group’s crisis response team spoke with “numerous survivors and collected extensive digital evidence, concluding that the attack was almost certainly carried out by Russian fighter aircraft”.

Two 500kg bombs were dropped by the aircraft that “struck close to each other and detonated simultaneously”, officials from Amnesty said in a statement.

“Many people were injured and killed in this merciless attack. Their deaths were likely caused by Russian forces deliberately targeting Ukrainian civilians,” the statement added.

Deadly airstrike on Mariupol theatre a ‘clear war crime’, Amnesty inquiry finds

Ukraine says no let-up in Russian attacks on eastern city: ‘Everything is being shelled’

05:20 , Arpan Rai

The Russian military offensive continued to rain on eastern Ukraine on Thursday, officials in the region said as they said more than 15,000 civilians are facing direct threat of losing their life.

“Fighting is going on all the time. The Russians are constantly on the offensive. There is no let-up,” regional governor Serhiy Haidai said.

He added: “Absolutely everything is being shelled”.

Authorities in Ukraine said that they were working to rescue residents from the city on eastern frontline Lysychansk — Russia’s latest target — as it remains under attack.

About 15,000 people are trapped in the area under heavy shelling, for over a week now, officials said.

This comes just hours after Nato branded Moscow the biggest “direct threat” to western security.

The alliance has also agreed on plans to modernise Kyiv’s beleaguered armed forces.

No more ties with Syria, announces Zelensky

04:51 , Arpan Rai

Volodymyr Zelensky has announced that Ukraine will snap its bilateral ties with Syria.

The Syrian government, which counts Russia as a close ally, has said that it will recognise the “independence and sovereignty” of Ukraine’s separatist-occupied eastern Luhansk and Donetsk regions and contacts will be established to set up diplomatic relations.

Mr Zelensky slammed the decision and said Ukraine will build up more pressure for sanctions against the Arabic country.

“Russia squeezed out the message of Syria about the alleged recognition of the occupation structures in Donbas as alleged states. This is an empty story,” he said in his nightly address.

“And in that case, there will be no more relations between Ukraine and Syria, and the pressure of sanctions against Syria will be even greater,” Mr Zelensky added.

Situation in parts of Ukraine ‘remains extremely brutal’, says Zelensky

04:44 , Arpan Rai

Volodymyr Zelensky has accused Russia of launching a hypersonic anti-ship missile on the Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv, among a total of 10 missiles fired on Wednesday.

“Today’s Russian strike alone at the city of Mykolaiv - 10 missiles at once, and all of them were aimed at civilian targets - proves for absolutely everyone in the world that the pressure on Russia is not enough. One of these missiles, a hypersonic anti-ship missile “Onyx”, destroyed an ordinary five-story building,” he said.

Mr Zelensky said Ukrainian rescue workers continued dismantling the debris over the course of the day and added that so far, five people are known to have been killed.

“There were also strikes at Ochakiv, Dnipro, the Russian shelling of the Kharkiv region, Sumy region, Donbas. Lysychansk, Avdiivka, communities in the Bakhmut direction - the situation there remains extremely brutal, very difficult. We are doing everything we can to provide our military with modern artillery systems to respond properly to the occupiers,” Mr Zelensky said.

MPs slam ministers for ‘shameful’ inaction on Russian ‘dirty money'

03:05 , Aisha Rimi

Government complacency is allowing Russian “dirty money” to flow into the UK despite the war in Ukraine, MPs have warned.

The Commons Foreign Affairs Committee said the failure of ministers to take effective action meant assets “laundered” through the City of London were being used to finance the conflict.

In a highly critical report, it said “inadequate preparation and foresight” by the leadership of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) meant the Government was slow to impose sanctions.

The committee said it was “shameful” it had taken the war for ministers to bring in the the Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Act 2022 intended to prevent corrupt funds being laundered through the UK property market.

It said the measures still “do not go far or fast enough” and did little to address the “fundamental mismatch” between the resources available to the law enforcement agencies and the individuals they are targeting.

“The government’s unwillingness to bring forward legislation to stem the flow of dirty money is likely to have contributed to the belief in Russia that the UK is a safe haven for corrupt wealth. It is shameful that it has taken a war to galvanise the Government into action,” the report said.

“Although ministers have spoken eloquently in the House about the need to clamp down on kleptocrats, rhetoric has not been matched by constructive action. Meanwhile, corrupt money has continued to flow into the UK.

“Without the necessary means and resources, enforcement agencies are toothless. The threat (that) illicit finance poses to our national security demands a response that is seen to be serious.”

Zelensky signs decree to introduce register of oligarchs

02:33 , Aisha Rimi

The decree aims to implement the anti-oligarch law signed by President Volodymyr Zelensky in 2021, The Kyiv Independent reported.

The law introduces the legal definition of an oligarch and requires officials to declare contacts with oligarchs. It also bans oligarchs from financing political parties, political ads, or demonstrations and excludes them from the privatization of state assets.

Nato steps up plans to counter Russia’s ‘significant and direct threat’

02:00 , Aisha Rimi

Nato has agreed a “fundamental shift” which will see it return to Cold War-style readiness to respond to the increased threat posed by Russia.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Vladimir Putin had been proved “completely wrong” about the strength of the defence alliance, which is set to expand to include Sweden and Finland after they ended decades of neutrality over concerns about Russia.

Leaders of the 30 Nato members gathered in Madrid to agree a new plan for the alliance in response to the invasion of Ukraine.

David Hughes has the full story:

Nato steps up plans to counter Russia’s ‘significant and direct threat’

Syria to recognize Ukraine’s Luhansk and Donetsk regions

01:33 , Aisha Rimi

Syria said it will recognise the “independence and sovereignty” of Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk and Donetsk regions and contacts will be established to set up diplomatic relations.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry announcement came days after President Bashar Assad met with a joint delegation from both regions in Damascus.

Earlier this month, Russia claimed to have taken control of 97 per cent of one of the two provinces that make up Ukraine’s Donbas, bringing the Kremlin closer to its goal of fully capturing the eastern industrial heartland of coal mines and factories.

Read the full story:

Syria to recognize Ukraine’s Luhansk and Donetsk regions

Caspian nations reaffirm pledge to keep foreign armies out

01:03 , Aisha Rimi

Vladimir Putin and the leaders of the other four countries along the Caspian Sea on Wednesday reaffirmed their shared commitment to keep foreign militaries out of the region.

The presidents of Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan met in Turkmenistan’s capital, Ashgabat, for a summit to discuss regional cooperation and international issues.

In a communique after the meeting, they emphasized their agreement to bar any foreign militaries from the Caspian. They also underlined a pledge not to offer the territory of their nations for aggression against another littoral country.

Read the full story:

Caspian nations reaffirm pledge to keep foreign armies out

Ukraine receives $1.3 billion grant from US

Thursday 30 June 2022 00:32 , Aisha Rimi

The grant is part of a $ 7.5 bn budget funding package, Prime Minister Denis Shmyhal said.

The $1.3 bn represents more than double what the US had previously approved through any prior grant of economic assistance to Ukraine. The US Treasury aims to distribute the full $7.5 bn in economic aid by the end of September.

ICYMI: Moment Russian missile hits Ukrainian shopping centre is captured

Thursday 30 June 2022 00:04 , Aisha Rimi

Images of the moment a deadly Russian missile hit a shopping centre in the central Ukrainian city of Kremenchuk has been shared by the country’s president Volodymyr Zelensky.

The strike killed at least 18 in the shopping centre alone. Another 59 were injured and 25 were hospitalised while a further 36 people are thought to be missing.

Mr Zelensky posted the harrowing video in an address in which he also claimed a total of 2,811 missiles have been launched against cities across the war-torn nation in a single day.

Maryam Zakir-Hussain has the full story:

Moment Russian missile hits Ukrainian shopping centre captured on camera

Norway announces that it will send long-range rocket artillery to Ukraine

Wednesday 29 June 2022 23:29 , Aisha Rimi

Norway said it would donate three multiple-launch rocket systems to Ukraine, following similar decisions made by Britain, Germany and the United States.

“We must continue to support Ukraine so that they can continue their fight for freedom and independence,” Norwegian Defence Minister Bjorn Arild Gram said in a statement.

The delivery of the multiple launch rocket system, which has better range and precision than Russia’s artillery, will be carried out together with Britain, Oslo said.

“Our guns require extensive upgrading, therefore we have agreed with the British that they receive Norwegian guns so that they can send some of theirs to Ukraine,” the minister said, hailing “good cooperation between allies.”

Norway will also send 5,000 additional grenades to Ukraine, in addition to 5,000 already sent.

UK to provide another £1 bn of military support to Ukraine

Wednesday 29 June 2022 23:05 , Aisha Rimi

Britain will provide another £1 bn pounds of military support to Ukraine, the British government said in a statement on Wednesday.

The funding brings the UK’s military assistance to Ukraine to £2.3 bn pounds since the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Former American soldier held by separatists in eastern Ukraine says he ‘didn’t fire shot'

Wednesday 29 June 2022 22:45 , Aisha Rimi

A former US soldier captured in eastern Ukraine said he did not fire a single shot while fighting for the Ukrainian side, in a plea for leniency from separatist authorities who will determine his fate.

In a video interview with Russia’s RIA state news agency released on Wednesday, Alexander Drueke said his fighting experience in Ukraine was limited to the day he was captured outside Kharkiv, Ukraine‘s second-largest city.

“My combat experience here was that one mission on that one day,” said Drueke, looking haggard. “I didn’t fire a shot. I would hope that would play a factor in whatever sentence I do or don’t receive.”

Mr Drueke, from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and fellow American Andy Huynh, from Hartselle, Alabama, went missing this month. Russian state media later showed video interviews with the pair, saying they had been captured by Russian-backed forces.

The Kremlin has said it cannot rule out that the two captured men would be sentenced to death if put on trial in a region held by Russian proxies who have held large swathes of territory since 2014.

Relatives of the captured Americans say they are not mercenaries and had travelled to Ukraine as volunteers in April to help repel Russian forces, who invaded Ukraine in late February.

Switzerland imposes new sanctions on Russia

Wednesday 29 June 2022 22:14 , Aisha Rimi

Switzerland’s Federal Council started implementing the EU’s sixth package of sanctions on June 29, The Kyiv Independent reported. The sanctions include an embargo on crude oil and certain oil products from Russia.

Putin: Russia will respond if NATO sets up infrastructure in Finland, Sweden

Wednesday 29 June 2022 22:02 , Aisha Rimi

Vladimir Putin said that Russia would respond in kind if NATO set up infrastructure in Finland and Sweden after they join the U.S.-led military alliance.

Putin was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying he could not rule out that tensions would emerge in Moscow’s relations with Helsinki and Stockholm over their joining NATO.

Putin’s comment came a day after NATO ally Turkey lifted its veto over Finland and Sweden’s bid to join the alliance after the three nations agreed to protect each other’s security.

Defence secretary calls for more UK military spending amid rising Russian threat

Wednesday 29 June 2022 21:47 , Aisha Rimi

Putin ‘evil’ says Johnson as ministers step up attacks on Russian leader

Wednesday 29 June 2022 20:06 , Aisha Rimi

Boris Johnson has previously suggested the Russian leader’s invasion of Ukraine was an example of “toxic masculinity” and a female president would not have made the same mistake.

David Hughes has the full story:

Putin ‘evil’ says Johnson as ministers step up attacks on Russian leader

Britain ready to commit 1,000 extra troops to Estonia to defend Nato border

Wednesday 29 June 2022 19:41 , Aisha Rimi

Britain will commit more troops to Estonia to defend Nato’s eastern flank against the Russian threat as part of massive expansion in the defence alliance, Ben Wallace has said.

The defence secretary suggested at least 1,000 extra UK troops would join an enlarged force in the Baltic state, though he stressed that final details would have to be worked out in the months ahead.

Nato leaders at a summit in Madrid agreed on Wednesday to increase its “high readiness” response force from 40,000 to 300,000 troops – but officials said the contribution of each country would not be finalised until early next year.

Adam Forrest has the full story:

Britain ready to commit 1,000 extra troops to Estonia to defend Nato

Plan for 500 modular homes to help house Ukrainian refugees arriving in Ireland

Wednesday 29 June 2022 19:20 , Aisha Rimi

Five hundred modular homes are to be installed in around 20 sites across Ireland to help efforts to house Ukrainian refugees.

The two-bedroom units provided under a 100 million euro government pilot initiative will be able to accommodate 2,000 people. It is expected that the first of the units will be in place by November.

Tens of thousands of Ukrainians have arrived in Ireland since the outbreak of war in their homeland in February.

The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage is working on identifying the sites for the homes. The units will all be sited on public land in urban areas. It is anticipated each site will house between 20 to 60 units.

Installation work on the 500 homes is due to be completed by next year - a timeframe described as “ambitious, but achievable” by the government.

Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman said the move was an “emergency” response to the refugee crisis.

He said a significant number of Ukrainian refugees were currently housed in student accommodation and he said that would have to be freed up ahead of the start of the new academic year in September.

He added that many refugees are being moved into accommodation pledged by members of the public over the summer.

Putin is ‘evil’, says Boris Johnson

Wednesday 29 June 2022 18:53 , Aisha Rimi

Vladimir Putin is “evil”, Boris Johnson said as UK ministers stepped up their personal attacks on the Russian president.

“I think that what he has done is evil,” the Prime Minister told GB News at the Nato summit in Madrid.

Asked if Mr Putin himself was evil, Mr Johnson said: “I think it probably follows that if you are what you do, then certainly.

“It’s been an appalling act of unwarranted aggression against the innocent population.”

Watch: Boris Johnson says Ukraine invasion wouldn't have happened if Putin was a woman

Wednesday 29 June 2022 18:34 , Aisha Rimi

‘Turkey got what it wanted’: An Erdogan victory, a poll bump, but little substance in Nato expansion deal

Wednesday 29 June 2022 18:03 , Aisha Rimi

It was criticised by his political opponents as too little, shrugged off as unenforceable by experts and ultimately may do little to improve his political fortunes ahead of major elections scheduled for a year from now.

But Turkey’s agreement to allow Sweden and Finland join Nato in exchange for concessions generated positive press and accolades among supporters of the government and sympathetic media, a rare island of good news for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan amid a sea of economic troubles.

“Turkey got what it wanted,” declared the staunchly pro-government A Haber TV.

Borzou Daragahi has the full story:

An Erdogan victory, a bump in polls but little substance in Nato expansion deal

144 Ukrainian soldiers freed in prisoner swap with Moscow

Wednesday 29 June 2022 17:40 , Aisha Rimi

A total of 144 Ukrainian soldiers, including those that defenced the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol, have been freed in a prisoner swap with Moscow.

The head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, Denis Pushilin, wrote on Telegram: “Today, we are returning home 144 fighters of the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Russian Federation who were captured by the enemy.

“We handed over to Kyiv the same number of prisoners from Ukrainian armed units, most of whom were wounded.”

ICYMI: Russia's foreign minister denies deadly missile strike was aimed at Ukrainian mall

Wednesday 29 June 2022 17:28 , Aisha Rimi

UK aircraft could secure shipping route for Ukraine’s grain, says defence secretary

Wednesday 29 June 2022 17:15 , Aisha Rimi

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has suggested British surveillance aircraft could help secure shipping routes to release Ukraine’s trapped grain.

He told reporters at the Nato summit in Madrid that Rivet Joint or P8 Poseidon aircraft could patrol areas of the Black Sea if a deal was done to allow grain ships to leave Ukraine’s blockaded ports.

Mr Wallace said that Ukraine’s ports only had the capacity to shift three tonnes of grain a month and there was a 23-tonne backlog so a limited ceasefire would not have a major impact.

He said: “We have to put this in perspective, even when Ukraine is at full throttle in its ports, it’s about three million tonnes a month. They have 23 million tonnes to ship.

“So you’ve got to sort of manage the expectations. If there’s a ceasefire on the Black Sea or there’s a safe passage, it’s not going to be like ‘oh, you can have it for six weeks, isn’t it generous of Russia’. I mean, you’re going to get out not very much in exchange.

“What the Turks are trying to do is - with the UN - hammer out details with the Russians about doing it. This is first and foremost about getting Ukrainian grain out of Ukraine.

“It’s not about helping stolen grain, allowing Russian ships with stolen grain out of the Black Sea, because the Ukrainians won’t buy that and they are not going to lift things for that.

“So we have to see what we could do. Britain’s role in that could be ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance), we could help in overwatch, we could help in Rivet Joint, P8s down in the southern part of the Black Sea to protect.

“The Turks have got it pretty covered on mine hunting. We know the disposition of the minefields. So I think all of those things are definitely possible.

“But we’re not going to be sending our ships to the Black Sea because that would mean we would ask the Turks to lift the blockade on foreign warships or warships from other fleets.”

That would “benefit the Russians who would be able to resupply or bring in another Moskva” - a reference to the Black Sea fleet flagship sunk by the Ukrainians.

PM: Invitation for Sweden and Finland to join Nato a ‘great step forward’ for the alliance

Wednesday 29 June 2022 17:02 , Aisha Rimi

Following a meeting with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Finnish President Sauli Niinisto at the Nato summit in Madrid, a Downing Street spokesman said: “The Prime Minister reiterated his staunch support for Sweden and Finland’s Nato membership aspirations.

“He described their accession as a great step forward for Nato and welcomed the progress made since his visits to Sweden and Finland last month.

“The Prime Minister said that the membership of two more pro-peace democracies will permanently strengthen our defensive alliance, helping to keep us all safe.

“The Prime Minister updated on his recent visit to Kyiv. The leaders discussed the need to oppose Russian threats and intimidation in all its guises.

“That includes by ensuring that the people of Ukraine have the tools they need to turn the tide in Putin’s futile war of aggression - they agreed that (Vladimir) Putin is offering Ukraine no other option.”

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