Nato to deploy more combat troops and weapons to eastern Europe

·31 min read
Ukraine war: Severely depleted battalions on foot now fighting for Severodonetsk - Efrem Lukatsky /AP
Ukraine war: Severely depleted battalions on foot now fighting for Severodonetsk - Efrem Lukatsky /AP

Nato will send more combat troops and weapons to eastern Europe in response to Russian aggression in Ukraine, following a meeting of alliance defence ministers.

Nato said it had already placed over 40,000 troops under its direct command, mainly on its eastern flank, as a meeting of defence ministers looked at how it could further strengthen its capabilities in eastern Europe.

"This will mean more Nato forward-deployed combat formations, to strengthen our battlegroups in the eastern part of the alliance, more air, sea and cyber defences, as well as prepositioned equipment and weapons stockpiles," Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said after the meeting.

Germany has already announced plans to strengthen its engagement in Lithuania, while France wants to increase its presence in Romania, where it plans to have deployed 1,000 troops with Leclerc tanks by the end of the year.

US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin declined to detail any changes in America's positioning of forces across Europe but said Washington would take steps to rapidly deploy troops if needed. That includes positioning more equipment in the region and putting troops on higher levels of alert.

06:58 PM

That’s all for today 

Thank you for following, here are five key updates from today:

  • Ben Wallace warned that the West must protect Ukraine from having a “gun put to its head” by Moscow in peace talks, as the leaders of France, Germany and Italy visited the war-torn country for the first time since Russia invaded.

  • French President Emmanuel Macron said that all four European Union leaders present in Kyiv supported the idea of granting an "immediate" EU candidate status to Ukraine.

  • Nato will send more combat troops and weapons to eastern Europe in response to Russian aggression in Ukraine, following a meeting of alliance defence ministers.

  • Russia was accused of ‘abducting’ 2,000 vulnerable Ukrainian children and facilitating forced adoptions of them in Russia, as the UK announced fresh sanctions against those believed to be involved.

  • And finally, Russian forces have been severely depleted in their attempt to seize control of the strategically key city of Severodonetsk, according to local officials and Western intelligence.

06:51 PM

Russian-flagged ships transport Ukraine's grain to Syria

Russian-flagged ships have been carrying grain harvested in Ukraine last season and transported it to Syria, US satellite imagery company Maxar said today.

Maxar's images showed two Russian-flagged bulk carrier ships docked in the Russian-controlled Crimean port of Sevastopol in May and being loaded with grain, the company said.

Days later, Maxar satellites collected images of the same ships docked in Syria, with their hatches open and semi-trucks lined up ready to haul the grain away, Maxar said.

Syria and Russia are staunch allies.

The company said another image from June also showed a different ship being loaded with grain in Sevastopol.

Ukraine has accused Russia of stealing grain from the territories that Russian forces occupied since its invasion began in late February.

06:44 PM

Big Macs still sold in Russia despite McDonald's exit

Big Macs remain on sale at some of McDonald's franchise locations in Russia despite most of its restaurants reopening on Sunday under new branding and ownership.

McDonald's sold most of its 850 restaurants in Russia to one of its local licensees in May. Some of those reopened Sunday under the new name Vkusno & tochka, or "Tasty and that's it," offering a new menu without the flagship burger.

But other franchisees have kept their locations open, selling authentic McDonald's meals in restaurants adorned with barely concealed McDonald's branding.

Their lingering presence highlights the challenges Western companies face in extricating themselves fully from the Russian market over Moscow's actions in Ukraine.

The McDonald's name and logo was covered with transparent, white fabric at train stations in Moscow and St Petersburg, and the Big Mac burger was available, though renamed Bolshoi Burger, or Big Burger.

06:31 PM

EU leaders pledge the world to Ukraine – while the cameras are rolling

“Ukraine must win,” Emmanuel Macron finally said on his historic visit to the war-torn country alongside the leaders of Germany and Italy, reports James Crisp.

Much like a shipment of German weapons to Kyiv, or the visit to Ukraine itself, his words of support were much too late.

It has taken the French president almost four months since the invasion of Ukraine to be so unequivocal.

A string of Western leaders have beaten a path to Volodymyr Zelensky’s door since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.

It has taken Olaf Scholz, Mario Draghi and the French president three and a half months to do so. Germany’s opposition leader travelled to Kyiv before the Chancellor did.

Read the full story here.

06:16 PM

EU: Europe's energy security not at immediate risk from latest Russian gas cuts

Europe's energy security is not at immediate risk as a result of Russia reducing gas supplies to more European countries, a European Commission spokesman said today.

"Based on our exchange with the national authorities this morning via the Gas Coordination Group, there is no indication of an immediate security of supply risk," the spokesman said, adding that Brussels and countries' national authorities were monitoring the situation closely.

05:52 PM

Pictured: High security as European leaders visit Kyiv

Leaders - VALENTYN OGIRENKO /REUTERS
Leaders - VALENTYN OGIRENKO /REUTERS

05:37 PM

Draghi: Russia lying over gas supply problems

Russia was lying when it blamed a recent fall in gas exports on technical problems, Italian Prime Mario Draghi said today, accusing Moscow of using its gas supplies for political reasons.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said earlier that reductions in supply over the past two days were not premeditated but were related to maintenance issues.

But during a visit to Kyiv, Draghi dismissed this explanation. "Both Germany and us, and others, believe these are lies. In reality they are making a political use of gas like they are using grain for political use," he said.

05:24 PM

Ukrainian general threatens to use Western kit to destroy Russia-Crimea bridge

A top Ukrainian general has threatened to use Western weapons to blow up a bridge linking mainland Russian to Russia-occupied Crimea, reports Nataliya Vasilyeva.

Maj Gen Dmytro Marchenko who has been leading the defence of the Mykolaiv region in Ukraine’s south since the start of the war, told the Krym. Realii website on Wednesday night that Kyiv considers the 227-metre Kerch bridge a legitimate target.

“This will be our number one target,” he said when asked what Ukraine would do with the new advanced weapons it has been seeking from the West.

“We have to tear this umbilical cord to cut off (Russian) reinforcements. As soon as it’s done, (Russians) will panic.”

Many Western leaders have been wary of sending long-range artillery to Ukraine, fearing that Kyiv could launch retaliatory strikes against Russia, which could potentially spark an even bigger conflict.

Read the full story here.

04:56 PM

Putin says Russia must support domestic car industry

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his government to come up with new measures to support the domestic car industry, which has seen sales tank since Moscow launched its invasion of Ukraine.

Amid a crunch on demand from Russian buyers and severe logistics problems as a result of Western sanctions slapped on Moscow, car sales slumped a record 83.5 per cent in May, according to figures from the Association of European Businesses (AEB).

At a meeting with government officials broadcast on state TV, Putin said the government needed to look at how to support demand among car buyers despite the economic difficulties facing the country.

04:53 PM

New podcast episode of Ukraine: The Latest

04:28 PM

Pictured: Zelensky and Macron in Kyiv

Zelensky  - LUDOVIC MARIN /AFP
Zelensky - LUDOVIC MARIN /AFP
Zelensky - LUDOVIC MARIN /AFP 
Zelensky - LUDOVIC MARIN /AFP
Zelensky - LUDOVIC MARIN/POOL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock 
Zelensky - LUDOVIC MARIN/POOL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

04:25 PM

Pro-Russian separatist leader says grain and metals shipments could leave Mariupol soon

Ships loaded with grain and metals will leave the Azov Sea port of Mariupol soon, with shipments potentially headed to the Middle East, a pro-Russian separatist leader told the Russian news agency Interfax today.

Mariupol, on Ukraine's southern coast, fell under the control of Russian and separatist forces in May after a months-long siege.

Denis Pushilin, leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR), said plans were for the port to handle around one million tonnes of freight by the end of the year.

"Concerning exports, it will be metals, and a little later grain," Interfax quoted Pushilin as saying.

04:12 PM

Draghi: Italy wants to see Ukraine as part of EU

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said the main message of his talks in Kyiv with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and the leaders of France and Germany was that Italy wants to see Ukraine as a part of the European Union.

Speaking at a joint news conference in the Ukrainian capital, Mr Draghi said he fully supported investigations into alleged war crimes in Ukraine.

"I want to say today that the most important message of my visit is that Italy wants Ukraine in the European Union. And it wants Ukraine to have candidate status and will support this position at the next European Council," he said.

04:02 PM

France to send six more Caesar howitzers to Ukraine

France will deliver "six additional Caesar" long-range self-propelled howitzers to Ukraine to help it counter the Russian invasion, President Emmanuel Macron said today while visiting Kyiv.

"On top of the 12 Caesars already delivered, I took the decision (to deliver) in the coming weeks six additional Caesars," Mr Macron told a news conference alongside Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and Romanian leader Klaus Iohannis.

"Europe is at your side. It will stay so until it needs to, until victory," the French leader added.

03:49 PM

Zelensky: The more weapons we get, the faster Ukraine can free its land

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia's invasion amounted to aggression against all of Europe and that the more weapons Ukraine receives from the West, the faster it will be able to liberate its occupied land.

Speaking at a news conference in Kyiv, the Ukrainian leader said he had discussed further sanctions against Russia and post-war reconstruction at talks with the leaders of France, Germany, Italy and Romania today.

03:36 PM

'A message of European unity': EU leaders meet Zelensky in Kyiv

03:27 PM

EU leaders in Kyiv back immediately granting Ukraine official candidate status

French President Emmanuel Macron said that all four European Union leaders present in Kyiv supported the idea of granting an "immediate" EU candidate status to Ukraine.

Mr Macron made the comments at a news conference after meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv alongside German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, and Romanian President Klaus Iohannis.

"We all four support the immediate EU candidate status", said Macron.

He added that France would step up arms deliveries to Ukraine.

03:13 PM

'Our product, our rules,' says Russia's Gazprom chief

The head of Russian energy giant Gazprom said that Moscow will play by its own rules after cutting daily gas supplies to Germany.

"Our product, our rules. We don't play by rules we didn't create," Alexei Miller said during a panel discussion at the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum.

02:49 PM

UN rights chief: Mariupol 'horrors' will leave 'indelible mark'

The extent of death and destruction in Ukraine's devastated port city Mariupol suggests serious international law violations, the UN rights chief said today, warning the horrors there would mark future generations.

"The horrors inflicted on the civilian population will leave their indelible mark, including on generations to come," Michelle Bachelet told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

She pointed to the "parents who had to bury their own children, on people who witnessed their friends commit suicide, on families ripped apart, on all those who had to leave a much-loved city with uncertain prospects of ever seeing it again".

02:43 PM

Netherlands says Russian spy caught seeking war crimes court internship

The Dutch intelligence service said it had uncovered a Russian military agent attempting to use a false identity to infiltrate the International Criminal Court (ICC) which is investigating accusations of war crimes in Ukraine.

Sergey Vladimirovich Cherkasov created an elaborate cover story dating back years to try and enter the Netherlands as a Brazilian national for an internship at the Hague-based ICC in April, the agency's head told Reuters.

"This was a long-term, multi-year GRU operation that cost a lot of time, energy and money," said Dutch intelligence agency chief Erik Akerboom, using the acronym for Russia's military intelligence service.

There was no immediate reaction from Moscow, though Vladimir Putin's government has in the past frequently denied spying accusations as a Western smear campaign against Moscow.

02:26 PM

Pictured: Zelensky meets European leaders

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, left, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, second left, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, center, French President Emmanuel Macron second right, and Romanian President Klaus Iohannis meet for a working session in Mariinsky Palace, in Kyiv - Ludovic Marin 
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, left, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, second left, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, center, French President Emmanuel Macron second right, and Romanian President Klaus Iohannis meet for a working session in Mariinsky Palace, in Kyiv - Ludovic Marin
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky welcomes German Chancellor Olaf Scholz - SERGEY DOLZHENKO/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock 
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky welcomes German Chancellor Olaf Scholz - SERGEY DOLZHENKO/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
(L-R) Chancellor of Germany Olaf Scholz, President of France Emmanuel Macron, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Prime minister of Italy Mario Draghi and Romanian President Romanian President Klaus Iohannis pose for a photograph in Mariinsky Palace, in Kyiv - SERGEI SUPINSKY /AFP 
(L-R) Chancellor of Germany Olaf Scholz, President of France Emmanuel Macron, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Prime minister of Italy Mario Draghi and Romanian President Romanian President Klaus Iohannis pose for a photograph in Mariinsky Palace, in Kyiv - SERGEI SUPINSKY /AFP

02:17 PM

Ukraine hands over Russia sanctions proposals at talks in Kyiv

Ukraine handed over sanctions proposals against Russia at a meeting in Kyiv between President Volodymyr Zelensky and the leaders of France, Germany, Italy and Romania on Thursday, the head of the Ukrainian president's office said.

"We must increase pressure on the aggressor, work on a seventh package of sanctions with a gas embargo," Andriy Yermak wrote on Telegram.

02:13 PM

Analysis: Why Scholz can't deliver on his promises to Ukraine

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine forced Germany to tear up decades of soft-touch defence policies and eventually pledge to send heavy weapons to Ukraine, writes  Arthur Scott-Geddes in Berlin.

Within days of the start of the war, Chancellor Olaf Scholz declared the start of  a “new era”.

But three months later - as he visits Kyiv for the first time since Russia's invasion - he stands accused of failing to deliver on his promises of lethal aid. Even light weapons like machine guns for Ukraine are reportedly drying up.

The apparent delays have caused a rift between Berlin and Kyiv, with Ukrainian officials repeatedly condemning what they see as Germany’s “hesitancy” in helping it fight the war.

But why has Germany been so slow to arm Ukraine against Russia, and why has Mr Scholz so far failed to fulfil the promises he has given to Kyiv?

01:52 PM

Russian forces 'severely depleted' in battle for Severodonetsk

Russian forces have been severely depleted in their attempt to seize control of the strategically key city of Severodonetsk, according to local officials and Western intelligence, reports Joe Barnes.

Serhiy Haidai, the regional governor of Luhansk, said Moscow had lost hundreds of troops in the fierce street-to-street fighting over the remaining Ukrainian-controlled areas of the city.

The Kremlin has been forced to deploy reservists with little combat experience in its bid to capture the town, the last held by Kyiv in the eastern Luhansk region, he added.

In its daily intelligence update, Britain’s Ministry of Defence said some Russian Battalion Tactical Groups, typically comprised of 600 to 800 troops, operating in the area had been reduced to just 30 soldiers.

Read the full story here.

01:19 PM

UK sanctions on Patriarch Kirill 'absurd' says Russian Orthodox Church

The Russian Orthodox Church has dismissed sanctions against its leader, Patriarch Kirill, imposed by Britain for his support of Moscow's military intervention in Ukraine.

"Attempts to intimidate the primate of the Russian Church with something or to force him to renounce his views are senseless, absurd and unpromising," said church spokesman Vladimir Legoyda.

01:18 PM

Zelensky hails solidarity shown by four visiting European leaders

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked the leaders of France, Germany, Italy and Romania for showing solidarity with his country by visiting Kyiv today.

"We appreciate your solidarity with our country and people," Mr Zelensky wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

01:17 PM

Airstrike kills at least three civilians in Lysychansk

An airstrike has hit a building sheltering civilians in Ukraine's embattled eastern city of Lysychansk, killing at least three and wounding at least seven according to local governor Serhiy Gaidai.

"We are pulling apart the rubble," Gaidai wrote on Telegram.

Lysychansk sits just the other side of the Siverskyi Donets river to the battleground city of Severodonetsk, which over the last several weeks has seen some of the most brutal street fighting observed during Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

12:29 PM

UK urges Russia to release Navalny

Britain "wholeheartedly" supports Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said as she urged Russia to release him, after reports that he was moved to a high-security prison camp further away from Moscow.

"We wholeheartedly support Navalny and we are very, very concerned about the reports we have heard and we urge Russia to release him as soon as possible," Ms Truss told parliament today.

Earlier this week, Mr Navalny was abruptly moved to a high-security penal colony further from Moscow from the prison where he was serving an 11 and a half year sentence.

12:21 PM

Ukrainian soldiers use US supplied javelin missile to destroy Russian tank in Mykolaiv

12:10 PM

Scholz: Russia's war of 'unimaginable cruelty' must end

The Ukrainian town of Irpin, like Bucha before it, has become a symbol of the "cruelty" of Russia's war in Ukraine and its senseless violence, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on a visit to the Kyiv suburb, adding that the war must end.

Mr Scholz is visiting Kyiv with the French, Italian and Romanian leaders, where they are due to hold talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

"Irpin, like Bucha, has become a symbol of the unimaginable cruelty of the Russian war, of senseless violence," Scholz wrote on Twitter. "The brutal destruction of this city is a warning: this war must end."

12:03 PM

Russia blacklists 121 Australians including journalists

Russia announced it was blacklisting 121 Australian citizens, including defence officials, businessmen and reporters and editors from media outlets including The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian.

The blacklist has been put together in response to "the growing sanctions of the Australian government, which apply to an increasing number of Russian citizens," the Russian foreign ministry said.

The people on the list, including Defence Force Chief General Angus Campbell, AI researcher Toby Walsh and The Australian's editor-in-chief Christopher Dore, are barred from entering Russia "indefinitely", the ministry said in a statement.

Russia has accused the sanctioned figures of promoting a "Russophobic agenda" and said that the blacklist would be expanded in the future.

11:47 AM

Kremlin says Western arms 'useless' as European leaders visit Kyiv

The Kremlin warned against new Western weapons supplies to Ukraine as French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi arrived in Kyiv.

"I would like to hope that the leaders of these three states and the President of Romania will not only focus on supporting Ukraine by further pumping Ukraine with weapons," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, adding that it would be "absolutely useless and will cause further damage to the country".

11:38 AM

UK sets out new Russia sanctions for 'barbaric treatment of children in Ukraine'

The UK Government said it had sanctioned Russian Children's Rights Commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova for the "forced transfer and adoption of Ukrainian children", as part of a new wave of sanctions against Russia over the Ukrainian crisis.

"We are targeting the enablers and perpetrators of Putin’s war who have brought untold suffering to Ukraine, including the forced transfer and adoption of children," Britain's Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said in a statement.

Britain said the latest sanctions round of sanctions also included Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, targeted for his support and endorsement of the war in Ukraine.

11:26 AM

Breaking: UK sanctions Russian Orthodox Church leader Patriarch Kirill

The UK Government says it has sanctioned Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, for his prominent support of Russian military aggression in Ukraine.

11:16 AM

Russia says it's ready to resume peace talks, blaming Kyiv for stalling

Russia's chief negotiator said that Moscow was ready to restart peace talks with Ukraine, but had yet to receive a response to its latest proposals, the Russian news agency Interfax reported.

Since intermittent talks between the two sides were held in March, including a high-profile meeting of delegations in Istanbul, negotiations between Russia and Ukraine have stalled.

Russia's lead negotiator, Vladimir Medinsky, said today that Kyiv was to blame for the lack of progress.

11:11 AM

Macron: Ukraine must 'resist and win'

French President Emmanuel Macron said that Ukraine must win the war against Russia, as he visited the town of Irpin outside the capital Kyiv.

"France has been alongside Ukraine since day one. We stand with the Ukrainians without ambiguity. Ukraine must resist and win," Mr Macron told journalists in Irpin in response to a question on his previous remarks that Russia must not be humiliated.

11:01 AM

European leaders visit Irpin, in pictures

Ukraine war: Severely depleted battalions on foot now fighting for Severodonetsk - LUDOVIC MARIN /AFP
Ukraine war: Severely depleted battalions on foot now fighting for Severodonetsk - LUDOVIC MARIN /AFP
Ukraine war: Severely depleted battalions on foot now fighting for Severodonetsk - Ludovic Marin /AFP POOL 
Ukraine war: Severely depleted battalions on foot now fighting for Severodonetsk - Ludovic Marin /AFP POOL

10:48 AM

Emmanuel Macron praises Ukrainian 'heroism'

French President Emmanuel Macron has praised Ukrainian "heroism" in the face of Russia's invasion on a to the Kyiv suburb of Irpin, the closest Moscow's army got to the capital at the start of its invasion.

"It's here, among other places, that the Ukrainians stopped the Russian army descending onto Kyiv," the French leader said.

"It represents the heroism of the army, but also of the Ukrainian population. And alongside that, you have traces of barbarism."

10:30 AM

Macron, Scholz, Draghi visit war-scarred Irpin

Emmanuel Macron, Olaf Scholz and Mario Draghi have visited Irpin, a battle-damaged suburb of Ukraine's capital, in a show of support for the country at war with Russia.

AFP journalists on the scene said the European leaders had arrived to the town north of Kyiv, where residential buildings and civilian infrastructure remain damaged following Russian troops' attempts early in the invasion to capture the capital.

Ukraine war: Severely depleted battalions on foot now fighting for Severodonetsk - Ludovic Marin /AFP POOL 
Ukraine war: Severely depleted battalions on foot now fighting for Severodonetsk - Ludovic Marin /AFP POOL

10:08 AM

European leaders arrive in Kyiv as tensions rise of weapons delivery

French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi have arrived in Kyiv, a day after the United States announced $1 billion worth of new arms for embattled Ukrainian forces.

Kyiv's troops are resisting a fierce onslaught in the Donbas region by Russian President Vladimir Putin's forces, which are pushing to seize a swathe of eastern and southern Ukraine.

In a show of support, Mr Macron, Mr Scholz, and Mr Draghi are visiting the Ukrainian capital. The three leaders left Poland in the morning by train, according to an AFP video.

Asked by a journalist on arrival why he had come to Ukraine, Mr Macron said: "For a message of European unity."

Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, told German newspaper Bild this week he was concerned the three leaders would put pressure on Kyiv to accept a peace deal favourable to the Russian president, Vladimir Putin.

“They will say that we need to end the war that is causing food problems and economic problems … that we need to save Mr Putin’s face,” he said, referring to comments by Mr Macron this month that it was vital not to humiliate the Russian leader.

Ukrainian officials have also attacked Mr Scholz over his perceived hesitancy to provide the country with weapons.

09:54 AM

Slovakia donates 5 helicopters, Grad rockets

Slovakia has donated one Mi-2 and four Mi-17 helicopters and thousands of Grad rockets to Ukraine, Defence Minister Jaroslav Nad said on his Facebook account.

"This assistance to Ukraine, as well as all previous supplies, will be reimbursed from the European Peace Facility, which is a strong expression of the European Union's solidarity with Ukraine," Mr Nad said.

The defence minister said Ukraine was already using the donated helicopters and ammunition and that the helicopters donated had been replaced by UH-60M Black Hawks.

Slovakia has donated military equipment to Ukraine worth 154 million euros ($160 million) since the beginning of the war, the defence ministry said.

Ukraine has pleaded for allies to send more weapons to help it repel Russia's invasion, with officials saying only a fraction of what they have asked for has so far been delivered.

09:37 AM

Russia not thinking about leaving WTO - IFAX

Russia is not considering an exit from World Trade Organisation, the Interfax news agency cited a deputy Russian foreign minister as saying on Tuesday.

09:13 AM

Ukraine today, in pictures

Ukraine war: Macron, Scholz and Draghi arrive in Kyiv for crunch talks - Efrem Lukatsky /AP
Ukraine war: Macron, Scholz and Draghi arrive in Kyiv for crunch talks - Efrem Lukatsky /AP
Ukraine war: Macron, Scholz and Draghi arrive in Kyiv for crunch talks - Scott Olson /Getty Images Europe 
Ukraine war: Macron, Scholz and Draghi arrive in Kyiv for crunch talks - Scott Olson /Getty Images Europe
Ukraine war: Macron, Scholz and Draghi arrive in Kyiv for crunch talks - Anadolu Agency /Anadolu 
Ukraine war: Macron, Scholz and Draghi arrive in Kyiv for crunch talks - Anadolu Agency /Anadolu
Ukraine war: Macron, Scholz and Draghi arrive in Kyiv for crunch talks - Anadolu Agency /Anadolu 
Ukraine war: Macron, Scholz and Draghi arrive in Kyiv for crunch talks - Anadolu Agency /Anadolu

08:56 AM

France wants Ukraine victory that establishes total territorial integrity

France wants a military Ukrainian victory against Russia that reestablishes the territorial integrity of the country, including Crimea that was seized by Russia in 2014, a French diplomatic source said on Thursday.

The source added it was up to the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to define what a military victory could be.

His comments come as Emmanuel Macron, Olaf Scholz and Mario Draghi arrived in Kiyv on Thursday on a joint trip to show their backing for Ukraine as it struggles to withstand a Russian assault.

08:31 AM

Olaf Scholz vows support for Ukraine for 'as long as necessary'

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has pledged enduring backing for Ukraine as he arrived in Kyiv along with leaders of France and Italy for the first time since Russia invaded its neighbour.

"We want to show not only solidarity, but also assure that the help that we're organising - financial, humanitarian, but also, when it comes to weapons - will continue," Mr Scholz told Bild daily.

"And that we will continue it as long as it is necessary for Ukraine's fight" against Moscow, he said.

08:11 AM

European leaders arrive in Kyiv, in pictures

Ukraine war: French, German and Italian leaders arrive in Kyiv for crunch talks - LUDOVIC MARIN /AFP
Ukraine war: French, German and Italian leaders arrive in Kyiv for crunch talks - LUDOVIC MARIN /AFP
Ukraine war: Macron, Scholz and Draghi arrive in Kyiv for crunch talks - LUDOVIC MARIN /AFP
Ukraine war: Macron, Scholz and Draghi arrive in Kyiv for crunch talks - LUDOVIC MARIN /AFP
Ukraine war: Macron, Scholz and Draghi arrive in Kyiv for crunch talks - LUDOVIC MARIN /AFP
Ukraine war: Macron, Scholz and Draghi arrive in Kyiv for crunch talks - LUDOVIC MARIN /AFP

07:58 AM

10,000 civilians still in Severodonetsk: governor

Around 10,000 civilians are trapped in Ukraine's eastern city of Severodonetsk, where intense fighting with Russia has raged for weeks, the local governor has said.

"Out of 100,000 residents, around 10,000 remain," Sergiy Gaiday, the governor of the Lugansk region, said on Telegram. He said Kyiv's army is "holding back the enemy as much as possible."

07:43 AM

Japanese airline ditches 'Z' logo to avoid Russian military misunderstanding

Low-cost carrier Zipair Tokyo said Wednesday it will ditch its logo featuring the letter “Z,” a pro-war symbol often seen on Russian military vehicles, to avoid misunderstanding.

The president of the wholly owned subsidiary of Japan Airlines told reporters at Narita Airport near Tokyo that some people might see the current logo as indicating that the company approves of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“I think some people might feel that way when they see it without any explanation,” Shingo Nishida said.

The new logo will be a geometric pattern in green, black and white, the company said.

07:29 AM

Russia, U.S. at 'a very, very hot point of confrontation' - Kremlin

Moscow and Washington are currently at "a very, very hot point of confrontation", the RIA news agency said, citing Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov.

Mr Peskov said earlier on Thursday that Russia and the United States must discuss the extension of the START nuclear arms reduction treaty.

07:23 AM

Russia's Donbas advance 'increasingly ad hoc' - MoD

06:55 AM

Deadly rocket strike hits Sumy

The governor of Ukraine's Sumy region has said four people were killed and six wounded in an overnight rocket strike on the outskirts of Sumy city.

06:45 AM

Macron, Scholz and Draghi on train to Kyiv

A handout photo made available by the Italian Government's Press Office shows Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, left, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron greeting each other inside a train carriage at an undisclosed location on their way from Poland to Kyiv, Ukraine - Filippo Attili HANDOUT/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
A handout photo made available by the Italian Government's Press Office shows Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, left, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron greeting each other inside a train carriage at an undisclosed location on their way from Poland to Kyiv, Ukraine - Filippo Attili HANDOUT/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi left Poland on Thursday on a train bound for Kyiv.

The three leaders left in the morning, according to an AFP video, which showed the trio sitting together in a train compartment.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz  - Filippo Attili HANDOUT/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz - Filippo Attili HANDOUT/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

It is the first time that the leaders of the three European Union countries have visited Kyiv since Russia's February 24 invasion of Ukraine.

They are due to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, and the visit comes as Kyiv is pushing for membership of the EU.

06:16 AM

‘Drugged’ separatists used as ‘cannon fodder’

Russian-backed separatists fighting in Ukraine are suffering from staggering casualties, according to official figures, amid accusations that the Kremlin is using them as “cannon fodder”.

Moscow has not introduced mass mobilisation of the Russian population since the war began on February 24. However, forcible conscription has been in place for the two breakaway republics it supports in eastern Ukraine – the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics.

Families from the region have staged repeated protests over the “kidnapping” of their menfolk.

READ MORE: ‘Drugged’ separatists thrown into line of fire by Russia as ‘cannon fodder’

05:06 AM

Beijing expresses support for Russia

Russian forces continued to pressure Kyiv's troops in Donbas, as Russian President Vladimir Putin held phone discussions with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, in which Xi expressed support for Russia's "sovereignty and security".

Putin underscored that he was not as isolated internationally as his foes would wish with a call with Xi, their second reported call since Russian attacked Ukraine on February 24.

The Kremlin said that the two leaders agreed to ramp up economic cooperation in the face of "unlawful" Western sanctions.

Chinese state broadcaster CCTV said Xi told Putin that Beijing is "willing to continue to offer mutual support (to Russia) on issues concerning core interests and major concerns such as sovereignty and security".

China has refused to condemn Moscow's invasion of Ukraine and has been accused of providing diplomatic cover for Russia by criticising Western sanctions and arms sales to Kyiv.

05:04 AM

Biden:  Ukrainian people continue 'to inspire the world'

Joe Biden told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that "the United States will stand by Ukraine as it defends its democracy, and support its sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of unprovoked Russian aggression".

"The bravery, resilience, and determination of the Ukrainian people continues to inspire the world," the US President said in a phone call on Wednesday.

Mr Biden announced $1 billion worth of new arms for Ukraine.

Mr Zelensky said later in his evening address to the people of Ukraine that he was grateful for the package.

"The United States announced new strengthening of our defence, a new $1 billion support package," he said.

"I am grateful for this support, it is especially important for our defence in Donbas."

The newest US arms package features 18 more 155mm Howitzers and 36,000 rounds of ammunition for them; two land-based Harpoon anti-ship missile systems; and additional rockets for four Himars precision rocket artillery systems that Ukraine is soon to put in the field.

02:43 AM

US to provide $1bn in arms for Ukraine

  • US President Joe Biden announced $1 billion worth of new arms for Ukraine on Wednesday as Pentagon officials defended the pace and quality of supplies as meeting Kyiv's battlefield needs

  • Ukrainian troops shelled Russian targets on the front lines in the eastern Donbas region with newly arrived French Caesar howitzers

  • Kyiv officials met in Brussels with Western allies, hoping to obtain more ammunition and lethal weapons to turn the tables on the invaders

02:18 AM

View from the window: All that remains of families' homes

A Ukrainian flag is placed in front of a destroyed house after a strike in the city of Dobropillia in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas  - ARIS MESSINIS/AFP
A Ukrainian flag is placed in front of a destroyed house after a strike in the city of Dobropillia in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas - ARIS MESSINIS/AFP
A Ukrainian flag is placed in front of a destroyed house after a strike in the city of Dobropillia - ARIS MESSINIS/AFP
A Ukrainian flag is placed in front of a destroyed house after a strike in the city of Dobropillia - ARIS MESSINIS/AFP
A man cleans his destroyed house after a strike in the city of Dobropillia - ARIS MESSINIS/AFP 
A man cleans his destroyed house after a strike in the city of Dobropillia - ARIS MESSINIS/AFP

02:13 AM

Calls for captured US fighters to be treated fairly

Alexander Drueke and Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh "have enlisted in the Ukrainian army, and thus are afforded legal combatant protections", American politician Adam Kinzinger tweeted.

"As such, we expect members of the Legion to be treated in accordance with the Geneva convention."

It was unclear whether Mr Kinzinger, an Illinois Republican, had any further information about the men.

He was commenting on a tweet sent earlier on Wednesday by Task Force Baguette – a group of former US and French servicemen – saying that two Americans fighting with them were captured a week ago.

The group said Ukrainian intelligence confirmed the information.

02:05 AM

'Ukraine is not the place for Americans'

John Kirby, a national security spokesman at the White House, said on Wednesday that the administration was not able to confirm the reports about missing Americans.

"We'll do the best we can to monitor this and see what we can learn about it," he said.

However, he reiterated his warnings against Americans going to Ukraine.

"Ukraine is not the place for Americans to be travelling," he said.

"If you feel passionate about supporting Ukraine, there's any number of ways to do that that that are safer and just as effective."

02:02 AM

Two US veterans reported missing in Ukraine

Alexander Drueke, left, and Andy Huynh have been captured by Russian forces in Kharkiv
Alexander Drueke, left, and Andy Huynh have been captured by Russian forces in Kharkiv

Two US veterans from Alabama who were in Ukraine assisting in the war against Russia have not been heard from in days and are missing, members of the state's congressional delegation said on Wednesday.

Relatives of Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, 27, of Trinity and Alexander Drueke, 39, of Tuscaloosa had been in contact with both Senate and House offices seeking information about the men's whereabouts, press aides said.

Rep. Robert Aderholt said Mr Huynh had volunteered to go fight with the Ukrainian army against Russia, but relatives had not heard from him since June 8, when he was in the Kharkiv region of northeastern Ukraine, which is near the Russian border.

Mr Huynh and Mr Drueke were together, an aide to Mr Aderholt said: "As you can imagine, his loved ones are very concerned about him.

"My office has placed inquires with both the United States Department of State and the Federal Bureau of Investigation trying to get any information possible."

Rep. Terri Sewell said Mr Drueke's mother reached out to her office earlier this week after she lost contact with her son.

EXCLUSIVE: US fighters ‘captured’ by Russian forces in Ukraine

01:49 AM

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