Kiev says Russian missiles have killed at least 21 people in a coastal town near the port city of Odessa and also accuses Moscow of using phosphorus munitions on Snake Island on the 128th day of fighting.

Russia controlled the plant in early March after shelling near the site caused a blaze in one of its buildings.
Russia controlled the plant in early March after shelling near the site caused a blaze in one of its buildings. (Reuters)

Friday, July 1, 2022

Ukraine restores link to Zaporizhzhia nuclear station — operator

Ukraine's nuclear power operator has said it had re-established its connection to surveillance systems at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, Europe's largest, which is controlled by Russian forces.

It was the second time communications had been lost with the plant, made up of six reactors and Ukraine's Energoatom agency said on its Telegram channel that it had restored the connection "by its own efforts".

The link, the agency said, had been lost "due to the cutting off by the occupiers in Enerhodar of all Ukrainian mobile operators, including Vodavone, with which the (IAEA) has a contract for data transmission."

US announces $820M in Ukraine aid, including missile systems

The Pentagon has announced $820 million in additional weapons and ammunition for Ukraine as it battles Russian forces along the eastern and southern fronts.

The 14th package of armaments for Ukraine forces includes two air defence systems, more ammunition for the Himars precision rocket launchers the US began supplying in June, up to 150,000 rounds of 155mm artillery ammunition, and four additional counter-artillery radars.

The air defence systems, known as NASAMS, are a short and medium-range surface-to-air missile system developed by Raytheon and Norway's Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace. The remote-operated launchers are to help Ukraine forces defend against piloted and drone aircraft and cruise missiles.

The United States continues to work with its allies and partners to provide Ukraine with capabilities to meet its evolving battlefield requirements

Defence Department Press Secretary Todd Breasseale in a statement

Ukraine army accuses Russia of firing phosphorus bombs on Snake Island

Ukraine's army has accused Russia of carrying out strikes using incendiary phosphorus munitions on Snake Island, just a day after Moscow withdrew its forces from the rocky outcrop in the Black Sea. The use of phosphorus weapons against civilians is banned under an international convention but allowed for military targets.

"Today at around 18:00... Russian air force SU-30 planes twice conducted strikes with phosphorus bombs on Zmiinyi island," it said in a statement, using another name for Snake Island. The statement was accompanied by a video that showed a plane drop munitions at least twice on the island, and what appeared to be white streaks rising above it.

The Russian defence ministry has described its retreat as "a gesture of goodwill" meant to demonstrate that Moscow will not interfere with UN efforts to organise protected grain exports fro m Ukraine.

European court orders Russia to protect rights of Ukrainian prisoners

The European Court of Human Rights has ordered Russia to protect the rights of Ukrainian prisoners allegedly kept in its custody and to provide them with appropriate medical help.

The court issued an interim measure in the case of Yaroslav Anatoliyovych Oliynichenko, a Ukrainian soldier allegedly held captive by Russian forces, ordering Moscow to “ensure respect for Mr Oliynichenko’s Convention rights and provide him with medical assistance should he need it”.

The court’s order came after his wife, Karyna Pavlivna Oliynichenko, filed an application alleging that Oliynichenko, a deputy commander of his unit, was captured in Mariupol and tortured by Russian forces.

Norway announces $1B in aid to Ukraine

Norway has announced $1 billion of aid to Ukraine over two years, as Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store visited the country.

The fund of 10 billion Norwegian kroner is for "humanitarian aid, reconstruction of the country, weapons and operational support to the (Ukrainian) authorities", the Norwegian government said in a statement.

"We stand together with the Ukrainian people," Store said in the statement. "We help support the Ukrainians' struggle for freedom. They are fighting for their country, but also for our democratic values."

Moroccan, Briton appeal death sentences in separatist-controlled east Ukraine

A Moroccan and a British fighter sentenced to death by a Russian-backed separatist court in east Ukraine for fighting for Ukraine have appealed against their sentences, the Russian state news agency TASS has reported.

TASS said the Supreme Court of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR), a territory recognised only by Russia and Syria, had received appeals from lawyers for Brahim Saadoun and Shaun Pinner. It said another condemned Briton, Aiden Aslin, had not yet submitted an appeal, citing Aslin's lawyer.

All three men were sentenced to death last month for "mercenary activities" in fighting for Ukraine against Russia and Russian-backed forces, in what Western politicians decried as a show trial.

EU prepares emergency plan to do without Russian energy

The European Union’s executive arm has pledged to draft an emergency plan this month aimed at helping member countries do without Russian energy in the wake of the Kremlin’s offensive against Ukraine.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the initiative would build on EU moves to ditch Russian coal, oil and natural gas and would complement a bloc-wide push to accelerate the development of renewable energy such as wind and solar power.

“We are preparing emergency plans for Europe,” von der Leyen said in the Czech town of Litomysl, where she marked the start of the country’s six-month stint as holder of the rotating EU presidency. “Energy prices are high. People — rightly so — expect us to do something about it.”

Poland honours resistance of Ukraine's Mariupol

Poland’s northern city of Gdansk has honoured the resistance put up by the Ukrainian city of ’s Mariupol against Russian forces by by naming a city square after its defenders.

The ceremony also included an open-air exhibition of Mariupol’s suffering during the weeks-long Russian siege.

City officials said that naming a city square “Heroic Mariupol” was a call for more help and support for Ukraine in its struggle to protect its sovereignty.

Trial of US basketball star Griner opens in Russia

The trial of US basketball star Brittney Griner, detained in Russia since February, has opened as tensions rage over Moscow's offensive in Ukraine.

Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medallist and WNBA champion, faces up to 10 years in prison on charges of drug smuggling.

Her case has become one of many sticking points in relations between the United States and Russia, with Washington saying the 31-year-old Griner has been "wrongfully detained" and putting its special envoy in charge of hostages on the case.

Zelenskyy hails Ukraine-EU ties

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said Ukraine and the European Union are starting a new chapter of their history after Brussels formally accepted Ukraine's candidacy to join the 27-nation bloc.

"A new (chapter) of history for the European Union and Ukraine has started. Now we're not close. Now we are together," Zelenskyy told Ukraine's parliament. He said it was a "big honour and big responsibility" to work towards realising the "aspirations of our country".

Ukrainian top officials, meanwhile, signed a joint declaration to support Kiev’s EU accession. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen also addressed the session via video link. Ukraine applied for EU membership just five days after Russia's February 24 operation and the bloc accepted its candidacy on June 23, in a strong signal of support.

We made a journey of 115 days to candidate status and our journey to membership shouldn't take decades. We should make it down this road quickly

Ukrainian President President Volodymyr Zelenskyy

Kremlin: Putin told Modi Russia is reliable supplier of grain, fertiliser, energy

Russian President Vladimir Putin has told Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi that Russia is still a reliable producer and supplier of grains, fertilisers and energy, the Kremlin has said in a readout of a phone call between the two leaders.

In detailed discussions on the global food market, Putin "drew attention to the systemic mistakes made by a number of countries that have disrupted free trade architecture in food goods and triggered significant rises in their prices", the Kremlin said.

Russia threatens to shut down Bulgaria embassy

Russia has threatened to close its embassy in Bulgaria and shut down the EU country's mission in Moscow as tensions rage over Moscow's offensive in Ukraine and espionage concerns. This week Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov said his country would expel 70 Russian diplomatic staff, the biggest number ordered out in one-go from the Balkan nation.

Russia's ambassador to Bulgaria, Eleonora Mitrofanova, said on Friday she would petition the Russian government to shut down the mission in Sofia. "Unfortunately, our appeal to the Bulgarian foreign ministry has been ignored," she said in a statement released by the embassy.

She said she "immediately" planned to ask the Russian leadership to close "the Russian embassy in Bulgaria, which will inevitably lead to the closure of the Bulgarian diplomatic mission in Moscow".

Ukraine protests Russian film screening at Czech film fest

An international film festival in the Czech spa town of Karlovy Vary has kicked off amid controversy following a protest by Ukraine over the screening of a Russian film alongside Ukrainian-made movies.

Prior to the start of the 56th edition of the festival, several leading Ukrainian filmmakers along with Ukraine’s ambassador to Prague protested the scheduled screening of “Captain Volkonogov Escaped.”

Ukrainian Ambassador Yevhen Perebyinis said in an open letter that it would be “inhuman" to screen Ukrainian films alongside a Russian movie made with support from Russia's Culture Ministry at a time when Russian troops had “committed atrocities" during their offensive.

Moscow denies striking apartments near Ukraine's Odessa

The Kremlin has dismissed allegations that Russian missiles had struck an apartment building near the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Odessa early morning.

Ukrainian authorities said Russian missiles had hit an apartment building and two holiday camps, killing at least 18 people and wounding dozens. 

"I would like to remind you of the president's words that the Russian Armed Forces do not work with civilian targets ," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on a conference call with reporters. 

Dozens of Russian weapons tycoons have faced no Western sanctions

As Russia's military campaign continues in Ukraine, Western nations have responded in part by targeting Russia's defence industry with sanctions when the United States issued new sanctions on some arms makers and executives at the heart of what it dubbed Russian President Vladimir Putin's "war machine."

Reuters examination of companies, executives and investors underpinning Russia's defence sector shows a sizable number of players have yet to pay a price: Nearly three dozen leaders of Russian weapons firms and at least 14 defence companies have not been sanctioned by the United States, the European Union or the United Kingdom. 

Sanctions on Russia's arms makers and tycoons have been applied inconsistently by these NATO allies, with some governments levying penalties and others not, the Reuters review showed. 

Russia's decree on Sakhalin-2 project not a requisition, says Japan industry minister

Japan doesn't consider Russia's decree on the Sakhalin-2 gas and oil project as a requisition, industry minister Koichi Hagiuda said to reporters.

The Japanese government believes the decree, signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday, is asking current stakeholders whether they agree to hand over all rights of the project to a new company, he added. 

Putin signed a decree on Thursday to take charge of the Sakhalin-2 project in Russia's far east, a move that could force Shell and Japan’s Mitsui and Mitsubishi to abandon their investments in the project.

Hungary must radically increase its defence capabilities, PM Orban

Hungary will speed up its defence development programme, Prime Minister Viktor Orban told state radio. 

"We must radically increase our defence capabilities," Orban said. He reiterated that Hungary's interest was for the war in neighbouring Ukraine to end as soon as possible. 

Ukraine: Missile strike kills 18 people

Eighteen people have been killed in missile strikes on an apartment building and recreation centre in southern Ukraine's Odessa region, authorities said.

Fourteen were killed and 30 wounded in the strike on a nine-storey apartment block, the emergency services said on Telegram. Seven people were rescued from the rubble of the building, including three children, they said.

Odessa military administration spokesperson Sergiy Bratchuk said the missiles were fired by aircraft that flew in from the Black Sea.

The strikes took place in the Bilgorod-Dnistrovsky district.

Zelenskyy says Ukraine is now exporting power to EU

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said the launching of power transmissions to Romania was the start of a process that could help Europe reduce its dependence on Russian hydrocarbons.

Zelenskiyy's comments in his nightly video message followed an announcement by Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal that exports had started earlier in the day –– with a volume of 100 megawatts –– four months into Russia's offensive on Ukraine.

The president said the start of exports was "another significant step in our movement toward the European Union".

"Thanks to Ukrainian electricity, a significant part of the Russian gas used by European consumers can be replaced. This is therefore not just a question of export earnings for us but a question of security for all of Europe," he said. "Let me remind you that linking our country to the common EU energy system took place already after the war began. Ukraine is doing things now that once seemed impossible."

For live updates from Thursday (June 30), click here

Source: AFP