Biden calls US allies to ‘coordinate’ support for Ukraine

US President Joe Biden called key allies on Tuesday to “coordinate” support for Ukraine, the White House said. Western allies have raised concerns on the subject after Republican hardliners in Congress derailed US funding for Kyiv. The news came as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited frontline areas in eastern Ukraine. Read our liveblog to see how the day’s events unfolded. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).

This liveblog is no longer being updated. For more of our coverage on the war in Ukraine, please click here.

8:18pm: Russia summons Moldova ambassador in media row

Moscow on Tuesday summoned Moldova‘s ambassador to protest against what it called “politically-motivated persecution” of Russian-language media in the pro-Western country.

In mid-September, Moldova expelled the country chief of Russia’s state news agency Sputnik, accusing the outlet of spreading “propaganda and disinformation”.

The Russian foreign ministry said in a statement on Tuesday that the expulsion of Moldova’s Sputnik bureau chief was part of an ongoing campaign of “politically motivated persecution” of Russian-language media in Moldova.

Moscow said that a number of people who are involved in restricting “freedom of speech and the rights of Russian journalists in Moldova” will be banned from entering the country.

8:15pm: Russia says it shot down Ukrainian missile off Crimea coast

The Russian Defence Ministry said on Tuesday evening it had shot down a Ukrainian missile off the Crimea coast.

According to the statement, Russian air defence systems downed a Ukrainian Neptun missile over the north-western part of the Black Sea off the coast of the Crimean peninsula.

7:50pm: US aid for Ukraine to last ‘couple of months’ without funding, White House says

US aid for Ukraine‘s fight against Russia will run out in “a couple of months” if Republican hardliners fail to pass new funds for Kyiv, the White House said Tuesday.

“You’re talking perhaps a couple of months or so, roughly,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told a briefing.

7:30pm: White House warns ‘time is not our friend’ on Ukraine aid

The White House warned on Tuesday that time is running out to fund Ukraine‘s fight against Russia’s invasion, after hardline Republicans in Congress blocked US aid for Kyiv.

“Time is not our friend. We have enough funding authorities to meet Ukraine’s battlefields needs for a bit longer, but we need Congress to act,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said.

President Joe Biden told US allies in a call earlier Tuesday that he was “confident that we’re going to continue to have bipartisan and bicameral support” for aid, Kirby added.

6:50pm: Ukraine’s troops advance on southern front, top general says

One of Ukraine’s top generals said on Tuesday that his forces were advancing in the south, one of two theatres of their counteroffensive to evict Russian occupation forces, but offered few details of their gains.

“In the Tavria sector, there has been an advance by the defence forces,” General Oleksander Tarnavskyi said in a post on Telegram, using the military’s name for the southern front.

Tarnavskyi, head of the southern group of forces, said troops had conducted 1,198 assignments in the past 24 hours, with Russian forces sustaining losses of 261 men and a further 10 being taken prisoner.

The General Staff of the Ukrainian armed forces, in its evening report, said offensive operations were proceeding in the east and south, with little elaboration.

It reported Russian air strikes in southeastern Zaporizhzhia region, the focus of the drive south to the Sea of Azov. The report also said Ukrainian forces had repelled Russian attacks in areas of Donetsk region already recaptured by Kyiv and around the long-contested town of Maryinka further west.

Military analysts have spoken in the past week of Ukrainian forces consolidating positions around the village of Verbove on their southward drive.

5:59pm: PM Sunak reaffirms UK support to Ukraine

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told G7 and NATO leaders on Tuesday that Britain was prepared to support Ukraine with military, humanitarian and economic assistance “for as long as it takes,” his office said in a readout of a call.

“He (Prime Minister Rishi Sunak) outlined the UK’s ongoing military, humanitarian and economic assistance to Ukraine and stressed that this support will continue for as long as it takes,” a Downing Street spokesperson said in a statment.

US President Joe Biden convened the call amid concerns that support for Kyiv’s war effort against Russia was fading, especially in the United States, where Congress excluded aid to Ukraine from an emergency bill to prevent a partial government shutdown.

5:11pm: Biden assured partners of continued support for Ukraine, Poland’s Duda says

United States President Joe Biden assured leaders of G7 and European states of Washington’s continued support for Ukraine during a video conference, the Polish president said on Tuesday.

“He assured us that support for aid given to Ukraine continues, especially military aid. He said he would secure this support in Congress,” Andrzej Duda told a news conference.

4:50pm: Biden calls US allies on support for Ukraine, White House says

President Joe Biden called key allies on Tuesday to “coordinate” support for Ukraine, the White House said, amid concerns in Western capitals after Republican hardliners derailed US funding for Kyiv.

“President Biden convened a call this morning with allies and partners to coordinate our ongoing support for Ukraine,” the White House said in a statement, adding that it would give details of the call later.

3:06pm: Two more vessels head to Ukrainian Black Sea port of Odesa, local lawmaker says

Two vessels sailing under the flags of the Marshall Islands and Cameroon are heading towards the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Odesa, a local Ukrainian lawmaker reported on Tuesday.

The lawmaker, Oleksiy Honcharenko, did not provide any details other than names – EQUATOR and MARANTA – but posted images of vessels on the Telegram messaging app.

A senior member of the government said on Sunday that five other ships were on their way to Ukrainian Black Sea ports using a new corridor opened for predominantly agricultural exports following Russia’s decision to quit a UN-brokered wartime deal on safe shipments.

2:01pm: Ukraine’s Zelensky visiting eastern front line

President Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday said that he was visiting frontline areas in eastern Ukraine where Russian forces have been pressuring Kyiv’s forces.

“Today we are visiting our brigades performing combat missions in one of the hottest areas (of the front) – Kupiansk-Lyman,” Zelensky said in a statement on social media.

12:05pm: Russia vows no new mobilisation

“There are no plans for an additional mobilisation” of Russian men to fight in Ukraine as more than 335,000 have signed up so far this year to fight in the armed forces or voluntary units, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu told top generals in a meeting broadcast on state television Tuesday.

“The armed forces have the necessary number of military personnel to conduct the special military operation,” he said, adding that, since the start of the year, “more than 335,000 people have entered military service under contract and in volunteer formations”.

In September alone, more than 50,000 people signed up, he said.

Putin ordered a “partial mobilisation” of 300,000 reservists in September last year, prompting hundreds of thousands of young men to flee Russia to avoid being sent to fight.

Putin has repeatedly said there is no need to repeat the mobilisation, which some Russian officials say was a mistake as it prompted so many to leave.

11:57am: Ukraine moves toward flexible currency to improve economy

Ukraine’s central bank said it would allow controlled currency fluctuations starting Tuesday, easing wartime restrictions to boost the economy.

At the beginning of the war Kyiv suspended all currency trading, and set a fixed exchange rate to defend its currency – the hryvnia – and stabilise the markets.

“The National Bank of Ukraine is implementing managed exchange rate flexibility, which will strengthen the stability of the foreign exchange market and the economy,” the central bank said in a statement.

With inflation slowing down and international reserves “sufficiently high for a long time” it said the time was now right to act.

The hryvnia had been pegged at around 29 to the dollar at the beginning of the war, but it devalued in July 2022 to around 36.

11:33am: Russia’s Gazprom says European energy security system unstable

Russian energy giant Gazprom said on Tuesday that Europe, which used to be its main source of revenue, is short of natural gas and may face challenges, more than a year after the Nord Stream pipelines were damaged by mysterious blasts.

Gazprom’s gas exports almost halved last year to 100.9 billion cubic metres (bcm) due to political fallout with Europe over Ukraine and after the undersea Nord Stream pipelines, the largest single gas exporting route for Russia to European market, were blown up in September 2022.

“The fact that the systemic deficit has not gone away is manifested not only by the higher price level in 2023 compared to the pre-Covid years, but also by the persistence of a stable contango in the natural gas market,” Sergei Komlev and Alexander Shapin, Gazprom’s senior managers, said in an inhouse magazine.

Contango is a market structure in which longer-dated futures trade at a premium that encourages traders to keep the commodity in storage for more profitable resale in the future.

“This price behaviour means that, according to market participants, the energy security system in Europe, built in an emergency mode, is unstable and faces new challenges,” the Gazprom managers said.

11:31am: Ukraine aims to borrow $700 million from World Bank to support agriculture

Ukraine’s government started talks with the World Bank on Tuesday on a $700 million loan for emergency support to the agricultural sector this year and next, the farm ministry said.

The funds were required for small farmers and agricultural and food producers, the ministry said in a statement on the Telegram messaging app.

The agricultural sector is a key driver for Ukraine’s economy but has been hit hard by Russia’s invasion.

11:30am: Kyiv, Warsaw agree to speed up Ukrainian grain transit

Warsaw and Kyiv announced on Tuesday they had agreed to speed up the transit of Ukrainian cereal exports through Poland to third countries, a first step in resolving their “grain war”.

The three-nation agreement between Poland, Ukraine and Lithuania means that Ukrainian grain exports – destined for markets in Africa and the Middle East in particular – will be taken directly through Poland instead of first being checked at the Poland-Ukraine border.

“From tomorrow, grains that transit (to world markets) via Lithuania will undergo checks at a Lithuanian port and not at the Poland-Ukraine border,” Polish Agriculture Minister Robert Telus told journalists.

After Russia’s invasion prevented Ukraine using its traditional Black Sea routes to export grain to world markets, the crops were sent by land through the European Union. But because of logistical issues, grain began piling up in EU states neighbouring Ukraine and driving down local prices.

Brussels allowed several countries to impose a temporary embargo on Ukrainian grains.

But when it ended those restrictions, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia extended the ban, causing a diplomatic spat between Kyiv and its allies.

7:44am: Ukraine downs 29 Russia-launched drones, one cruise missile

Ukraine has destroyed 29 of 31 drones and one cruise missile launched by Russia overnight, most of them targeting the regions of Mykolaiv and Dnipropetrovsk, its air force said.

The attacks came in several waves and lasted more than three hours.

6:50am: Ukraine shells Russian village with cluster munitions, Russian official says

Ukraine has fired cluster munitions at a Russian village near the Ukrainian border, damaging several houses, the governor of Russia’s Bryansk region said.

According to preliminary information, there were no casualties in the shelling of the village of Klimovo, Governor Alexander Bogomaz said on the Telegram messaging app.

The governor’s statement, which was made without providing any visual evidence, could not immediately be independently verified.

There was no immediate comment from Ukraine.

Ukraine has received cluster munitions from the United States, but has pledged to use them only to dislodge concentrations of enemy soldiers.

Russian officials in Bryansk and other regions bordering Ukraine have repeatedly accused Kyiv of an indiscriminate shelling by Ukraine’s armed forces.

3:44am: US aid cuts would be ‘devastating’ for Ukraine soldiers, experts say

Ukraine’s troops would soon run short of essential ammunition and equipment if Republican hardliners succeed in stopping US military aid, undermining operations on the ground and reducing their ability to defend against Russian strikes, experts say.

Top American officials have repeatedly insisted the United States would back Kyiv for “as long as it takes”, and Washington has committed more than $43 billion in security aid since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022 – over half the total from all Western donors.

But Republican opposition led Congress to remove new funding for Ukraine from a recent compromise bill to avoid a US government shutdown, highlighting that continued American support is not guaranteed.

“It would be devastating for the Ukrainians” if US aid is halted, said Mark Cancian, a senior advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

1:50am: Ukraine to build first underground school in Kharkiv, says official

Ukraine’s eastern metropolis of Kharkiv will build the country’s first fully underground school to shield pupils from Russia’s frequent bomb and missile attacks, the city’s mayor said.

“Such a shelter will enable thousands of Kharkiv children to continue their safe face-to-face education even during missile threats,” Mayor Ihor Terekhov wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

While many schools in the frontline regions have been forced to teach online throughout the war, Kharkiv has organised some 60 separate classrooms throughout its metro stations before the school year that started September 1, creating space for more than 1,000 children to study there.

Key developments from Monday, October 2:

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Monday told a joint press briefing with Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba that he had proposed a new €5 billion bilateral envelope to Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told a meeting of all 27 EU foreign ministers in Kyiv that victory “directly depends on our cooperation”.

Ukrainian grain exports have fallen to 6.68 million metric tons so far in the 2023/24 July-June season from 8.99 million tons in the same period of 2022/23, according to agriculture ministry data.

Read yesterday’s live blog to see how the day’s events unfolded.

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Second Ukraine wheat shipment reaches Turkey despite Russian threats

A second shipment of Ukrainian wheat reached Turkey via the Black Sea on Sunday, according to maritime traffic monitoring sites, despite Russian threats to attack boats heading to or from its neighbour and enemy. Read our blog to see how the day’s events unfolded. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).

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1:51pm: Russian airstrikes kill two people, wound three more in southern Ukraine

Russian airstrikes on Sunday killed two people and wounded three others in southern Ukraine’s Kherson province, the region’s governor reported Sunday as the war in Ukraine entered its 20th month.

According to Governor Oleksandr Prokudin, Russian forces struck the city of Beryslav, destroying an unspecified number of private homes. A woman was killed and three people were wounded, including a police officer, he said.

Another airstrike also killed a 67-year-old man in the village of Lvove, Prokudin said, without specifying the type of weapons used in the attack.

Both of the communities hit are located in the Ukrainian-controlled part of the Kherson region, where the Dnipro River that bisects the province has marked a battle line since Russian troops withdrew across it in November 2022, a retreat that boosted the invaded country’s morale.

12:26pm: Putin critic Kara-Murza brought to Siberian penal colony

Russian opposition politician Vladimir Kara-Murza, jailed for 25 years on treason charges and for denouncing Moscow’s Ukraine offensive, has arrived to serve his sentence at a maximum-security Siberian prison, his lawyer said Sunday.

Kara-Murza – a dual Russian-British citizen – was handed the unprecedentedly long sentence in April, with international leaders and supporters calling for his release.

“Vladimir Kara-Murza has been brought to the Omsk maximum security penal colony IK-6 to serve his punishment,” his lawyer Vadim Prokhorov said on Facebook. “He was straight away placed in an isolation cell.”

Omsk is located some 2,700 kilometres (1,670 miles) east of Moscow.

11:42am: Russian-installed head of Donetsk imposes five-hour curfew

The Russian-installed head of the Russian-annexed Ukrainian region of Donetsk has imposed a curfew, according to a decree published on Sunday.

Denis Pushilin banned the presence of civilians on streets and public places from 11pm until 4am on Mondays-Fridays, according to the decree.

The decree forbade assemblies, rallies and demonstrations as well as other mass events in Russian-controlled parts of the Donetsk region unless they were permitted by the Operational Headquarters for Military Threat Response in Donetsk People’s Republic.

The decree signed by Pushilin on September 18 introduced “military censorship of postal mail and messages transmitted via telecommunications systems as well as control of telephone conversations”.

Among other steps entailed by Pushilin’s order was the establishment of checkpoints and security posts at borders with the Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia regions.

10:51am: Ukrainian drone strikes Russia’s Kursk, says official

A Ukrainian drone strike hit an administrative building in the centre of Russia‘s southern Kursk city, authorities said Sunday.

Kyiv has targeted Russian cities with almost daily attacks in recent months of Moscow’s 19-month offensive.

Kursk is situated around 90 kilometres (50 miles) from the border with Ukraine.

“In Kursk, a Ukrainian drone attacked an administrative building in the central district,” governor Roman Starovoyt said on Telegram. “The roof was slightly damaged. Employees of the emergency services are working at the scene.”

Last month, a Ukrainian drone strike damaged Kursk’s railway station, leaving five people injured and causing significant damage.

Both Russia and Ukraine report regular drone incursions as Kyiv presses a counteroffensive aimed at reclaiming Russian-held territory.

10:18am: Ukraine’s Zelensky says he met top businessmen during US visit

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Sunday he met leading American entrepreneurs and financiers during a visit this week to the United States, where investment opportunities in Ukraine were discussed.

Zelensky said the businessmen, who included Michael Bloomberg, Larry Fink and Bill Ackman, were prepared to make major investments in rebuilding Ukraine after its war with Russia.

“The American entrepreneurs and financiers confirmed their readiness to make large-scale investments in our country immediately after the end of the war and the receipt of security guarantees,” he posted on Telegram, along with photos of the meeting. “We are working for the victory and reconstruction of Ukraine.”

On a trip to the US and Canada this week, Zelensky sought continued military and financial support for Kyiv’s effort to fend off Russia’s 19-month-old invasion.

7:02am: Second Ukraine wheat shipment reaches Turkey, according to tracking sites

A second shipment of Ukrainian wheat reached Turkey via the Black Sea on Sunday, according to maritime traffic monitoring sites, despite Russian threats to attack boats heading to or from its neighbour and enemy.

The Palau-flagged bulk carrier Aroyat – laden with 17,600 tonnes of wheat – left the port city of Chornomorsk on Friday bound for Egypt.

Ukraine is testing a new sea route that avoids using international waters and follows those controlled by NATO members Bulgaria and Romania, following Russia’s withdrawal from a UN-backed grain export deal.

According to the websites Marine Traffic and Vessel Finder, the Aroyat was at the southern exit of the Bosphorus Strait at 0300 GMT on Sunday.

It was to head towards the Dardanelles Strait to reach the Mediterranean.

A first ship loaded with 3,000 tonnes of wheat, and also flying the flag of Palau, left Chornomorsk without incident on Tuesday and arrived in Istanbul on Thursday.

Key developments from Saturday, September 23:

Ukraine on Saturday said dozens of people including senior Russian navy commanders died or were injured when it staged a missile attack on Moscow’s Black Sea Fleet headquarters in the Crimean port of Sevastopol a day earlier.

Kyiv’s army has broken through Russian lines in southern Ukraine, the general leading the counteroffensive there told US media Saturday, in the latest Ukrainian claims that it is making progress in the Zaporizhzhia area.

Read yesterday’s liveblog to see how the day’s events unfolded.

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Deadly Russian strike hits blood transfusion centre, says Zelensky

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky Saturday said Russian forces struck a blood transfusion centre in northeast Ukraine. The news came shortly after a Russian missile attack reportedly hit an aeronautics manufacturing facility in western Ukraine. Earlier, Ukrainian drones in the Kerch Strait hit a Russian tanker, briefly halting traffic on the strategic bridge linking Crimea to Russia’s mainland. Read our live blog to see how all the day’s events unfolded. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).

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10:05pm: Deadly Russian strike hits Ukraine blood transfusion centre, says Zelensky

Russian forces struck a blood transfusion centre in the Kharkiv region of northeast Ukraine, the country’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said Saturday, adding that “dead and wounded are reported”.

A “guided air bomb” hit the centre in Kupiansk, a city a few dozen kilometres from the Russian border, Zelensky said on social media, adding that “rescuers are extinguishing the fire”.

8:08pm: Russian missile strike hits Ukraine aeronautics firm, says Zelensky

A Russian missile strike on Saturday hit a facility of the Ukrainian aeronautics group Motor Sich, one of several companies requisitioned by the government since Moscow’s invasion, President Volodymyr Zelensky said.

“Today there was another Russian missile attack against our country. Kinzhals, Calibers. They hit Motor Sich”, Zelensky said in his evening address.

The firm’s facility is located near Khmelnytskyi in western Ukraine, around 300 kilometres (190 miles) southwest of Kyiv.

6:29pm: Turkish foreign minister discusses Black Sea grain initiative with Blinken

Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan discussed in a call with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken the revival of Black Sea grain initiative, a Turkish foreign ministry source said on Saturday.

The two top diplomats also discussed a normalisation process between Azerbaijan and Armenia, the security of the Black Sea and NATO enlargement during the call, the source said.

6:04pm: Russia vows to punish Ukraine for tanker attack near Crimean Bridge, says foreign ministry

Russia strongly condemns what it regards as a Ukrainian “terrorist attack” on one of its civilian vessels in the Kerch Strait and will respond and punish those responsible, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Saturday.

A Ukrainian sea drone full of explosives struck a Russian fuel tanker overnight near a bridge linking Russia to annexed Crimea, the second such attack in 24 hours, both sides said on Saturday.

5:05pm: Russia dispatches fighter jet to intercept US drone over Black Sea, says defence ministry

Russia said Saturday it scrambled an Su-30 fighter jet to “prevent a violation of the Russian state border” by a US Reaper MQ-9 military drone over the Black Sea.

“As the Russian fighter approached, the foreign reconnaissance drone performed a U-turn,” the Russian defence ministry said, adding “the Russian aircraft returned safely to its airbase, there was no violation of the border”.

1:04pm: Russia says it seized settlement in northeast Ukraine

Russia on Saturday said it captured a settlement in northeastern Ukraine, where Kyiv has reported increased attacks.

“In the area of Kupiansk, as a result of the competent and professional actions of the military units of the Western command, the settlement of Novoselivske was liberated,” the Russian defence ministry said on Telegram.

11:30am: Ukraine security source confirms Ukrainian drone hit Russian tanker last night

Ukraine carried out a drone strike on a Russian tanker in the Kerch Strait, a source in the security service told AFP Saturday, a day after one of Moscow’s ships was hit in the Black Sea.

“Overnight the (Ukrainian Security Service) SBU blew up the ‘SIG’, a large oil tanker of the Russian Federation that was transporting fuel for Russian troops,” the security source said.

It added that the “successful special operation”, which involved a naval drone and explosives, was carried out jointly with the Navy on Ukrainian territorial waters.

The source described the targeted vessel as “one of the most powerful oil tankers of the Russian Federation”.

“It was well-loaded with fuel, so the ‘fireworks’ could be seen from afar,” the source added.

6:54am: Russian tanker hit by Ukrainian drones

A Russian tanker was damaged in an attack by Ukrainian drones in the Kerch Strait, briefly halting traffic on the strategic bridge linking Crimea to Russia’s mainland, a government agency and Russian media reported early Saturday.

The tanker SIG suffered a hole at the waterline in the area of the engine room, “presumably as a result of an attack by a marine drone”, the Federal Agency for Sea and Inland Water Transport said on Telegram. “The ship is afloat.”

An oil boom had been placed around the vessel and preparations were under way to patch the damage, it said.

The Marine Traffic vessel-tracking website showed the SIG stationary and attended by tugs just south of the strait.

The chemical tanker is under US sanctions for supplying jet fuel to Russian forces in Syria supporting President Bashar al-Assad.

The state RIA Novosti news agency said there were no casualties in the attack, citing the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre of Novorossiysk.

Traffic on the bridge across the Kerch Strait linking the Moscow-annexed Crimean peninsula to Russia was halted for around three hours and resumed early Saturday, according to the highways information centre’s Telegram channel.

6:07am: Ukraine expects difficult but successful talks in Saudi Arabia

Talks starting in Saudi Arabia this weekend to find a peaceful settlement to end Russia’s war in Ukraine will be difficult, but Kyiv is counting on persuading more countries to back its peace formula, the head of Kyiv’s delegation said on Friday.

Ukraine and its allies hope the meeting in Jeddah of national security advisers and other senior officials from some 40 countries  but not Russia  will agree on key principles on how to end Russia’s war in Ukraine.

“I expect that the conversation will be difficult, but behind us is truth, behind us  goodness,” Andriy Yermak, head of President Volodymyr Zelensky‘s office and his key envoy for the talks, said late on Friday in a television interview published on his Telegram messaging app.

The forum excludes Russia, but the Kremlin said it will “keep an eye” on the meeting. China, which has firm ties with Russia, said on Friday it will send Special Envoy for Eurasian Affairs Li Hui for the talks.

“We have many disagreements and we have heard different positions, but it is important that our principles are shared,” he said.

Key developments from Friday, August 4:

Russia‘s defence ministry said on Friday that it had thwarted an overnight drone attack by Ukraine on Novorossiysk, a Russian naval base on the Black Sea. A Ukrainian intelligence official told Reuters that a Russian vessel was damaged in the attack, although the regional governor had earlier stated that there had been no damage or casualties.

NATO member Lithuania announced on Friday that it would be closing two of its six border crossings with Belarus amid concerns over the presence of Wagner mercenaries there.

Read yesterday’s liveblog to see how the day’s events unfolded.

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Russia-Ukraine war | What to expect from peace talks in Saudi Arabia?

The story so far: Saudi Arabia is set to host Ukraine, the U.S., some European countries and major developing countries including India and Brazil for peace talks on the Russia-Ukraine war on August 5 and 6 in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah. The development was first reported by the Wall Street Journal earlier this week, noting that top officials from up to 30 countries, excluding Russia, had been invited for the talks where Ukraine is seeking to garner support for its 10-point peace plan proposed last year.

Has the time for effective peace negotiations on Russia-Ukraine come?

While Russia has shown no signs of retreating from the frontlines in its now 17-month-old military operation against neighbour Ukraine, the latter also seems keen on fighting it out on the battlefield on the back of its retaking of the key cities Kherson and Kharkiv last fall. It also has its military position currently strengthened by the billions of dollars worth of arms and equipment flowing in from Europe and the U.S., where President Joe Biden reiterated last month that he would provide Ukraine with defence funding for “as long as it takes”.

Notably, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in May that he did not think peace negotiations in the Ukraine war were “possible at this stage”, when both sides were “convinced that they can win”. Analysts, too, are near unanimous in saying that they do not envision effective peace talks that could end the conflict in the near future.

While both Ukraine and Russia have signalled their openness to talk on global platforms, they squarely reject what peace would look like for the other. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy continues to hold his position that peace negotiations cannot happen without the withdrawal of Russian troops and that Ukraine should be in the driver’s seat and define its own terms of peace. The 10-point peace plan that Mr. Zelenskyy is promoting since last year’s G-20 Summit — involves the withdrawal of Russian troops and restoring Ukraine’s territorial integrity as per its 1991 borders post the breakdown of the Soviet Union and reaffirming it according to the UN Charter, besides prosecuting war crimes committed by Russia. Russia, which has rejected the plan and is unwilling to cede any of the captured territory in Ukraine has said, meanwhile, that any negotiation should happen factoring in “new realities”, indicating redrawn borders including the territories it has annexed.

Status of the Russia-Ukraine war into 500 days of the conflict. Information source: OHCHR, UN, UNHCR, World Bank, Pentagon papers
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Graphic by Graphic News

In a bid to placate countries that have not imposed sanctions against it and continue to be non-aligned trade partners, Moscow has publically shown willingness to come to the negotiating table, putting the blame on Ukraine for the continuing conflict. Russian President Vladimir Putin said in December 2022, that was “ready to negotiate with everyone involved” on an acceptable solution, it was Kyiv that was was “refusing” to talk.

A January paper by the RAND Corporation on the trajectory of the current conflict outlines impediments that have historically made ending wars difficult, which indicate why the possibility of real peace negotiations may not be so close. First is when both states disagree about their prospects for victory. While Ukraine remains optimistic about its counteroffensives banking on the West’s support, Mr. Putin continues his fight with a fifth of Ukranian territory captured and a future mobilisation looming as he remains largely unopposed back home.

Analysts also point out other hindrances to current peace negotiations; while some countries have suggested a ceasefire, Ukraine does not trust Russia to uphold it, also believing that any break from the battlefield would give Russia time to recoup and come back it more force. Before any sort of negotiated end to the conflict, Ukraine is also demanding a long-term security plan from the West or NATO, keeping in mind that Russia would continue to be its neighbour, while the latter’s rationale behind launching the offensive was the extension of military alliances in its neighbourhood.

What kind of negotiations have taken place so far?

In the initial weeks of the conflict which started in February last year, the two parties engaged in talks for temporary ceasefires for creating humanitarian corridors. Direct negotiations on peace (which first happened in Belarus and Turkey) between the two have not happened since May last year, where the prospect of Ukraine never seeking NATO membership was discussed. Talks broke down as evidence of war atrocities in Ukraine and Russian attacks on civilians began to mount. Since then, the International Criminal Court at the Hague has issued an arrest warrant against Mr. Putin.

Besides, Russia, recently pulled out of the Black Sea Grain Deal brokered by Turkey and the UN after a year. The deal, which allowed the movement of 32.9 million metric tonnes of foodgrains from Ukraine through a safe corridor, was the one negotiation which was seen as fairly effective, even though a sizeable portion of grains were shipped to China and high-income countries.

Since last year, however, multiple countries and blocs have shown willingness to become mediators between the two parties, offering their own roadmaps for peace. While no plan has yet been accepted by both Russia and Ukraine, it has highlighted strategic attempts at mediation by influential players in other parts of the globe as the West’s current position remains that of supporting Kyiv militarily.

What is the peace plan proposed by China?

In February this year, China came out with a 12-point plan for the “political settlement of the Ukraine crisis”. While the Chinese Foreign Ministry promoted it as the launch of a peace initiative by Beijing, it was seen as an attempt to placate criticism of its silence on Russia’s actions, as a repetition of its already expressed positions on the war and as skewed in favour of Moscow. While Kyiv outrightly rejected the proposal, Russia has said that it could serve as a “basis for the basis of some processes aimed at the search for peace”, but had some provisions, like a ceasefire, that were “impossible” to implement.

The plan reiterated China’s support for territorial integrity of states and the UN Charter, condemned using of nuclear power in wars, and called for the ceasing of hostilities and resumption of talks. However, it also called for “abandoning cold war mentality”, adding that security should not be achieved by expanding military alliances, pointing towards NATO and the West. The plan was seen favouring Russia as it also called for countries to stop “abusing” unilateral sanctions.

A March paper by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace notes that the vague nature of China’s plan reflects its varied interest. First, Beijing squarely expressed support for territorial integrity factoring in its position on Taiwan and other border issues with countries like India. Besides its strategic and economic ties with Russia, Beijing has also been a beneficiary of the conflict as Russia is once again seen as its junior power, relying on it for diplomatic support in the face of the West and for helping its economy by buying goods amid Western sanctions. China’s position paper was also seen as an attempt to position itself as a responsible power in the Global South and the UN security council, as the only member who worked on initiating a peace process.

What about the peace initiatives proposed by Africa and others?

In June, leaders of seven African countries, led by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, visited Russia and Ukraine with a 10-point proposal which suggested the recognition of Russia and Ukraine’s sovereignty, and the release of prisoners. It also called for keeping the exports of foodgrains unhindered; for a de-escalation of fighting, and for peace negotiations between the two sides to start at the earliest.

Notably, the war has meant rising inflation and a shortage of grain and fertilizers for many countries in the African continent, which import these products from Ukraine and Russia respectively. As per the African Development Bank, the conflict is directly responsible for a shortage of about 30 million tonnes of grain in Africa. The plan was also seen as an attempt at peace by African countries who have not outrightly condemned Russia and abstained from UN resolutions against it.

Meanwhile, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva earlier suggested that he could lead a “peace club” of countries who are not involved in the war and are militarily non-aligned, to broker discussions between the two sides. The leader, whose efforts were seen as an attempt to bring Brazil back to global relevance after the divisive Jair Bolsonaro regime, drew criticism from Ukraine and the West, as he also suggested that the West was prolonging the conflict by supplying arms to Kyiv. He suggested earlier that the decision to start war was “made by two countries,” appearing to place some blame on Ukraine.

Indonesian Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto also proposed last month, a ceasefire “at present positions” and demilitarised zones that would be guaranteed by observers and United Nations peacekeeping forces. He also suggested an eventual “referendum in the disputed areas” organised by the UN. He drew criticism from the EU, which said that peace in the Ukraine conflict had to be “just”, and not a “peace of surrender”.

What is known about the upcoming talks in Jeddah?

The United Kingdom, EU, South Africa, and Poland have already confirmed their attendance for the talks. The U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan is also likely to attend.

The head of Ukraine’s Presidential Office, Andriy Yermak said that Kyiv was trying to get as many countries involved in a meeting in Saudi Arabia about implementing Ukraine’s 10-point plan “to restore lasting and just peace”. Russia, which had rejected the plan, does not appear to be among those invited to the Jeddah talks. Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that Russia would follow the meeting closely to understand its goals, adding that any attempt to promote a “peaceful settlement deserves a positive evaluation”. He added, however, that Kyiv did not want peace if it was being “used exclusively as a too in the war of the collective West with Russia”.

While observers are not expecting an overall breakthrough from the talks when it comes to achieving peace in protracted conflict, it is being seen as a constructive way of promoting third-party mediation by players apart from the West, and of bringing to the table both the West non-aligned countries of the Global South, which have refused to isolate Russia. Notably, Saudi Arabia maintains close ties with Moscow and is a part of the influential oil cartel OPEC+. It has also drawn criticism for cutting oil outputs and driving out prices at a time when supplies from Russia face sanctions.

The New York Times pointed out that Saudi Arabia’s decision to host the talks also appears to be a part of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s posturing as a global leader who can wield influence beyond his region. Last year, Saudi Arabia helped broker the return of 10 foreign nationals captured by Russia.

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Russia says West ‘responsible for death of Russian journalist’ in Ukraine

Moscow on Saturday said the West is “responsible” for the death of a Russian war correspondent killed in Ukrainian shelling in the southern Zaporizhzhia region on Saturday. Earlier, the Russia-installed leader of Crimea said a Ukrainian drone attack on the peninsula had caused the “detonation” of an ammunition depot, leading to the evacuation of those living within 5km of the site. Read our live blog to see how all the day’s events unfolded. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).

This live page is no longer being updated. For more of our coverage of the war in Ukraine, click here

9:52pm: Zelensky asked for NATO-Ukraine Council meeting over Black Sea grain issue

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Saturday he had asked the head of NATO to convene a meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Council to discuss security in the Black Sea, particularly the operation of a corridor for Ukrainian grain exports.

Russia this week pulled out of the UN–backed grain corridor deal, saying Western countries had ignored its demands to ensure Moscow’s food and fertiliser exports.

Russia said ships heading to Ukraine’s Black Sea ports could be considered military targets.

8:45pm: Rail traffic in Crimea resumes after Ukrainian attack

Rail traffic has resumed in Crimea after having been suspended earlier Saturday following a Ukrainian attack on an ammunition depot, the pro-Russian authorities announced.

“Rail traffic… has resumed” in the district where the attack took place, the Moscow-installed governor of Crimea Sergey Aksyonov announced on Telegram.

6:23pm: West ‘responsible’ for death of Russian journalist in Ukraine, says Moscow

The death of a Russian journalist in Ukraine was “a heinous, premeditated crime” committed by Western powers and Kyiv, Russia’s foreign ministry said Saturday, vowing a “response” against those to blame.

Earlier the Russian military announced that Rostislav Zhuravlev, a war correspondent working for the state RIA Novosti news agency, had been killed in a Ukrainian strike in the southern Zaporizhzhia region on Saturday.

The agency also reported his death, saying he was killed near the frontline village of Pytikhatki.

3:25pm: Russian war correspondent killed in south Ukraine, says army

A Russian war correspondent working for the state RIA Novosti news agency, Rostislav Zhuravlev, was killed in a Ukrainian strike in the southern Zaporizhzhia region on Saturday, the military announced.

“As a result of a strike by the Ukrainian army using cluster munitions, four journalists were wounded in various levels of severity,” the Russian army said in a statement. “During an evacuation, the RIA Novosti journalist Rostislav Zhuravlev died from his wounds that resulted from the cluster munitions exploding.”

The defence ministry did not provide evidence for its claim that Ukraine had used cluster munitions in the incident. FRANCE 24 has not been able to verify it independently.

3:20pm: Zelensky says discussed ‘unblocking’ grain corridor with NATO chief

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky discussed the “unblocking” of the Black Sea grain corridor with NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg on Saturday after Moscow exited a crucial deal to ensure the safe passage of ships.

“We shared assessments of the current situation in the Black Sea and the risks it poses for global food security,” Zelensky said on Twitter after a phone call with Stoltenberg. “We also identified with Mr Stoltenberg the priority and future steps necessary for unblocking and sustainable operation of the Black Sea grain corridor.”

2:39pm: Poland summons Russian ambassador over Putin’s remarks

Poland‘s foreign ministry Saturday issued an “urgent” summons to the Russian ambassador to protest what Warsaw termed “provocative declarations” by President Vladimir Putin.

Putin had Friday accused Warsaw of harbouring territorial ambitions in western Ukraine, an oft-repeated Russian claim, as well as by Belarus, a close Moscow ally which Putin on Friday promised to protect from possible attack.

Overseeing a national security council meeting, Putin also claimed that Polish western territories were a post-World War II “gift” from former Soviet leader Joseph Stalin.

Polish deputy foreign minister Pawel Jablonski said the Russian ambassador was summoned following “provocative declarations by Russian President Vladimir Putin, as well as (following) threats and other inimical actions by the Russian Federation with regard to Poland and our allies”.

2:18pm: Ukraine shelling kills journalist, wounds three near front line

 A war correspondent for Russia‘s RIA news agency was killed and three other Russian journalists were wounded by shelling near the front line in Ukraine’s southeastern Zaporizhzhia region on Saturday, Russia’s defence ministry said.

The ministry said that Ukraine launched an artillery strike on the journalists using cluster munitions.

FRANCE 24 was not able to immediately verify the defence ministry’s account.

12:41pm: Bulgaria agrees to send heavy military equipment to Ukraine for first time since the invasion

Bulgaria has agreed to provide the Ukrainian army with some 100 armored personnel carriers, marking a turnaround in its policy on sending military equipment to the country to aid Kyiv’s battle against the Russian invasion.

The parliament in Sofia late Friday approved by 148 votes to 52 the government’s proposal to make the first shipment of heavy military equipment to Ukraine since the beginning of the war.

“This equipment is no longer necessary for the needs of Bulgaria, and it can be of serious support to Ukraine in its battle to preserve the country’s independence and territorial integrity after the unjustified and unprovoked Russian aggression,” the Parliament’s decision said.

The Soviet-made armored vehicles were delivered in the 1980s to Bulgaria – then an ally of the Soviet Union in the Warsaw Pact.

Bulgaria, which joined NATO in 2004, still maintains stocks of Soviet-designed weapons and has numerous factories making ammunition for them.

12:40pm: French diplomat says China delivering ‘kind of military equipment’ to Russia

French President Emmanuel Macron‘s diplomatic adviser said China was delivering items to Russia that could be used as military equipment that in turn could be used in its war in Ukraine.

“There are indications that they are doing things we would prefer them not to do,” said Emmanuel Bonne during a rare public address Thursday at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado, which is being broadcast.

When asked what he was referring to, he said it was the delivery of “kind of military equipment”.

“As far as we know, they are not delivering massively military capacities to Russia,” he added.

A French diplomatic source told AFP that the adviser referred to the “possible deliveries of dual-use technologies”, both civilian and military.

The West has urged Beijing not to deliver arms to Russia for its war in Ukraine.

While they have regularly said there is no evidence to that effect, they are concerned about the possibility of Chinese firms delivering technology that could be used by Russians on the battlefield in Ukraine.

Claiming to be neutral in the conflict, China has called for respect for sovereign states, including Ukraine, but has never publicly condemned the military operation carried out in Ukraine by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

11:59am: Ukraine drone attack on Crimea caused ‘detonation of ammo depot’, say local authorities

A Ukrainian drone attack on Moscow-annexed Crimea caused the “detonation” of an ammunition depot Saturday, the Moscow-installed leader of the peninsula said, ordering the evacuation of people living within five kilometres of the attack and halting rail traffic.

The attack came five days after the only bridge linking annexed Crimea to Russia was hit, killing two people.

Crimea, annexed by Moscow in 2014, has been targeted throughout Russia’s Ukraine offensive but has come under increasing attack in recent weeks.

“As a result of an enemy drone on the Krasnogvardeisky district, there was a detonation at an ammunition depot,” official Sergei Aksyonov said on Telegram. He did not specify which location was hit, saying only it was in the Krasnogvardeisky district, which lies inland at the centre of the Black Sea peninsula.

Aksyonov also said train traffic will be stopped on the peninsula.

11:12am: Russian governor says Kyiv used cluster munitions on border village

Ukraine has hit the Russian border village of Zhuravlevka in the western Belgorod region with cluster munitions on Friday, the Belgorod governor said Saturday.

“In the Belgorod region, 21 artillery shells and three cluster munitions from a multiple rocket launcher were fired (by the Ukrainian army) at the village of Zhuravlevka,” governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said on Telegram, referring to attacks the previous day.

10:41am: Crimean bridge traffic resumes after brief closure, say local authorities

Road traffic on the bridge linking Russia to the Crimean peninsula has resumed after being briefly suspended on Saturday, an official Telegram channel said.

It did not state the reason for the road closure.

10:22am: Ukraine launched attempted drone attack on Crimea, official says

Ukraine launched attempted drone attack Ukraine attempted to launch a drone attack on the Crimean peninsula on Saturday, the region’s Russian-installed governor, Sergei Aksyonov, said.

He said the attack targeted infrastructure in the district of Krasnohvardiiske, near the centre of the peninsula, without providing detail.

“Emergency workers are on the spot to eliminate possible consequences,” he said.

9:43am: Traffic on Crimean Bridge ‘temporarily blocked’, authorities say

Road traffic on the bridge linking Russia to the Crimean peninsula has been temporarily blocked, an official Telegram channel said on Saturday.

“Those on the bridge and in the inspection area are asked to remain calm and follow the instructions of transportation security officers,” it said.

No reason for the halting of traffic was stated.

Explosions on the Crimean Bridge on Monday killed two civilians and put part of the road bridge out of service, which had only recently returned to full operation after being severely damaged in a similar attack in October

Key developments from Friday, July 21:

The United States plans to announce as soon as Tuesday a new military aid package for Ukraine worth up to $400 million, primarily comprised of artillery, air defence missiles and ground vehicles as Ukraine’s counteroffensive grinds on, three US officials said on Friday.

A prominent Russian hardliner who accused President Vladimir Putin of weakness and indecision in Ukraine was detained Friday on charges of extremism, a signal the Kremlin has toughened its approach with hawkish critics after last month’s abortive rebellion by the Wagner mercenary group.

Russia‘s attacks on Ukrainian Black Sea ports risk “having far-reaching impacts on global food security, in particular, in developing countries”, the United Nations political affairs chief told the Security Council on Friday.

Read yesterday’s liveblog to see how the day’s events unfolded.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and Reuters)

© France Médias Monde graphic studio

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Ukraine accuses Russia of destroying major dam near Kherson, warns of widespread flooding

The wall of a major dam in a part of southern Ukraine that Moscow controls collapsed on June 6 after a reported explosion, sending water gushing downriver and prompting dire warnings of ecological damage as officials from both sides in the war ordered residents to evacuate.

Ukraine accused Russian forces of blowing up the dam and hydroelectric power station, while Russian officials blamed Ukrainian military strikes in the contested area.

The fallout could have far-reaching consequences: flooding homes, streets and businesses downstream; depleting water levels upstream that help cool Europe’s largest nuclear power plant; and draining supplies of drinking water to the south in Crimea, which Russia illegally annexed.

The dam break added a stunning new dimension to Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine, now in its 16th month. Ukrainian forces were widely seen to be moving forward with a long-anticipated counteroffensive in patches along more than 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) of frontline in the east and south of Ukraine.

It was not immediately clear whether either side benefits from the damage to the dam, since both Russian-controlled and Ukrainian-held lands are at risk of flooding. The damage could also potentially hinder Ukraine’s counteroffensive in the south, while at the same time Russia depends on the dam to supply water to the Crimea region it annexed illegally in 2014.

A general view of the Nova Kakhovka dam that was breached in Kherson region, on Ukraine June 6, 2023 in this screen grab taken from a video obtained by Reuters.
| Photo Credit:

Amid official outrage, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he convened an urgent meeting of the National Security Council. He alleged that Russian forces set off a blast inside the dam structure at 2.50 a.m. (2350 GMT) and said some 80 settlements were in danger.

Ukraine’s nuclear operator Energoatom said in a Telegram statement that the damage to the dam “could have negative consequences” for the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, which is Europe’s biggest, but wrote that for now the situation is “controllable.”

The U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency said in a statement there was “no immediate risk to the safety of the plant,” which requires water for its cooling system.

It said that IAEA staff on site have been told the dam level is falling by 5 centimeters (2 inches) an hour. At that rate, the supply from the reservoir should last a few days, it said.

The plant also has alternative sources of water, including a large cooling pond than can provide water “for some months,” the statement said.

Ukrainian authorities have previously warned that the dam’s failure could unleash 18 million cubic meters (4.8 billion gallons) of water and flood Kherson and dozens of other areas where hundreds of thousands of people live.

The World Data Center for Geoinformatics and Sustainable Development, a Ukrainian nongovernmental organization, estimated that nearly 100 villages and towns would be flooded. It also reckoned that the water level would start dropping only after five-seven days.

A total collapse in the dam would wash away much of the broad river’s left bank, according to the Ukraine War Environmental Consequences Working Group, an organization of environmental activists and experts documenting the war’s environmental effects.

Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky, said that “a global ecological disaster is playing out now, online, and thousands of animals and ecosystems will be destroyed in the next few hours.”

Villages ordered to evacuate

Videos posted online began testifying to the spillover. One showed floodwaters inundating a long roadway; another showed a beaver scurrying for high ground from rising waters.

The Ukrainian Interior Ministry called for residents of 10 villages on the Dnipro’s right bank and parts of the city of Kherson downriver to gather essential documents and pets, turn off appliances, and leave, while cautioning against possible disinformation.

The Russian-installed mayor of occupied Nova Kakhovka, Vladimir Leontyev, said it was being evacuated as water poured into the city.

Damaged buildings are seen as the Nova Kakhovka dam was breached in Kherson region, Ukraine on June 6, 2023 in this screen grab taken from a video obtained by Reuters

Damaged buildings are seen as the Nova Kakhovka dam was breached in Kherson region, Ukraine on June 6, 2023 in this screen grab taken from a video obtained by Reuters
| Photo Credit:

Ukraine controls five of the six dams along the Dnipro, which runs from its northern border with Belarus down to the Black Sea and is crucial for the entire country’s drinking water and power supply.

Oleksandr Prokudin, the head of the Kherson Regional Military Administration, said in a video posted to Telegram shortly before 7 a.m. that “the Russian army has committed yet another act of terror,” and warned that water will reach “critical levels” within five hours.

Ukraine’s state hydro power generating company wrote in a statement that “The station cannot be restored.” Ukrhydroenergo also claimed that Russia blew up the station from inside the engine room.

Leontyev, the Russian-appointed mayor, said Tuesday that numerous Ukrainian strikes on the Kakhovka hydroelectric plant destroyed its valves, and “water from the Kakhovka reservoir began to uncontrollably flow downstream.” Leontyev added that damage to the station was beyond repair, and it would have to be rebuilt.

Ukraine and Russia have previously accused each other of targeting the dam with attacks, and last October Mr. Zelensky predicted that Russia would destroy the dam in order to cause a flood.

Authorities, experts and residents have for months expressed concerns about water flows through — and over — the Kakhovka dam.

In February, water levels were so low that many feared a meltdown at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, whose cooling systems are supplied with water from the Kakhovka reservoir held up by the dam.

By mid-May, after heavy rains and snow melt, water levels rose beyond normal levels, flooding nearby villages. Satellite images showed water washing over damaged sluice gates.

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Zelensky makes surprise visit to Paris for talks on Ukraine’s urgent needs

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made a surprise visit to Paris for talks Sunday night with French President Emmanuel Macron, extending a multi-stop European tour that has elicited fresh pledges of military support as his country gears up for a counteroffensive against Russian occupation forces. The two leaders will discuss Ukraine’s military and humanitarian needs. Follow our blog to see how the day’s events unfolded. All times are Paris time (GMT+1).

This live blog is no longer being updated. For more of our coverage on the war in Ukraine, please click here.

05:00am: Top Chinese envoy to visit Ukraine, Russia on ‘peace’ mission

A top Chinese envoy will begin a tour of Ukraine, Russia and other European cities on Monday in a trip Beijing says is aimed at discussing a “political settlement” to the Ukraine crisis.

Li Hui, China’s special representative for Eurasian affairs and former ambassador to Russia, will also visit Poland, France,Germany on the multi-day trip, the foreign ministry announced Friday without providing a detailed schedule.

“The visit … is a testament to China’s efforts towards promoting peace talks, and fully demonstrates China’s firm commitment to peace,” foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a daily briefing.

03:34am: Ukraine says captured over ‘ten enemy positions’ in Bakhmut

Kyiv said Sunday that Ukrainian forces had captured more than ten Russian positions on the outskirts of the frontline city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine.

“Today our units have captured more than ten enemy positions in the northern and southern outskirts of Bakhmut,” Deputy Defence Minister Ganna Malyar said on social media.

“Enemy soldiers of various units have been captured,” she said.

“Anyone who knows the real situation and is there now understands the gravity of what is happening,” Malyar added.

03:00am: Wagner head offered to reveal Russian troop locations to Ukraine

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner mercenary force, offered to reveal the position of Russian troops to the Ukranian government, the Washington Post reported on Sunday, citing leaked US intelligence documents.

Wagner’s soldiers have been at the forefront of a bloody Russian offensive to take the city of Bakhmut. In exchange for Ukraine withdrawing its soldiers from the area, Prigozhin in January offered to tell its intelligence service the positions of Russian forces, the Post reported.

The paper said Ukraine rejected the offer.

12:57am: France promises Ukraine more light tanks, armoured cars

France on Monday announced dozens more light tanks and armoured vehicles for several battalions of Ukraine’s army, together with training for the soldiers using them.

In their joint statement, French President Emmanuel Macron and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky also called for fresh sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

12:02am: G7 leaders to target Russian energy, trade in new sanctions steps

Leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) nations plan to tighten sanctions on Russia at their summit in Japan this week, with steps aimed at energy and exports aiding Moscow’s war effort, said officials with direct knowledge of the discussions.

New measures announced by the leaders during the May 19-21 meetings will target sanctions evasion involving third countries, and seek to undermine Russia’s future energy production and curb trade that supports Russia’s military, the people said.

Separately, US officials also expect G7 members will agree to adjust their approach to sanctions so that, at least for certain categories of goods, all exports are automatically banned unless they are on a list of approved items.

Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said last month a G7 move to ban exports to the country would cause Moscow to terminate a Black Sea grain deal that enables vital exports of grain from Ukraine.

7:32pm: Ukraine’s Zelensky makes surprise visit to Paris for talks with French President Macron

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made a surprise visit to Paris for talks Sunday night with French President Emmanuel Macron, extending a multi-stop European tour that has elicited fresh pledges of military support as his country gears up for a counteroffensive against Russian occupation forces.

France dispatched a plane to pick up Zelensky in Germany, where he met Chancellor Olaf Scholz earlier Sunday. Macron’s office said the two leaders will hold talks over dinner and that Macron will “reaffirm France and Europe’s unwavering support to reestablish Ukraine in its legitimate rights and to defend its fundamental interests.”

They’ll also discuss Ukraine’s military and humanitarian needs and “the more long term perspectives for a return to peace in Europe,” Macron’s office said. FRANCE 24 journalist Carys Garland provides more information below:

6:19pm: Russia becoming a vassal of China amid Ukraine war, says Macron

Russia has “already lost geopolitically” its war in Ukraine war and is effectively becoming a vassal state of China, French President Emmanuel Macron said in an interview published Sunday.

“De facto, it has entered a form of subservience with regards to China and has lost its access to the Baltic, which was critical, because it prompted the decision by Sweden and Finland to join NATO,” Macron told the Opinion newspaper.

“This was unthinkable just two years ago. So it’s already a geopolitical defeat,” Macron said ahead of a visit to Paris by Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky later Sunday.

5:33pm: Ukraine says captured over ‘ten enemy positions’ in Bakhmut, says ministry

Kyiv said on Sunday that Ukrainian forces have captured more than ten Russian positions on the outskirts of the frontline city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine.

“Today our units have captured more than ten enemy positions in the northern and southern outskirts of Bakhmut,” Deputy Defence Minister Ganna Malyar said on social media. “Enemy soldiers of various units have been captured.”

“Enemy soldiers of various units have been captured,” she said.

“Anyone who knows the real situation and is there now understands the gravity of what is happening,” Malyar added.

5:27pm: Ukraine fighting for European values, freedom, says EU chief

The Ukrainian people are fighting for European freedom and values, EU chief Ursula von der Leyen said Sunday at a ceremony in Germany where President Volodymyr Zelensky received the prestigious Charlemagne prize for fostering European unity.

“President Zelensky and the people of Ukraine are fighting for the values and the obligation that this prize embodies,” von der Leyen said.

“And in doing so, they are also fighting for our own freedom and our values. Democracy and the rule of law, free speech and the freedom to create your own destiny.”

5:02pm: War shows Ukraine is ‘part of European family’, says Scholz

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky (L) and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz shakes hands before being awarded the International Charlemagne Prize of Aachen 2023 on May 14, 2023 in Aachen, western Germany.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky (L) and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz shakes hands before being awarded the International Charlemagne Prize of Aachen 2023 on May 14, 2023 in Aachen, western Germany. © Federico Gambarini, AFP

Russia’s war in Ukraine has made clear that the country is “part of our European family”, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Sunday at an award ceremony honouring President Volodymyr Zelensky for services to European unity.

“All across Europe, the war has cemented one clear realisation: Ukraine is part of our European family,” Scholz said at the award ceremony for the Charlemagne prize in the German city of Aachen, where Zelensky was in attendance.

“Russia’s war of aggression has brought the European Union and Ukraine closer than ever before,” Scholz added.

4:14pm: Ukraine’s Zelensky expected in Paris later on Sunday, French media

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky is expected to arrive in Paris later on Sunday, BFM TV, Le Figaro and Agence France Presse reported.

Le Figaro said Zelensky would be greeted at the Vélizy-Villacoublay airport by French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne and French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna.

Officials at the French presidential office could not be immediately reached for comment on the reports.

12:45pm: Ukraine ‘not attacking Russian territory’, Zelensky says

Ukraine has no plans to attack targets inside Russia, President Volodymyr Zelensky said in Berlin on Sunday after receiving a huge new military aid package ahead of an expected counter-offensive.

“We are not attacking Russian territory,” Zelensky told reporters in Berlin. “We have neither the time nor the strength to do so and we have no weapons left with which to do so. We are preparing a counterattack to de-occupy the illegitimately conquered territories,” he added.

12:44pm: Russia says two military commanders killed in east Ukraine

Russia said Sunday that two of its military commanders had been killed in combat near the frontline hotspot of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine.

In a rare announcement of its losses on the battlefield, the Russian defence ministry said in a statement that the commander of the 4th motorised rifle brigade, Vyacheslav Makarov, and Yevgeny Brovko, deputy commander of the Army Corps for military-political work, had been killed in fighting in eastern Ukraine.

12:40pm: Zelensky urges Germany to back fighter jet deliveries

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday urged Germany to back its bid to obtain fighter jets from the West, as it eyes a counter-offensive against Russia’s invasion.

During a visit to Berlin, Zelensky said he would broach the issue with Chancellor Olaf Scholz, adding that “this is not an easy question”.

“We’re now working on creating a coalition of fighter jets… Today I will appeal to the German side to support Ukraine in this coalition,” he said.

12:28pm: Ukraine troops, Western arms targeted in strikes, Russia says

Moscow said Sunday that Russian forces had struck Western arm depots and Ukrainian troops in the western city of Ternopil and the eastern town of Petropavlivka.

Russia’s armed forces “delivered a strike with high-precision long-range air and sea-based weapons at the points of deployment of the Ukrainian armed forces,” the defence ministry said in a statement carried by Russian news agencies.

“Places of storage of ammunition, weapons and military equipment received from Western countries” were also struck, it said.

12:18pm: Ukraine ready for peace but cannot mean freezing conflict, Scholz says

Ukraine is ready for peace but that cannot mean freezing the conflict and accepting a deal dictated by Russia, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in a joint news conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday.

“Russia has to pull back its troops, it will not work any other way,” Scholz said during Zelensky’s first visit to Germany since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

11:53am: Berlin will support Ukraine ‘as long as needed’, Scholz tells Zelensky

Germany will support Ukraine as long as needed, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Sunday as President Volodymyr Zelensky visited Berlin for the first time since Russia’s invasion.

“I have said it many times, and I repeat it here today: we will support you for as long as it is necessary,” Scholz said during a joint press conference.

10:52am: Zelensky lauds Germany as ‘true friend and reliable ally’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday thanked Berlin for its backing in Kyiv’s battle against Moscow troops, calling Germany a “true friend” during his first visit since Russia’s invasion.

“In the most challenging time in the modern history of Ukraine, Germany proved to be our true friend and reliable ally, which stands decisively side-by-side with the Ukrainian people in the struggle to defend freedom and democratic values,” he wrote in the guestbook at the German president’s official residence.

8:56am: Zelensky meets President Steinmeier at start of Germany visit

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday met his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier, on his first trip to Germany since Russia’s invasion.

Zelensky signed the guestbook at the Bellevue Palace, before heading into talks with Steinmeier. He is expected to meet Chancellor Olaf Scholz later Sunday.

Zelensky’s visit comes as he seeks further arms deliveries to help his country fend off the Russian invasion, and funds to rebuild what’s been destroyed by more than a year of devastating conflict.

8:53am: Ukraine repels latest overnight drone and missile attack

Ukrainian forces intercepted and destroyed three missiles and 25 drones overnight in the latest aerial attack on the country since the beginning of May, Ukraine‘s air force said on Sunday.

Russia has increased the number of missile and drone attacks this month, which Kyiv attributes to Moscow’s fear of an expected Ukrainian counteroffensive.

Russia “attacked Ukraine from different directions with Shahed attack drones, Kalibr missiles from ships in the Black Sea, (and) cruise missiles from Tu-95 strategic aircraft,” the air force said in a statement.

At least two people were injured in the western region of Ternopil, a senior Ukrainian presidential official said on the Telegram messaging app.

Ukrainian authorities do not report hits on critical infrastructure or military facilities.

1:04am: Ukraine’s Zelensky arrives in Germany for visit

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced his arrival in Berlin for an official visit Sunday, having flown out of Rome following meetings with Pope Francis and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.

“Already in Berlin,” he wrote on Twitter. “Weapons. Powerful package. Air defense. Reconstruction. EU. NATO. Security.”

  • Key developments from Saturday, May 13:

While on a visit to Rome on Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he met with Pope Francis in the Vatican and thanked him for focusing on the plight of millions of Ukrainians after the Russian invasion. Zelensky also met with Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who promised Italy’s full support to Ukraine in its efforts to repel Russia’s “brutal and unjust aggression”.

Zelensky announced on Saturday that he would be travelling to Germany on Sunday to meet with leaders of Europe’s top economy, a government source in Berlin told AFP. The trip comes just after Berlin said it was preparing a new weapons package worth €2.7 billion ($3 billion) for Kyiv, including tanks, armoured vehicles and air-defence systems.

Read yesterday’s live blog to see how the day’s events unfolded.

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Russia acknowledges retreat north of Bakhmut as Ukraine claims advances

Moscow acknowledged on Friday that its forces had fallen back north of Ukraine’s battleground city of Bakhmut after a new Ukrainian offensive, in a retreat that the head of Russia’s Wagner private army called a “rout”. The rare acknowledgement came after Ukraine said its forces had made significant advances around the embattled eastern city, which has been the epicentre of fighting with Russia for months. Read our live blog to see how all the day’s events unfolded. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).

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8:48pm: South Africa says US ambassador apologised following Russia allegations

South Africa‘s foreign ministry said in a statement on Friday the US ambassador to South Africa, Reuben Brigety, had “admitted that he crossed a line” and “apologised unreservedly” after he said a Russian ship had picked up weapons in South Africa last year, causing a diplomatic uproar on Thursday.

Following the US ambassador’s statements, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said he would appoint an independent inquiry to look into the allegations.

6:15pm: Moscow acknowledges retreat north of Bakhmut, Wagner boss calls it a ‘rout’

Moscow has acknowledged that its forces have fallen back north of Bakhmut, in the latest report of Ukrainian advances around the battleground city.

Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said Ukraine had launched an assault north of Bakhmut with more than 1,000 troops and up to 40 tanks, a scale that if confirmed would amount to the biggest Ukrainian offensive since November.

The Russians had repelled 26 attacks but troops in one area had fallen back to regroup in more favourable positions near the Berkhivka reservoir northwest of Bakhmut, Konashenkov said.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner forces that have led the campaign in the city, said in an audio message: “What Konashenkov described, unfortunately, is called ‘a rout’ and not a regrouping”.

In a separate video message, Prigozhin said the Ukrainians had seized high ground overlooking Bakhmut and opened the main highway leading into the city from the West.

“The loss of the Berkhivka reservoir – the loss of this territory they gave up – that’s 5 sq km, just today,” Prigozhin said.

4:10pm: UK ‘disappointed’ at Eurovision ban on Zelensky message

The UK government has hit out at European broadcasters for banning a message by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at this weekend’s Eurovision final, for fear of politicising the event.

The English city of Liverpool is hosting Saturday’s musical extravaganza on behalf of last year’s winner, Ukraine, and has decked out its streets in yellow and blue.

But the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) said “strict rules” prevented it from granting the Ukrainian leader’s request to speak by video, arguing the contest is “non-political”.

“The prime minister believes it would be fitting for President Zelensky to address the event, and we’re disappointed by the decision from the European Broadcasting Union,” Rishi Sunak‘s spokesman said. “The values and freedoms that President Zelensky and the people of Ukraine are fighting for are not political, they’re fundamental.”

3:05pm: Russian police launch anti-drone unit following Kremlin incident

Police in the Russian city of St. Petersburg have created a new anti-drone unit to detect unmanned aerial vehicles following a purported drone attack on the Kremlin earlier this month.

The unit launched on May 9 during the annual World War Two Victory Day celebrations on St. Petersburg’s Palace Square, the city’s interior ministry has said.

Its purpose is to “ensure the protection of public order” during large public events, Roman Uvarov, the department’s head, said in a video message.

The unit will include officers armed with sniper rifles and carbines, groups trained to neutralise unmanned aerial vehicles, and mobile patrols to detain those suspected of operating drones.

1:25pm: Russia staves off Ukrainian advances along 95 km front near Bakhmut

Russia said Friday it had repelled Ukrainian attacks along a 95-kilometre (60 mile) stretch of front near the symbolic city of Bakhmut, as an anticipated Ukrainian offensive looms.

“In the tactical direction of Soledar, the enemy yesterday carried out offensive operations along the entire line of contact, which is more than 95 kilometres long,” the defence ministry said, adding that Ukraine had deployed “more than 1,000 military personnel and up to 40 tanks”.

“All the attacks of the units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine have been repelled,” the defence ministry added.

1:07pm: Zelensky to meet Italian president in Rome on Saturday

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is expected in Rome on Saturday for talks with his Italian counterpart, an official told AFP Friday, with a meeting with Pope Francis also possible.

“We confirm that this meeting will take place tomorrow,” a spokesman for Italian President Sergio Mattarella said when asked about reports of a meeting with Zelensky.

It would be the first visit by Zelensky to EU and NATO member Italy since Russia’s invasion in February 2022.

11:58am: Black Sea grain deal renewal issue remains unresolved, Kremlin says

The Kremlin said on Friday that there was nothing new to report after talks on possible renewal of the Black Sea grain deal in Istanbul and that a potential conversation between the leaders of Turkey and Russia would not help clinch an agreement.

In a call with reporters, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that only full implementation of the deal would facilitate its renewal.

Turkey’s Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said earlier on Friday that parties to the Black Sea grain pact were nearing a deal to extend it.

10:52am: Ukraine’s Zelensky banned from adressing Eurovision contest

This weekend’s Eurovision Song Contest will have Ukrainian flags, Ukrainian musicians and Ukrainian fans  but not the country’s wartime leader.

Organisers rejected a request from President Volodymyr Zelensky to make a video address to the final of the pan-continental music competition on Saturday. He was expected to urge the world continue its support for Ukraine’s fight to repel Russian invasion.

The European Broadcasting Union, which runs Eurovision, said that letting Zelensky participate would breach “the nonpolitical nature of the event”.

9:45am: China to send special envoy to Ukraine, Russia

China will send a special envoy to Ukraine, Russia and other European nations from Monday, Beijing said on Friday, to discuss a “political settlement” to the war in Ukraine.

“From May 15, Ambassador Li Hui, special representative of the Chinese government for Eurasian Affairs, will visit Ukraine, Poland, France, Germany and Russia to communicate with all parties on the political settlement of the Ukrainian crisis,” foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a regular press conference.

9:28am: Ukraine claims it has advanced two kilometres in Bakhmut

Ukraine said Friday that its forces had made significant advances around the embattled city of Bakhmut in the eastern Donetsk region, which has been the epicentre of fighting with Russia for months.

“The enemy has suffered great losses of manpower. Our defence forces advanced two kilometres (around one mile) near Bakhmut. We did not lose a single position in Bakhmut this week,” Deputy Defence Minister Ganna Malyar said in a statement on social media.

1:30am: Russia denies reports of Ukrainian breakthroughs along front lines

Russia’s defence ministry on Thursday denied reports that Ukrainian forces had broken through in various places along the front lines and said the military situation was under control.

Moscow reacted after Russian military bloggers, writing on the Telegram messaging app, reported what they said were Ukrainian advances north and south of the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, with some suggesting a long-awaited counteroffensive by pro-Kyiv forces had started.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had earlier said the offensive had yet to start.

“Statements circulated by individual Telegram channels about ‘defence breakthroughs’ that took place in different areas along the line of military contact do not correspond to reality,” the Russian defence ministry said in a Telegram post.

“The overall situation in the area of the special military operation is under control,” it said in a statement, using the Kremlin’s description of the war in Ukraine.

The fact the Russian ministry felt obliged to release the statement reflects what Moscow acknowledges is a “very difficult” military operation.

  • Key developments from Thursday, May 12:

Britain on Thursday became the first country to begin supplying Ukraine with long-range cruise missiles, which will allow Kyiv’s forces to hit Russian troops and supply dumps deep behind the front lines.

Meanwhile Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said his country’s military needed more time to prepare an anticipated counteroffensive aimed at opening a new chapter in the war.

Officials from Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the United Nations on Thursday discussed recent UN proposals on a deal allowing the safe Black Sea export of Ukraine grain, which Moscow has threatened to quit on May 18 over obstacles to its own grain and fertiliser exports.

Read yesterday’s live blog to see how the day’s events unfolded

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Wagner threatens Bakhmut pullout over ammunition spat with Russian army

Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of Russian paramilitary group Wagner, on Friday threatened to pull his fighters from the front line in Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine starting May 10, saying ammunition shortages meant they faced “senseless death”. Russia has incurred significant losses in Bakhmut since starting its offensive there in August. Follow our blog to see how the day’s events unfolded. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).

This live blog is no longer being updated. For more of our coverage on the war in Ukraine, please click here.

5:55pm: Russian court orders arrest of theatre director, says state media

A Moscow court on Friday ordered the arrest of theatre director Yevgeniya Berkovich on charges of “justifying terrorism” over an award-winning play about Russian women recruited online to marry radical Islamists in Syria.

The RIA Novosti news agency said the court ordered her to remain in custody until July 4. The case has sent shockwaves through the Russian arts community and comes as Moscow cracks down on dissent during its Ukraine campaign.

4:22pm: Kyiv and most Ukrainian regions announce air alerts

Ukraine’s capital Kyiv and most Ukrainian regions announced air alerts on Friday, officials said.

The number of air alerts has risen sharply in recent days, and Kyiv along has issued six alerts in the last three days warning of Russian attacks.

3:28pm: Russia orders partial evacuation near Ukraine front line

Russia on Friday ordered the evacuation of families with children and of the elderly from Russian-held frontline areas in southern Ukraine because of an increase in shelling from the Ukrainian side.

“In the past few days, the enemy has stepped up shelling… There will be a temporary evacuation” from 18 villages and towns, the Russian-installed head of the Zaporizhzhia region, Yevgeny Balitsky, wrote on social media.

2:41pm: Funeral held in Ukraine for American killed in action

Soldiers from the International Legion of Ukraine said farewell Friday to an American military veteran they served with, who was killed a month ago in the fierce struggle to prevent the eastern city of Bakhmut from falling into Russian hands.

In a funeral service at Kyiv’s St. Michael’s Cathedral, Ukrainian regular army troops bore the Ukrainian-flag-draped coffin of Chris Campbell while about three dozen members of the International Legion looked on. After folding the flag, they presented it to Ivanna Sanina, Campbell’s Ukrainian wife.

The Florida native is one of least nine Americans now known to have been killed in fighting in Ukraine, including another last month in Bakhmut.

2:09pm: Ukraine says Russia deploying Wagner fighters to Bakhmut from along front line

A senior Ukrainian official said on Friday Russia was bringing Wagner mercenary fighters from along the front line to Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine, and that Moscow wanted to capture the city in time for its May 9 celebrations of Soviet Victory Day.

“The Russians are inclined towards symbolism and their key historic myth is May 9 and they really have set the objective of taking control of Bakhmut by this date,” Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar said on Ukrainian television.

“We are now seeing them pulling (fighters) from the entire offensive line where the Wagner fighters were, they are pulling (them) to the Bakhmut direction,” she said.

1:35pm: ‘Dramatic escalation’ in feud between Prigozhin, Russian military

As head of the Wagner mercenary group Yevgeny Prigozhin threatened on Friday to pull his troops out of the protracted battle for the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut next week, FRANCE 24 international affairs commentator Douglas Herbert gave his analysis.

“There is never a dull moment with this man,” he said. “He has been at the head of a brutal and atrocious squad of private mercenaries in Bakhmut, waging the longest and bloodiest chapter in this war around that city. Just a few weeks ago, Prigozhin was bombastically claiming that his forces controlled 80 percent of the city. Now today we get a dramatic statement from him where he’s threatening the pull out those forces from Bakhmut on May 10. Why? For a lack of support from the military brass […] in Moscow.”

>> Read more: Wagner Group’s bloody year in Ukraine: From murder squad to cannon fodder

” …This is really the latest chapter, [a] dramatic […] escalation in what has been a simmering on-and-off feud between Prigozhin’s private mecenaries and the Russian military leadership,” Herbert continued.

‘Dramatic escalation’ in feud between Wagner group, Russian military (2023) © France 24

12:27pm: Shipments from Ukraine slowing as Black Sea grain deal deadline nears

The pace of shipments from Ukraine under a UN-backed initiative has slowed as concerns grow over ships getting stuck if a deal is not renewed later this month, according to sources and data.

Russia, which is one of the key parties involved, said it will keep talking although Moscow has threatened to quit on May 18, which has created more uncertainty for traders and shipping companies trying to plan ahead.

Under the accord, Ukraine has been able to export some 29.5 million tonnes of agricultural products, including 14.9 million tonnes of corn and 8.1 million tonnes of wheat.

10:27am: Wagner chief threatens to pull Bakhmut fighters over ammunition shortage

The head of Russian paramilitary group Wagner on Friday threatened to pull his fighters from the front line in Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine on May 10, saying ammunition shortages meant they faced “senseless death”.

 “On May 10, 2023 we will have to hand over our positions in Bakhmut to units of the defence ministry and withdraw Wagner units to rear camps to lick our wounds,” Yevgeny Prigozhin said in a written statement on his Telegram channel.

10:01am: Russia’s Lavrov says Kremlin drone incident was ‘hostile act’

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday that Wednesday’s drone incident at the Kremlin was a “hostile act” and that Russia would respond with “concrete actions”.

Russia has accused Ukraine of firing drones at the Kremlin in an attempt to kill President Vladimir Putin, and said the United States was behind the purported attack. Ukraine has denied that, and the White House has dismissed Russian “lies”.

“It was clearly a hostile act, it is clear that the Kyiv terrorists could not have committed it without the knowledge of their masters,” Lavrov told a press conference in India.


A Ukrainian delegate punched a Russian delegate in the face during a gathering of Black Sea nations in the Turkish capital on Thursday, after his Ukrainian flag was snatched away to stop him from photobombing a video interview with Russia’s lead delegate.

Olesandr Marikovski posted a video of himself thumping the Russian and retrieving the blue and yellow flag on his Facebook page. The incident took place in a hallway of the parliament building, where the Organisation of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) assembly was being held.

Earlier in the day, some Ukrainian delegates scuffled with security officers who had tried to pull them away as they staged a protest, shouting and holding their flags next to Russia’s lead delegate as she tried to address the assembly.

6:54am: New drone attack causes fire at Russia’s Ilsky oil refinery, TASS reports

A drone attack on the Ilsky oil refinery in southern Russia, the second in as many days, has caused a fire, TASS news agency reported on Friday, citing emergency services.

Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency also reported that there were no casualties following the Friday’s incident, while the fire had been put out.

  • Key developments from Thursday, May 4:

The White House on Thursday said Russia was ‘lying’ over claims the US aided Ukraine in an alleged drone attack on the Kremlin and denied any US involvement in the incident.

Earlier on Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said during a visit to The Hague, where the International Criminal Court (ICC) is based, that Russian President Vladimir Putin must be brought to justice for his war in Ukraine.

Read yesterday’s live blog to see how the day’s events unfolded

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Several killed in Ukrainian strike on Russian village near border

Four people were killed when a Ukrainian missile hit a Russian village near the countries’ border, the regional governor said Sunday. It comes after a week in which Russia renewed heavy missile attacks on Ukrainian cities, killing 23 people including a baby boy. Follow our blog to see how the day’s events unfolded. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).

This live blog is no longer being updated. For more of our coverage on the war in Ukraine, please click here.

04:30am: Air defence systems repelling Russian missile attacks in Kyiv region

Air defence systems were repelling missile attacks in the early hours on Monday in the Kyiv region, local authorities said, after air raid alerts were issued throughout all of Ukraine by emergency services.

“Air defences are at work!” Kyiv’s regional administration wrote on the Telegram messaging app, after reports of explosions heard in the region.

“Keep calm! Stay in shelters until the air alarm goes off!”

Ukrainian media also reported blasts in the Dnipropetrovsk and Sumy regions.

02:00am: Pope says Vatican involved in secret Ukraine peace mission

Pope Francis on Sunday revealed that a secret peace “mission” in Russia’s war in Ukraine was under way, though he gave no details, and said the Vatican is willing to help facilitate the return of Ukrainian children taken to Russia during the war.

“I’m available to do anything,” Francis said during an airborne press conference en route home from Hungary. “There’s a mission that’s not public that’s underway; when it’s public I’ll talk about it.”

Deportations of Ukrainian children have been a concern since Russia invaded Ukraine last year. Francis said the Holy See had already helped mediate some prisoner exchanges and would do “all that is humanly possible” to reunite families.

“All human gestures help. Gestures of cruelty don’t help,” Francis said.

9:45pm: Ukraine forces still holding out in Bakhmut

Ukraine said on Sunday its troops were holding onto parts of the eastern city of Bakhmut, focus of a prolonged Russian assault, while the head of a major pro-Moscow force said his men were making progress.

Russian forces, which have struggled for months to capture Bakhmut, are slowly taking over more and more of the city.

“Fierce fighting continues in the city of Bakhmut. The enemy is unable to take control over the city, despite throwing all its forces into the battle and having some success,” said Ukrainian deputy defence minister Hanna Malyar.

“The defence of Bakhmut is coping with its military tasks,” she said in a Telegram post. The Ukrainian military does not reveal exactly how much of the city is in Russian hands.

9:02pm: Vatican involved in peace mission according to Pope Francis

The Vatican is involved in a peace mission to try to end the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, Pope Francis said on Sunday, declining to give further details.

“I am willing to do everything that has to be done. There is a mission in course now but it is not yet public. When it is public, I will reveal it,” the pope told reporters during a flight home after a three-day visit to Hungary.

“I think that peace is always made by opening channels. You can never achieve peace through closure … This is not easy.”

The pope added that he had spoken about the situation in Ukraine with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and with Metropolitan (bishop) Hilarion, a representative of the Russian Orthodox Church in Budapest.

7:59pm: Macron and Zelensky discuss Ukraine-Russia war

French President Emmanuel Macron and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke by phone on Sunday and discussed Ukraine’s military needs, both sides said.

Zelensky said he had a long and meaningful talk with Macron during which the two men co-ordinated their positions on the war and on how to end the conflict between Ukraine and Russia.

“I am grateful to France and Emmanuel personally for their support of our country and our people,” he said in an evening video address, in which he also thanked France for promising to send weapons to Ukraine.

The French presidency said Macron had reaffirmed France’s support for Ukraine to Zelensky, and that Macron had given an update on European co-ordination to give Ukraine military help.

6:07pm: Wagner group warns Russia against Ukraine counteroffensive ‘tragedy’

The head of Russian mercenary group Wagner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, warned Sunday that a Ukrainian counteroffensive could turn into a “tragedy” for Russia and complained that his fighters lacked ammunition.

For months Wagner has spearheaded the Russian attack on Bakhmut, the east Ukrainian town at the epicentre of fighting.

Prigozhin is an ally of President Vladimir Putin but as head of the private military group has been involved in a power struggle with Russia’s defence ministry.

“We (Wagner) have only 10-15 percent of the shells that we need,” he said, blaming the leadership of the Russian army.

5:01pm: Russia’s highest ranking general for logistics replaced

The Russian army on Sunday replaced its highest ranking general in charge of logistics ahead of an expected counteroffensive by Kyiv.

The announcement followed days of rumours about the sacking of Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev, under British sanctions for his role in the siege of the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, which Russian troops captured a year ago.

2:32pm: Russian forces take four blocks in western Bakhmut, Russia’s Ministry of Defence says

Russia’s Ministry of Defence on Sunday said its forces had taken four blocks in western Bakhmut, Russian state-owned news agency RIA reported.

News agency Reuters could not independently confirm the claim. Russian forces have been struggling for months to capture the city in eastern Ukraine.

1:50pm: Ukrainian shelling on Russian border village of Bryansk’s death toll rises to four civilians

The death toll in an overnight Ukrainian strike on the Russian border village of Suzemka rose to four on Sunday, the governor of Russia’s western Bryansk region said.

“Two more civilians have been found and removed from the rubble. Unfortunately, both of them died,” Alexander Bogomaz, the local governor, said on Telegram. Earlier on Sunday he said two people were killed.

11:15am: At least 23 civilians, including 5 children, were killed in missiles over residential block in Uman, Ukraine says

One day after a series of Russian missile attacks that killed at least 23 civilians, including a number of children, in the central town of Uman and two in the southeastern city of Dnipro, FRANCE 24’s Gulliver Cragg went to meet the town’s authorities and inhabitants. 

The Russians claimed that they destroyed a base of Ukrainian reservists in the attack. In Odesa, the South Ukraine military command centre told FRANCE 24. “If it were a military base, what do you suppose children were doing there?”

8:40am: Ukraine says it controls key supply road into Bakhmut

Ukraine remains in control of a key supply route into Bakhmut, a military spokesperson said on Saturday, as the head of Russia‘s mercenary Wagner Group threatened to withdraw some of his troops from the eastern city if Moscow did not send more ammunition.

For several weeks, the Russians have been talking about seizing the ‘road of life,’ as well as about constant firecontrol over it,” Serhiy Cherevatyi, a spokesperson for Ukrainian troops in the east, said in an interview with local news website Dzerkalo Tyzhnia. “Yes, it is really difficult there … (but) the defence forces have not allowed the Russians to ‘cut off’ our logistics.”

The “road of life” is a vital road between the ruined Bakhmut and the nearby town Chasiv Yar to the west  a distance of just over 17 km.

7:12am: Two killed in Ukrainian strike on Russian village near border

Two people were killed when a Ukrainian missile hit a Russian village near the countries’ border, the regional governor said Sunday. It comes after a week in which Russia renewed heavy missile attacks on Ukrainian cities, killing 23 people including a baby boy.

Missiles hit the village of Suzemka, to the east of the frontier between the two countries, according to Alexander Bogomaz, the governor of Bryansk oblast.

“As a result of the strike inflicted by Ukrainian nationalists, unfortunately, two civilians were killed,” he said in a message posted on Telegram. “According to preliminary data, one residential building was completely destroyed, two more houses were partially destroyed.”

  • Key developments from Saturday, April 29

Russian-installed authorities in southern Ukraine said Saturday that Ukrainian forces were subjecting the city of Novaya Kakhovka to “intense artillery fire” that had cut off electricity. This comes as Kyiv prepares for a widely expected counter-offensive against pro-Moscow forces.

Authorities in Russian-annexed Crimea reported a drone attack on a fuel depot and as Kyiv prepares for a widely expected counteroffensive against Moscow’s forces. More than 10 tanks of oil totalling up to 40,000 tonnes were destroyed in the fire at a Crimean fuel storage facility. According to Ukrainian military intelligence, the fuel was destined for use by Russia’s Black Sea fleet. Meanwhile the Russia-installed government of Sevastopol, the port city of Crimea, said the loss “will not affect the supply of fuel to Sevastopol”.

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