June 12, 2024

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Russia attacks chemical plant in Donbas

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Russian air strikes in the city of Sievierodonetsk in the Donbas have hit a chemical plant, prompting president Volodymyr Zelensky to condemn the attacks as “madness”.

A huge orange cloud, thought to be nitric acid, which causes irritation to the eyes and skin, rose into the sky over the industrial city, where fighting has been raging for days.

The governor of the eastern Ukrainian region of Luhansk, Serhiy Haidai, said Russia had the Azot factory from a plane, resulting in the release of toxic substances, and urged residents to stay inside their homes or shelters.

Earlier, a Tory MP who leads the UK’s parliamentary delegation to Nato suggested Royal Navy ships could be sent into action against Russia’s Black Sea blockade of Ukraine.

Alec Shelbrooke said that British warships could have to use “lethal defensive force” against Russia’s forces as part of a mission to escort vital grain supplies out of Ukrainian ports, at the “high risk” of deaths of UK personnel and the escalation of war in Europe.

Table of Contents

Key Points

  • Russian air strike hits chemical factory

  • UK faces prospect of naval conflict with Russia, Tory MP claims

  • US is adding fuel to fire by supplying Ukraine with rockets, Kremlin says

  • Russia’s nuclear forces hold drills, ballistic missile launchers used

  • Sievierodonetsk mayor says Russia destroying city ‘block by block’

Netherlands unveils record military investment

18:32 , Jane Dalton

The Dutch government has announced what it is calling the biggest boost in its military spending since the end of the Cold War.

Defence Minister Kajsa Ollongren said “threats in the world and the war in Ukraine show that peace and security cannot be taken for granted”.

Ms Ollongren unveiled 5 billion euros a year in increased military spending, which will fund military hardware purchases, including six new F-35 fighter jets and a doubling of the military’s fleet of MQ-9 Reaper drones from four to eight.

The Defence Ministry said the investment means the Netherlands will meet the Nato agreed defence spending of 2 per cent of its gross domestic product in 2024 and 2025.

Russia attacks chemical plant, causing nitric acid cloud

18:01 , Jane Dalton

A Russian air strike on a chemical plant in Ukraine sent a huge cloud of orange acid into the sky.

Volodymyr Zelensky slammed the air strikes in the city of Sievierodonetsk as “madness”.

“Given the presence of large-scale chemical production in Sievierodonetsk, the Russian army’s strikes there, including blind air bombing, are just crazy,” Mr Zelensky said in a video message.

The cloud is thought to be nitric acid, which causes irritation to the eyes and skin when people come into contact with it, writes Holly Bancroft:

Russian attack on Ukraine chemical plant sends huge orange nitric acid cloud into sky

Ukraine promises US it won’t use rockets on Russia

17:50 , Jane Dalton

Ukraine has promised the United States it will not use US-provided advanced rocket systems to hit targets inside Russian territory, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.

“The Ukrainians have given us assurances that they will not use these systems against targets on Russian territory,” Blinken said at an appearance with Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

“There is a strong trust bond between Ukraine and the United States, as well as with our allies and partners.”

Joe Biden has agreed to provide Ukraine with rocket systems that can strike with precision at long-range Russian targets as part of a $700 million weapons package.

Russia blames UK for ‘fuelling conflict’

17:28 , Jane Dalton

Russia has blamed the UK for allegedly fuelling the conflict – hours after blaming the US for the same.

The country’s UK embassy claims the British government’s “belligerent stance and rhetoric” are blocking negotiations – but has not explained how.

Russian advance to be delayed by ‘operational pause’, West believes

17:05 , Jane Dalton

Western officials say Russian troops face a series of perilous river crossings in the Donbas and are showing signs of “disillusionment” with the campaign, not only among rank-and-file soldiers but also senior officers. Andrew Woodcock reports:

Russian advance in eastern Ukraine to be delayed by ‘operational pause’, West expects

Russian air strike ‘hits chemical factory’

16:45 , Jane Dalton

Russian forces are continuing to press closer to the centre of the industrial city of Sievierodonetsk, reportedly hitting a chemical factory.

Ukraine‘s General Staff said Russian forces, now 98 days into their invasion, pounded infrastructure in eastern and southern regions, including the city, which they entered on Friday. The attack is the main focus of their ground offensive in the eastern Donbas region.

According to provincial governor Serhiy Gaidai, a Russian air strike hit the Azot chemical factory in the city on Tuesday, blowing up a tank of toxic nitric acid and releasing a plume of pink smoke.

He urged residents to remain inside.

Reuters has tried to independently confirm the cause of the incident but there is no confirmation yet.

Russia cuts off Denmark’s gas

16:18 , Jane Dalton

Russia is cutting off its gas supply to Denmark, officials in Copenhagen say.

Danish energy company Orsted said the decision was because it refused to pay Moscow in roubles, writes David Harding:

Denmark becomes latest country to have gas taps turned off by Russia

Ukraine v Scotland: Football fans enjoy togetherness on Glasgow streets

15:57 , Jane Dalton

“A game like this is a great opportunity to celebrate being Ukrainian and not necessarily forget about the war,” says a young Ukrainian Edinburgher as Scotland face a World Cup qualifier against the Ukrainians. Andrew Naughtie reports:

Fans in Glasgow look forward to emotional Ukraine v Scotland qualifier

Russia says it is facing difficulties exporting grain due to sanctions on ships

15:07 , Matt Mathers

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday that Moscow is facing difficulties exporting grain due to sanctions against its ships.

“There are also problems with the export of Russian grain… Vessels that carry Russian grain have fallen under sanctions,” Lavrov said during a visit to Saudi Arabia.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which is also a major grain exporter, has driven world food prices higher but Russia blames Western sanctions against it for disrupting its fertilizer and grain exports.

Mid-range missiles are not for strikes on Russian territory – White House

14:27 , Matt Mathers

Missiles provided to Ukraine by the US are not intended for strikes on targets in Russia’s home territory, the White House has said.

Jonathan Finer, deputy White House national security adviser, said the Ukrainians have been requesting the mid-range missiles and Washington believes it will meet their needs.

“We have asked Ukrainians for assurances that they will not use these systems to strike inside Russia. This is a defensive conflict that the Ukrainians are waging. Russian forces are on their territory,” Finer said in an interview with CNN.

There are significant targets Ukrainians cannot reach with the weapons they currently have, Finer said, and the rocket system will make a big difference in the conflict in the southeastern part of the country, where Russian forces are currently focused.

UK faces prospect of naval conflict with Russia, Tory MP claims

14:00 , Matt Mathers

A Tory MP has claimed that the UK faces the prospect of a naval confrontation with Russia over the Ukraine war.

Alec Shelbrooke, the MP for Elmet & Rothwell who is head of the UK’s delegation to Nato, made the comments in a statement on his website on Wednesday.

He warned that there was a “high risk of death to British service personnel”. For these reasons, he argued it is not the right time for the UK to change PM.

Our politics editor Andrew Woodcock reports:

UK’s Nato envoy warns Royal Navy may have to battle Russia

Russia trying to ‘extinguish civilisation’ in Donbas – Germany’s Baerbock

13:35 , Matt Mathers

Russia has adopted a strategy of flattening settlements from a safe distance in Ukraine’s Donbas region, German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock said, making it all the more important for Berlin to send Kyiv defensive weapons.

In a speech to the German parliament on Wednesday, she said Russia was fighting a war to “depopulate and extinguish civilisation” in the eastern Ukrainian region.

“City by city, village by village, Russian troops are destroying them from a safe distance,” she said. “First the missiles, then the warplanes with artillery, and then, when everything is flattened, the tanks roll in.”

Germany needed to send more artillery, drones and air defence weapons to help Ukraine defend itself from this onslaught, she added.

Don’t use Ukraine wheat as a ‘weapon of war’, Pope pleads

13:04 , Jane Dalton

Pope Francis has pleaded to authorities to lift a block on exports of wheat from Ukraine, saying grain cannot be used as a “weapon of war”.

Speaking to thousands who gathered in St, Peter’s Square on Wednesday, the pope said: “Please! Do not use wheat, a basic foodstuff, as a weapon of war,” he said to applause from the crowd. Maryam Zakir-Hussain reports:

Don’t use Ukraine wheat as a ‘weapon of war’, Pope pleads

Russia stages nuclear missile launch exercises

12:56 , Jane Dalton

Russia’s nuclear forces are holding drills northeast of Moscow, the Russian defence ministry has said, according to the country’s Interfax news agency.

Some 1,000 servicemen were exercising in intense manoeuvres in the Ivanovo province, using more than 100 vehicles, including Yars intercontinental ballistic missile launchers, it cited the ministry as saying.

Russia has also completed testing of its hypersonic Zircon cruise missile and will deploy it by the end of the year on a new frigate of its Northern Fleet, a senior military officer said.

The news came shortly after Joe Biden announced the supply of precision rocket systems and munitions to Ukraine, which could strike at long-range Russian targets.

Russia has taken nearly two-thirds of Sievierodonetsk, official says

12:39 , Jane Dalton

Ukrainian forces are holding just one-fifth of the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk, but there is still hope that they can prevent Russia taking full control, according to the head of the city administration.

Russian forces control 60 per cent of the city, while the rest has become “no-man’s land”, Oleksandr Stryuk, the Ukrainian head of the city administration, told Reuters. He declined to give his location.

Sievierodonetsk is important to Russian efforts to capture the Donbas before more Western arms arrive to bolster Ukraine’s defence.

The city, which is 90 miles south of the Russian border, is in an area that is the last pocket under Ukrainian government control in the Luhansk region of the Donbas.

Russia says US is adding fuel to fire by supplying Ukraine with rockets

11:49 , Matt Mathers

Russia accused the United States on Wednesday of adding fuel to the fire by supplying advanced rockets to Ukraine, and said it did not trust Kyiv not to fire them into Russia.

“We believe that the US is deliberately pouring oil on the fire. The US is obviously holding the line that it will fight Russia to the last Ukrainian,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

US President Joe Biden has agreed to provide Ukraine with advanced rocket systems that can strike with precision at long-range Russian targets as part of a $700 million weapons package expected to be unveiled on Wednesday.

Denmark becomes latest country to have gas taps turned off by Russia

11:06 , Matt Mathers

Russia is cutting off its gas supply to Denmark from Wednesday, officials in Copenhagen said, the latest escalation over European energy amid the war in Ukraine.

Our international editor David Harding reports:

Denmark becomes latest country to have gas taps turned off by Russia

Wheat can’t be ‘weapon of war’, Pope says as he urges lifting of Ukraine block

10:08 , Matt Mathers

Pope Francis appealed to authorities on Wednesday to lift a block on exports of wheat from Ukraine, saying the grain could not be used as a “weapon of war”.

Many millions of people, particularly in the world’s poorest countries, depend on wheat from Ukraine, the pope told a general audience of thousands of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square, calling for the block to be lifted.

The United Nations, which says a global food crisis is worsening, is trying to broker a deal to unblock Ukraine’s grain exports, though Western leaders have blamed Russia for holding the world to ransom by blockading Ukrainian ports.

“The blocking of exports of wheat from Ukraine is very worrying because the lives of millions of people depend on it, especially in poorer countries,” the pope said.

“I make a heartfelt appeal so that every effort is made to resolve this problem, to guarantee the universal right to nutrition. Please! Do not use wheat, a basic foodstuff, as a weapon of war,” he added, to applause from the crowd.

Germany to supply Ukraine with anti-aircraft missiles

09:29 , Matt Mathers

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said his country will supply Ukraine with modern anti-aircraft missiles and radar systems.

Mr Scholz told politicians the government has decided to provide Kyiv with IRIS-T missiles developed by Germany together with other Nato nations.

He said Germany will also supply Ukraine with radar systems to help locate enemy artillery.

The announcement comes amid claims at home and abroad that Germany has been slow to provide the embattled country with the weapons it needs to defend itself against Russia, which invaded on February 24.

Italy imports more Russian oil despite impending embargo

09:02 , Matt Mathers

Even as the European Union decided to reduce Russian crude oil imports by 90 per cent by the end of the year, Italy has become the only country in Europe to increase them, an unintended consequence of EU sanctions against Russia.

Meant to punish Russia for invading Ukraine, the EU oil embargo is now putting at risk one of Italy’s largest refineries, located in Sicily, which would deal an economic blow to the depressed region’s economy.

Italy agreed with its EU partners to cut Russian crude imports by 2023, a move that premier Mario Draghi called “a complete success,” that “just a couple of days ago wouldn’t have been believable.”

But Rome also has to deal with the fate of the refinery in Sicily owned by Russia’s Lukoil. As a result of previous sanctions against Russia, ISAB Srl has paradoxically gone from processing 15 per cent of Russian crude to 100 per cent.

ICYMI: Russian state TV claims Nato has started ‘World War 3’ over Ukraine war

08:34 , Zoe Tidman

A prominent Russian state television presenter has claimed World War III has already begun due to western arms support for Ukraine, Liam James reports.

Rossiya 1 presenter Olga Skabeyeva said Russia’s so-called special military operation in Ukraine was over and “a real war has started, World War III”.

Russian state TV claims Nato has started ‘World War 3’

Russia ‘set for deepest recession since Soviet Union collapse’

08:01 , Zoe Tidman

Russia is reportedly set for its deepest recession since the fall of the Soviet Union.

The country is facing a growing number of sanctions over the invasion of Ukraine, with the European Union dealing a further blow this week as it vowed to ban nearly all oil imports.

Moscow’s economy looks set to face a £256bn hit from sanctions, with GDP shrinking 15 per cent this year, according to The Telegraph.

Long-range missile strikes and ‘tightly focused’ ground operations

07:34 , Zoe Tidman

Here is the UK’s latest assessment on the situation in Ukraine:

Russian assault continues in Sievierodonetsk, missile fired in Sumy

06:59 , Arpan Rai

The Ukraine’s armed forces said that the Russia has fired a Su-35 missile at Bilopillya, Sumy oblast.

“Artillery fire damaged in the area of the settlement of Seredyna-Buda, Sumy oblast,” the Ukrainian armed forces said in its latest update on Wednesday morning.

In the Sievierodonetsk direction, “Russian aggressor carried out assault operations in the northern, southern and eastern districts of the city of Severodonetsk,” the armed forces said.

“In the past 24 hours, nine enemy attacks have been repulsed in Donetsk and Luhansk, two tanks, 13 artillery systems, eight armoured fighting vehicles and six enemy vehicles have been destroyed. In the South, in the Kherson and Mykolaiv oblasts, the losses of the Russian occupiers, in addition to military equipment, amounted to about 70 people,” the latest update from the military read.

Family who fled war in Ukraine reunite with dog after eight weeks of quarantine

06:38 , Arpan Rai

A family who was forced to flee Ukraine has been reunited with their dog after he spent two months quarantining in the UK.

Mike, his wife Alla and mother-in-law Valentyna travelled from Kyiv to north-east England with Archie, who helped keep their spirits up on the 2,000-mile journey.

But after arriving in the UK, their pet was quarantined for eight weeks.

“He kept us sane and amused, it felt like he saved us in a way,” Mike said of Archie.

“Because of the quarantine, it felt like we couldn’t save him and we let him down.”

Watch the video here:

Family who fled war in Ukraine reunite with dog after eight weeks of quarantine

Ukraine losing 60-100 soldiers every day in combat, says Zelensky

05:56 , Arpan Rai

Volodymyr Zelensky reiterated the war casualties among his troops and said that the besieged country is losing 60-100 soldiers every day in combat.

“We’re losing 60-100 soldiers per day killed in action and around 500 people wounded in action. So we are holding our defensive perimeters,” Mr Zelensky said, calling Ukraine and its citizens the “defensive perimeter” for the world.

He added that country under invasion is facing the most tense situation in the east of Ukraine and southern Donetsk and Luhansk.

What we’ve learnt in 100 days of war between Ukraine and Russia

05:37 , Arpan Rai

Soon to mark it’s 100th day, the Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has shaken Europe’s post-Second World War order and exposed the complacency of peace with it.

After all, it was the war we were told would never happen, or one which would take just a few days until the rapid surrender of Kyiv.

But on Friday, Russia’s dismal, bloody, stuttering and, ultimately, horrifying invasion of neighbouring Ukraine reaches its grim 100-day mark.

It has changed the widely-held view that Vladimir Putin was some sort of admirable autocrat, instead of the warmongering nationalist he is. His country is still fearsome but his army, once thought of as a machine which could march across Europe in days, is now derided as one which seems as if it will spend its life fighting in the Donbas.

The Independent’s International Editor David Harding writes here:

Editor’s letter: What we’ve learnt in 100 days of war between Ukraine and Russia

Russia’s nuclear forces hold drills, ballistic missile launchers used

05:14 , Arpan Rai

Russia’s nuclear forces held a drill in the Ivanovo province in the northeast part of the country, the Russian defence ministry said, reported Interfax news agency on Tuesday.

This comes shortly after the US announced it will provide Ukraine with advanced rockets.

The ministry said some 1,000 servicemen were engaged in intense manoeuvres and more than 100 vehicles were used including Yars intercontinental ballistic missile launchers.

Ukraine to get advanced rockets from Washington

05:04 , Arpan Rai

The United States has announced it will provide Ukraine with more artillery like advanced rockets in an attempt to bring Moscow on the negotiating table over the conflict.

Ukraine will be armed with more advanced rocket systems and ammunitions so it can “more precisely strike key targets on the battlefield”, Joe Biden said on Tuesday.

In an opinion piece for the New York Times, Mr Biden wrote: “We have moved quickly to send Ukraine a significant amount of weaponry and ammunition so it can fight on the battlefield and be in the strongest possible position at the negotiating table.”

The weaponry provided will include the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), which was dubbed as “crucial” to counter Russian missile attacks by the Ukraine’s armed forces chief.

Over concerns if the latest arms supply to Ukraine could draw Washington into direct conflict with Moscow, a top official from the Biden administration said that Kyiv has given assurances the missiles would not be used to strike inside Russia.

“These systems will be used by the Ukrainians to repel Russian advances on Ukrainian territory, but they will not be used on targets in Russian territory,” the official said.

Situation in Donbas very difficult – Zelensky

04:33 , Arpan Rai

Volodymyr Zelensky cautioned that the situation in Donbas and the whole frontline is “very difficult” as he drummed up support for supplying modern heavy weapons to Ukraine.

“The frontline situation must be assessed comprehensively. Not by one area, where there is the most tough situation and which attracts the most attention, but by the whole frontline,” Mr Zelenksy said.

He added: “The situation in the Donbas direction is very difficult. Severodonetsk, Lysychansk, Kurakhove are now at the epicenter of the confrontation.”

Warning about the existent threats in the region, Mr Zelensky said: “Given the presence of large-scale chemical production in Severodonetsk, the Russian army’s strikes there, including blind air bombing, are just madness. But on the 97th day of such a war, it is no longer surprising that for the Russian military, for Russian commanders, for Russian soldiers, any madness is absolutely acceptable.”

“Of course, everyone in Ukraine wants all our territories, all our people to be liberated today, as soon as possible. The full restoration of the territorial integrity of our state is our goal. But we must act carefully, valuing life,” the Ukrainian president said.

Stating that the ramped up military help can “speed up the victory of Ukraine”, he said “everyone at all levels must now be lobbyists for the supply of modern heavy weapons and modern artillery to our state.”

Ukrainian troops having some success near Kherson, says Zelensky

01:22 , Rory Sullivan

Although Ukrainians are hard-pressed defending the eastern Donbas region against Russian attacks, they are having some success near the Kremlin-controlled city of Kherson in the south, according to Volodymyr Zelensky.

In his late night address on Tuesday, the Ukrainian president said: “Our defenders are showing the utmost courage and remain masters of the situation at the front despite the fact the Russian army has a significant advantage in terms of equipment and numbers.”

Ukraine’s national seed bank threatened by Russian bombs, warns charity

Wednesday 1 June 2022 00:32 , Rory Sullivan

The genetic code for almost 2,000 crops is under threat due to Russian bombing near Ukraine’s national seed bank, a charity has warned.

The Crop Trust, which was set up by the UN, highlighted the risk by saying a research facility near the country’s seed bank was recently damaged.

The site is based in Kharkiv, northeastern Ukraine, which has seen fierce fighting over the last three months.

Ukraine’s seed store, which only has 4 per cent of its seeds backed up, is the tenth largest in the world.

Stefan Schmitz, who runs the Crop Trust, told Reuters: “Seed banks are a kind of life insurance for mankind. They provide the raw materials for breeding new plant varieties resistant to drought, new pests, new diseases, and higher temperatures.

“It would be a tragic loss if Ukraine‘s seed bank were destroyed.”

US to discuss new security assistance for Ukraine ‘before too long’

Tuesday 31 May 2022 23:30 , Rory Sullivan

The US will issue details about potential new security assistance for Ukraine “before too long,” the Biden administration has said.

Speaking on Tuesday, state department spokesperson Ned Price said Washington is concerned by Russian efforts to intituionalize its rule over captured Ukrainian cities like Kherson.

UN hold ‘constructive discussions’ with Russia about food exports

Tuesday 31 May 2022 22:30 , Rory Sullivan

The UN has held “constructive discussions” with the Russian deputy prime minister Andrei Belousov in Moscow about facilitating Russian grain and fertiliser exports.

Rebecca Grynspan, the coordinator of the UN Global Crisis Response Group on Food, Energy and Finance, attended the talks on behalf of the UN.

“The objective of her discussions is focused on facilitating Russian grain and fertilizer to global markets, with the key aim of addressing growing global food insecurity,” a UN spokesperson said.

This comes as Russia has been accused of increasing global hunger by blockading Ukraine’s port. This has prevented the export of millions of tons of grain around the world.

Pope prays for peace in Ukraine and other conflict zones

Tuesday 31 May 2022 21:30 , Rory Sullivan

Returning to Pope Francis once again…

The leader of the Catholic church has led an international prayer calling for peace in war zones like Ukraine.

The 85-year-old pope prayed in Rome as worshippers in countries including Iraq, Syria and Ukraine joined in via video link.

Francis asked Mary to “reconcile hearts that are full of violence and vendetta”.

Germany to help Ukraine by sending IFVs to Greece

Tuesday 31 May 2022 20:45 , Rory Sullivan

Germany will send infantry fighting vehicles (IFV) to Greece so that Athens can send Soviet-style IFVs to Ukraine, the German chancellor Olaf Scholz has said.

“We will provide Greece with German infantry fighting vehicles,” he told reporters in Brussels.

“The defence ministries will work out the details and quickly implement this agreement,” he added, without giving more detail about the deal he struck with the Greek prime minister.

One defence source told Reuters that Berlin would give Athens 100 old Marder IFVs and Greece would send Soviet-style BMP IFVs to Ukraine.

Germany has been criticised for not doing more to help Ukraine with heavier weapons.

Bombing and bloodshed as Russia advances through Donbas

Tuesday 31 May 2022 20:05 , Rory Sullivan

Alexander Levchenko, 43, was burned alive in his fifth floor home after a Russian missile hit his apartment block in the Ukrainian city of Slovyansk.

Four other people are thought to have died and another eight were injured.

Russia continues to pummel Ukrainian cities in the eastern Donbas region as it attempts to capture the territory.

Kim Sengupta reports from Slovyansk in the Donbas:

Residents fear advancing Russian forces as Putin closes in on Donbas

Sievierodonetsk mainly under Russian control, says Ukrainian governor

Tuesday 31 May 2022 19:45 , Rory Sullivan

Russian troops now occupy most of the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk, the governor of Ukraine’s Luhansk province has said.

However, Serhiy Gaidai added that the Kremlin’s forces have not managed to surround the city.

In an online post, he also said that evacuation and aid deliveries were impossible because of Russian shelling.

Pope could meet controversial Russian Orthodox Church leader later this year

Tuesday 31 May 2022 19:00 , Rory Sullivan

Pope Francis will attend a conference in Kazakhstan this summer, where he is likely to meet Patriarch Kirill, the controversial head of the Russian Orthodox Church who has backed Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine.

The pontifex called off a meeting with Kirill in Jerusalem next month over fears of a diplomatic backlash against the Catholic church.

However, the Vatican confirmed that Francis would attend a congress in September in Nur-Sultan. Kirill will be at the same event, according to the Russian Orthodox Church.

“The continuation of peaceful coexistence in the face of contemporary challenges is achievable only through an inclusive and comprehensive dialogue,” the Vatican and Kazakhstan said in a joint statement to mark the 30th anniversary of the start of their diplomatic relations.

Italy’s largest oil refinery could be ‘paralysed’ by EU oil embargo against Russia, says Sicily

Tuesday 31 May 2022 18:24 , Rory Sullivan

The EU’s decision to implement a partial embargo against Russian oil could spell disaster for an Italian oil refinery, the president of Sicily region has said.

Nello Musumeci said the bloc’s ban on seaborne oil imports could paralyse the ISAB plant and cause a local jobs crisis. It is currently Italy’s biggest refinery by capacity.

He urged the Italian government to deal with the issue and called for a meeting.

“There is a deafening silence on the employment catastrophe that could engulf part of the Priolo petrochemical plant, with the embargo and the consequent paralysis of ISAB,” he said in a Facebook post.

As world watches Ukraine, Turkey prepares military move against Syria

Tuesday 31 May 2022 18:00 , Rory Sullivan

With the rest of the world’s attention on Ukraine, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan could launch another military offensive in northern Syria, analysts have said.

This would be the fifth major incursion to take place in six years.

Senior officials and analysts say a campaign against Syrian Kurdish groups is likely to begin soon, with the hopes of it finishing before the Nato summit in Madrid on 29 June.

Borzou Daragahi has more details:

As the world watches Ukraine, Turkey prepares a military move into Syria

Zelensky decries ‘unacceptable’ delay in EU’s partial Russian oil embargo

Tuesday 31 May 2022 17:38 , Rory Sullivan

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has hit out at what it called the EU’s “unacceptable” delay in announcing its latest round of sanctions against Russia.

“When over 50 days have passed between the 5th and 6th sanction packages, the situation is not acceptable for us,” Mr Zelensky said in Kyiv.

The bloc agreed last night to a partial Russia oil ban in response to its invasion of Ukraine.

Kyiv in talks with UN about food exports, says Ukrainian foreign minister

Tuesday 31 May 2022 17:12 , Rory Sullivan

Fears have been growing about the worsening global food crisis, which has been exacerbated by Russia’s blockade of Ukraine’s ports.

Speaking on Tuesday, Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, said his country was discussing ways of shipping grain out safely. If this does not happen, millions of tonnes of cereals could rot.

He did not give any further details.

Ukraine war photos

Tuesday 31 May 2022 16:47 , Rory Sullivan

Eduard Zelenskyy returned to his home near Kyiv to find that it had been destroyed.

One of the latest images to emerge from Ukraine shows him standing where his house once stood.

Eduard Zelenskyy stands outside his destroyed home in Potashnya, near Kyiv (AP)

Eduard Zelenskyy stands outside his destroyed home in Potashnya, near Kyiv (AP)

An aerial view of his home (AP)

An aerial view of his home (AP)

Buses carrying refugees drive past a damaged bridge near Kharkiv (EPA)

Buses carrying refugees drive past a damaged bridge near Kharkiv (EPA)

A soldier takes part in combat drills in Zakarpattia region, western Ukraine (Serhii Hudak/ Ukrinform/Future Publishing via Getty Images)

A soldier takes part in combat drills in Zakarpattia region, western Ukraine (Serhii Hudak/ Ukrinform/Future Publishing via Getty Images)

US ambassador to Kyiv’s ‘thoughts are in the Donbas’

Tuesday 31 May 2022 16:29 , Rory Sullivan

The new US ambassador to Kyiv has said her “thoughts are in the Donbas”, where the Ukrainian army is trying to block fierce Russian attacks.

On a trip to an air field near the capital, Bridget Brink said the fighting in Luhansk and Donetsk – the eastern provinces which make up the Donbas – is “critical right now”.

The Russians now control at least a third of Sievierodonetsk, the last remaining key city in Luhansk in Ukrainian hands.

Navalny says he could be given another 15 years in jail

Tuesday 31 May 2022 16:10 , Rory Sullivan

Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny has said new charges have been brought against him which could extend his prison sentence by up to 15 years.

The opposition leader was recently given a 9-year sentence on top of the two-and-a-half year one he was already serving. Human rights organisations say all the charges – including fraud and contempt of court – have been politically-motivated.

Taking to Twitter on Monday, Mr Navalny said: “Not even eight days have passed since my nine-year high-security sentence came into force, and today the investigator showed up again and formally charged me with a new case.”

“It turns out that I created an extremist group in order to incite hatred towards officials and oligarchs. And when they put me in jail, I dared to be disgruntled about it and called for rallies. For that, they’re supposed to add up to 15 more years to my sentence,” he added.

Denmark to vote on joining EU defence policy

Tuesday 31 May 2022 15:52 , Rory Sullivan

Danish voters will tomorrow vote on whether their country should become part of the EU’s defence policy.

Although Denmark is part of the bloc, it is only the member state yet to have joined the Common Security and Defence Policy.

However, this might change following the security threat posed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Nato will of course remain our most important tool, but the EU gives us another tool in securing our defence in the east,” said Mogens Jensen, defence spokesman for the Social Democrats, the ruling party in Denmark.

If his country decides to participate in the defence policy, its soldiers can take part in EU military operations.

Kristian Soby Kristensen, a senior researcher at Copenhagen University’s Centre for Military Studies, said the step would be more symbolic for the EU than militarily advantageous.

“The political significance will outweigh the military contribution,” he told Reuters.

Macron ‘not excluding anything’ on more sanctions

Tuesday 31 May 2022 15:35 , Matt Mathers

French president Emmanuel Macron said that following a sixth European Union package of sanctions against Russia nothing could be ruled out in terms of additional sanctions in the coming weeks.

Speaking to reporters following an EU summit in Brussels, he also said he hoped that in the next days and weeks an agreement with Russia could be found for Ukrainian food exports, saying that recent talks between the Russian and Turkish presidents on the matter were a “positive sign”.

Sievierodonetsk mayor says Russia destroying city ‘block by block’

Tuesday 31 May 2022 15:20 , Matt Mathers

The eastern Ukrainian city of Sievierodonetsk is being destroyed “block by block”, the town’s mayor said on Tuesday.

Elena Becatoros and Yuras Karmanau report:

Sievierodonetsk mayor says Russia destroying city ‘block by block’

Investor panel to discuss possible Russia ‘credit event’ on Wednesday

Tuesday 31 May 2022 15:06 , Matt Mathers

A panel of investors said on Tuesday it will continue to discuss on 1 June whether missing payment of accrued interest on Russia’s foreign sovereign debt constitutes a “credit event”, which would bring the nation a step closer to a historic default and could trigger insurance payout.

The EMEA Credit Derivatives Determinations Committee said on its website it will meet at 1300 UTC on Wednesday to continue the discussion.

Cutting Russian gas exports key to crippling war effort, Lord Hague says

Tuesday 31 May 2022 14:50 , Matt Mathers

Cutting out Russian exports of gas is key to hampering the Kremlin’s war effort, Lord William Hague has said.

The Tory peer spoke to Times Radio after the EU agreed a partial embargo on Russian oil.

More comments from Hague below:

Ukraine has identified 600 Russian war crime suspects – prosecutor

Tuesday 31 May 2022 14:36 , Matt Mathers

Ukraine has identified more than 600 Russian war crime suspects and has started prosecuting around 80 of them, Kyiv’s top prosecutor said on Tuesday.

The list of suspects includes “top military, politicians and propaganda agents of Russia”, prosecutor general Iryna Venediktova told a news conference in The Hague.

Venediktova said Estonia, Latvia and Slovakia had decided to join an international investigation team in Ukraine, which was originally formed by Ukraine, Lithuania and Poland in March to enable the exchange of information and investigation into suspected war crimes and crimes against humanity.

They are working with the International Criminal Court (ICC), which launched its investigation into possible war crimes in Ukraine in early March.

Eurozone inflation hits 8.1 per cent amid rising energy costs

Tuesday 31 May 2022 14:16 , Matt Mathers

Eurozone inflation hit a record 8.1 per cent in May amid surging energy and food costs fueled in part by Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Annual inflation in the 19 countries that use the euro currency soared past the previous record of 7. 4 per cent reached in March and April, according to the latest numbers published Tuesday by the European Union statistics agency, Eurostat.

Inflation in the eurozone is now at its highest level since recordkeeping for the euro began in 1997.

Russian lawmaker suggests kidnapping NATO defence minister in Ukraine

Tuesday 31 May 2022 13:55 , Matt Mathers

A senior Russian lawmaker has suggested kidnapping a NATO defence minister in Ukraine and bringing them to Moscow for questioning about what “orders” the West has been giving to Kyiv.

Oleg Morozov, first elected to the Russian parliament in 1993 and a member of the dominant United Russia party, said the supply of Western arms to Ukraine posed a direct threat to Russia and might require Moscow to review its military aims.

“You know, perhaps it is a fantastical plot that I have brewing … that in the near future, at some stage, a war minister of some NATO country will go by train to Kyiv to talk with (Ukrainian President Volodymyr) Zelenskiy,” Morozov told the “60 Minutes” talk show on Rossiya-1 state TV late on Monday.

“But he would not get there. And would wake up somewhere in Moscow,” Morozov said.

“You mean we abduct them?” TV host Olga Skabeyeva, one of the most pro-Kremlin journalists on television, asked with a smile.

“Yes. And then we would sort out who gave which order for what, who is responsible for what exactly,” Morozov said. “It is not such a mythical picture … There are new rules in the world now. Let all those war ministers gathering in Kyiv think a little about what it would be like to wake up in Moscow.”

Neither Morozov nor Skabeyeva could be reached for comment.

Russian politician suggests kidnapping Nato defence minister in Ukraine

‘This is turning into another Mariupol’

Tuesday 31 May 2022 13:40 , Matt Mathers

Severodonetsk is “turning into another Mariupol”, a top defence expert has warned.

Professor Michael Clarke of the London School of Economics said between 10,000 to 15,000 civilians remain trapped in the Donbas region city as fighting there intensifies.

Putin’s troops recently took control of Mariupol in the southeast after laying siege to it for months.

The city was razed to the ground by Russian bombs and estimates suggest that at least 3,500 civilians were killed during the bombardment and fighting.

‘They hate us all’, claims former Russian leader in latest sanctions row

Tuesday 31 May 2022 13:25 , Matt Mathers

Western sanctions against Russia are motivated by “hatred”, according to a former Russian president with close links to Vladimir Putin.

My colleague Tom Ambrose reports:

‘They hate us all’, claims former Russian leader in latest sanctions row

Hungary says it has oil security guarantee from Croatia

Tuesday 31 May 2022 13:07 , Liam James

Hungary and Slovakia can rely on Croatia for oil in case of any disruptions to imports from Russia via the Druzhba pipeline, Hungary’s foreign minister said.

European Union leaders gave concessions to Hungary and Slovakia in order to agree an oil embargo on Russia that aims to cut 90 per cent of Moscow’s crude imports into the bloc by the end of this year.

With its embargo the bloc aims to reduce Moscow’s income to finance the war it launched more than three months ago in Ukraine, but it exempted landlocked Hungary because the country relies on the Druzhba pipeline for oil.

Hungarian foreign minister Peter Szijjarto said he had reached a long-term energy security co-operation agreement with Croatia‘s energy minister, whereby Hungary‘s southern neighbour would provide an alternative route for possible additional oil imports, if needed.

“Croatia is ready to provide a route for oil shipments towards Hungary, should they become necessary,” Szijjarto said, adding that Hungarian energy group MOL would start talks with Croatian officials later today.

Russia’s Lavrov to meet Gulf counterparts in Saudi Arabia

Tuesday 31 May 2022 12:53 , Liam James

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov will visit Saudi Arabia tomorrow to meet foreign ministers from Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, two Gulf officials said on Tuesday.

He will meet ministers from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain.

The focus of the talks was not clear, although the officials said the six Gulf ministers would also hold an online meeting with Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba later on Wednesday. They declined to give details.

Mr Lavrov’s visit will take place a day before a meeting in Vienna of Opec+, an oil alliance that includes Gulf producers and Russia. Opec+ is set to stick to last year’s deal that will see another modest monthly output increase by the group in July.

Saudi Arabia and other members of Opec have so far resisted pressure from the United States to boost crude output more sharply to prices which have rocketed higher, partly due to the Ukraine crisis.

Gulf states have stayed neutral in the Russia-Ukraine conflict despite western calls to help isolate Moscow. Oman’s foreign minister said in remarks published by his ministry on Saturday that the crisis required a European solution.

‘There are new rules now’: Russian MP suggests kidnapping Nato defence minister

Tuesday 31 May 2022 12:32 , Liam James

A senior Russian parliamentarian has suggested the Kremlin kidnap a Nato defence minister in Ukraine and bring them to Moscow for questioning on the “orders” western powers have been giving to Kyiv.

Oleg Morozov, first elected to the Russian parliament in 1993 and a member of the dominant United Russia party, said the supply of western arms to Ukraine posed a direct threat to Russia and might require Moscow to review its military aims.

Appearing on the 60 Minutes talk show on Rossiya-1 state TV late on Monday, Mr Morozov suggested intercepting a Nato defence minister as they travel to Kyiv by train.“And then we would sort out who gave which order for what, who is responsible for what exactly,” he said.

“It is not such a mythical picture … There are new rules in the world now. Let all those war ministers gathering in Kyiv think a little about what it would be like to wake up in Moscow.”

A succession of Western politicians have visited Kyiv to show solidarity with Ukraine while Nato members have kept up a supply of weapons to the Ukrainian army throughout the war.

Russia has repeatedly warned that western arm supplies risk escalating the war.

Czech ministry summons Russian ambassador over diplomatic property use doubts

Tuesday 31 May 2022 12:07 , Matt Mathers

The Czech foreign ministry summoned Russia’s ambassador on Tuesday to express concerns about the use of Russian diplomatic properties.

The Czech Republic expelled around 100 Russian embassy last year in a diplomatic row over Prague’s accusations of Russian involvement in a 2014 explosion at an arms depot, and the government has been one of the toughest against Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.

“Diplomatic missions on the territory of a foreign state must respect not only the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, but also the rules and laws of the host country,” foreign minister Jan Lipavsky said in a statement.

“Russia does not do this and does not respect the rule of law,” the ministry’s statement added, without providing further details.

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