Russia's new laser weapon 'can destroy satellites 900 miles above Earth'

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The Peresvet laser system was unveiled by the Russian Defence Ministry Image  - Russian Defence Ministry/Russian Defence Ministry
The Peresvet laser system was unveiled by the Russian Defence Ministry Image - Russian Defence Ministry/Russian Defence Ministry

Moscow has unveiled a new laser weapon that it claims can destroy satellites 900 miles above the Earth in five seconds.

The Peresvet laser system is the most recent in a long line of weapons the Kremlin has “revealed”, many of which are never seen again outside research laboratories.

The system, designed to destroy drones and other aircraft, was first announced by Vladimir Putin in 2018 but has never been issued to military units.

However, on Wednesday Yury Borisov, Russia’s deputy prime minister and the Kremlin official in charge of military development, told a conference in Moscow that Peresvet was being widely deployed and could blind satellites up to 900 miles high.

Meanwhile, a pro-Russian separatist leader said that commanders were still holed up in tunnels beneath the Azovstal steelworks.

His comments come as Russia's defence ministry claimed that 959 people had now laid down their arms at the steelworks plant, the last bastion of Ukrainian defence in the besieged city of Mariupol.

Follow the latest updates in Thursday's live blog.

05:59 PM

That's all for today...

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

  • Top-ranking Ukrainian commanders at the Azovstal steelworks "have not surrendered", a pro-Russian separatist leader has said, as Russia claimed that almost one thousand Ukrainian troops have left the plant.

  • Volodymr Zelensky, the Ukrainian President, has said that the "most influential international mediators are involved" in protecting Ukrainian soldiers evacuated from the steelworks.

  • Turkey vetoed a Nato decision on whether to accept Finland and Sweden into the military alliance.

  • The first Russian soldier on trial in Ukraine for war crimes during Moscow's invasion pleaded guilty, facing possible life imprisonment in Kyiv.

  • Russia said it was expelling a total of 85 embassy staff from France, Spain and Italy in response to similar moves by those countries

05:46 PM

Russia posts videos claiming to show Azovstal fighters in hospital after surrender

05:22 PM

US embassy reopens after three month closure

The U.S. embassy in Kyiv reopened on Wednesday after a three-month closure due to Russia's Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.

"We are officially reopening operations," spokesperson Daniel Langenkamp told Reuters shortly before the U.S. flag was raised above the embassy.

He said a small number of diplomats would return initially to staff the mission.

Consular operations will not resume immediately and a no travel advisory from the State Department remains in place across Ukraine, Langenkamp said.

The U.S. embassy closed on Feb. 14, ten days before Russia launched a full-scale invasion. Embassy staff spent the first two months of the war in Poland, but Charge d’Affaires Kristina Kvien returned to the country on May 2, visiting the western city of Lviv.

Many western countries, including France, Germany and Britain have reopened their embassies in Kyiv over the past month, after Russian troops pulled back from Ukraine's north to focus on an offensive in the east of the country.

05:12 PM

Google Russia files for bankruptcy

Google’s Russian unit has declared bankruptcy after authorities seized the tech giant’s bank account in the country, making it unable to pay staff.

The company said it was unable to meet various financial commitments because authorities had commandeered its Moscow subsidiary’s account.

Google had largely pulled out of Russia after Vladimir Putin ordered troops into Ukraine, suspending advertising sales and software updates, and no longer allowing Russians to buy apps in its Play Store or paid-for extras on YouTube.

Read the full piece from James Titcomb here

05:06 PM

Biden 'strongly' supports Finland and Sweden Nato bid

President Joe Biden expressed strong backing Wednesday for the bid by Finland and Sweden to join NATO in the face of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and offered US support in the event of "aggression" during the application process.

"The United States will work with Finland and Sweden to remain vigilant against any threats to our shared security, and to deter and confront aggression or the threat of aggression" while their bid is considered, Biden said in a statement.

Biden, who will welcome Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson to the White House on Thursday, said he was looking "forward to working with the US Congress and our NATO allies to quickly bring Finland and Sweden into the strongest defensive alliance in history."

"I warmly welcome and strongly support the historic applications," Biden said.

The two countries formally handed in their applications earlier Wednesday.

04:49 PM

Russia claims laser weapon can destroy satellites 1,500km above Earth

Moscow has unveiled a new laser weapon that it claims can destroy satellites 1,500km above the Earth in five seconds.

The Peresvet laser system is the most recent in a long line of weapons the Kremlin has “revealed”, many of which are never seen again outside research laboratories.

The system, designed to destroy drones and other aircraft, was first announced by Vladimir Putin in 2018 but has never been issued to military units.

Read the full story from Dominic Nicholls here

04:36 PM

Listen to our latest Ukraine podcast: Russian Invasion: What will happen to the Azovstal fighters?

04:06 PM

Turkey blocks Sweden and Finland’s bid to join Nato

Turkey vetoed a Nato decision on whether to accept Finland and Sweden into the military alliance.

At a “classified” meeting of Nato ambassadors in Brussels, the Turkish representative stopped a vote on their applications, which were officially submitted earlier in the day, according to sources with knowledge of the discussion.

The meeting was called in the hope of agreeing an accelerated accession process in order to head off Russian threats of aggression aimed at the Nordic nations.

Read the full piece from Joe Barnes, our Brussels Correspondent, here 

04:03 PM

Russia allows 15 companies to remain listed abroad

Russia has given 15 companies including metals giant Nornickel and liquefied natural gas producer Novatek approval to remain listed on foreign exchanges, the finance ministry said on Wednesday.

Vladimir Putin signed a bill in April requiring Russian companies to delist their depositary receipts to reduce the influence foreign countries could over them, except if they were granted permission to remain listed.

The finance ministry said that out of the 36 Russian companies with depositary receipts, 19 had requested permission and 15 were successful.

So far, Nornickel, Novatek, Russia's largest gold producer, Polyus, steel producers NLMK, Severstal and Mechel, as well as oil producer Tatneft have said they have the green light to remain listed.

Russian gas company Gazprom has previously said its request was rejected and it expects its depositary receipts to be delisted on May 31.

03:57 PM

Russia waging unjustified 'war of aggression', says Ukrainian Foreign Minister

03:41 PM

‘We are not worried’: Finnish border town makes preparations for war

In the run up to her wedding day, Lotta Häkämies struggled to get to sleep.

But the 40-year-old was not suffering from run-of-the mill nerves.

Her wedding was set to be held in the Finnish border town of Imatra, just five kilometres from the Russian border.

One night, she was jolted out of bed by the sound of fighter jets.

“We went outside,” she told The Telegraph at her wedding reception, as coffee and cake was being served.

“I couldn’t see anything and thought, perhaps I’m getting paranoid.”

Read the full story from JohnJo Devlin here

03:27 PM

Russia expels 85 diplomats from France, Spain and Italy

Russia said it was expelling a total of 85 embassy staff from France, Spain and Italy in response to similar moves by those countries, highlighting the damage to relations with leading European Union members since it launched its war on Ukraine.

The Foreign Ministry said it was ordering out 34 diplomatic staff from France, 27 from Spain and 24 from Italy.

The three countries are among European nations that have collectively thrown out more than 300 Russians since the Feb. 24 invasion. In many cases, they accused Russian diplomats of spying, which Moscow has denied.

Russia's response has included sending home 45 Polish staff and 40 Germans last month.

It has also announced tit-for-tat moves against Finland, Romania, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Japan, among others.

03:09 PM

Descent into hell: The fall of Mariupol

It was never the most picturesque place – a grimy industrial port, dominated by a Soviet steelworks known as one of Europe’s worst pollution blackspots.

But while the Ukrainian city of Mariupol was unlikely to grace a tourist brochure, no shortage of people proved willing to die for the right to call it their own.

A service member of pro-Russian troops stands in front of a destroyed building in Mariupol -  CHINGIS KONDAROV/ REUTERS
A service member of pro-Russian troops stands in front of a destroyed building in Mariupol - CHINGIS KONDAROV/ REUTERS

Today, the once-obscure port on the Azov Sea is destined for a place in history books, as the scene of some of the fiercest urban combat the 21st century has seen – and a reminder of the kind of warfare Europe hoped to have turned the page on.

Read the full story from Colin Freeman and Verity Bowman here

02:42 PM

Germany to give Czechs 15 tanks to help it arm Ukraine

Germany will give the Czech Republic 15 Leopard 2 tanks, the German defence ministry said, part of a "ring exchange" programme under which Berlin aims to help countries pass their stocks of Soviet weaponry to Ukraine to help it fight Russia.

The ministry said it would pay for the transaction and train the Czechs to use the Leopard 2 A4 tanks. The Czechs have existing stocks of old Soviet tanks with which Ukrainian soldiers are already familiar.

"The exchange is another good example of how we are helping Ukraine in its brave fight against Russian aggression," said Defence Minister Christine Lambert. "The Czechs deliver heavy weapons, and we fill the resulting holes with Leopard tanks,"

02:38 PM

Vladimir Putin is micromanaging his way to military collapse

Vladimir Putin has always led from the political front. He has never made a secret of the fact the war against Ukraine was his personal decision. He bullied his Security Council into endorsing it, and he has overseen what his armed forces have done in Russia’s name.

Latest reports suggest that military setbacks have sucked Putin into micromanaging the Russian operations. Autocrats expect to have their whims obeyed. Kremlin etiquette with its unsavoury tsarist and communist influences gives him the aura of a dictator. Two decades of power have confirmed his supremacy over his ruling elite and its business ‘oligarchs’. He has a towering confidence in his own competence.

Read the full story from Robert Service here

02:22 PM

Russia 'destroyed' Ukraine's national plant bank

Russia has destroyed Ukraine's national plant bank, devastating its catalogue that includes species found nowhere else in the world, writes Verity Bowman.

Fighting near Kharkiv reduced the National Gene Bank “to ashes” on Monday.

“After this ‘Russian world’, this horde of ‘liberators’ came here, everything was turned into ashes,” Sergey Avramenko, the institute’s leading researcher, wrote online.

Images from Ukraine's destroyed National Gene Bank reduced to ashes after fighting near Kharkiv - ilgazzettino.it/ilgazzettino.it
Images from Ukraine's destroyed National Gene Bank reduced to ashes after fighting near Kharkiv - ilgazzettino.it/ilgazzettino.it

It contained at least 160 thousand varieties of plant seeds and hybrids of agricultural crops found worldwide, with some of these the only such samples in existence.

Among the seeds stored at the bank are a variety of sunflowers and beans and wheat which are resistant to drought and disease.

Video recorded by Mr Avramenko shows seeds scattered among burned rubble and the burnt-out shell of the building. Some seeds miraculously managed to survive among the debris.

01:45 PM

Former German chancellor set to be stripped of staff amid concern over Putin links

Gerhard Schroeder, the former German chancellor, is set to be stripped of his taxpayer funded staff and office in the Bundestag amid deep concern about his links to Vladimir Putin, writes James Rothwell in Berlin.

According to German state broadcaster ARD, Mr Schroeder will keep his pension and bodyguards but will lose access to the office under a motion proposed by the Bundestag's budget committee.

The motion is part of efforts to reform privileges for former German chancellors and may be extended to Angela Merkel as well as her successors, ARD reported on Wednesday.

But it is also linked to Mr Schroeder's reputation as an unashamedly pro-Russia politician as well as his background in lobbying for major Russian energy companies.

Mr Schroder is said to have angered colleagues in the ruling Social Democrats party for refusing to abandon his work as a Gazprom lobbyist since the outbreak of the Ukraine war and for generally having a close relationship with Russia.

01:37 PM

Gas glut turns UK into electricity exporter

In a bizarre turn of events, the UK has now become a major exporter of power to Europe.

Long reliant on electricity from the continent, Britain's role has been reversed due to a recent glut in liquefied natural gas deliveries.

The UK is now sending thousands of megawatts of electricity through subsea cables to France, the Netherlands and Belgium, as an abundance of gas makes it cheaper to run power stations.

Today, more than 3,000 megawatts of power capacity was offered to the continent. This time last year, the UK was importing nearly 2,000 megawatts, according to Bloomberg data.

The role reversal comes amid a need to fill gas storage sites ahead of winter amid the threat of reduced or even zero supplies from Russia.

But the record number of liquefied ships arriving in UK ports has also caused problems, with National Grid forced to turn away supplies amid fears it's running out of storage.

Read more on this story: Crucial gas supplies turned away from UK ports

01:23 PM

Pictured: Ukrainian servicemen fire mortars towards Russian positions in east Kharkiv region

Ukrainian servicemen fire mortars towards Russian positions in east Kharkiv region -  Bernat Armangue/AP
Ukrainian servicemen fire mortars towards Russian positions in east Kharkiv region - Bernat Armangue/AP

01:14 PM

World Bank to offer $30 billion over 15 months to ease looming food crisis

The World Bank will make $30 billion available to help stem a food security crisis threatened by Russia's war in Ukraine, which has cut off most grain exports from the two countries, the U.S. Treasury said in a report on food security plans from international financial institutions on Wednesday.

The total will include $12 billion in new projects and $18 billion funds from existing food and nutrition-related projects that have been approved but have not yet been disbursed, the Treasury report said.

12:32 PM

Germany wants swift Nato entry for Sweden and Finland

The German government will push for the quickest possible accession of Sweden and Finland to Nato, a spokesperson said in Berlin.

"In these two countries, we gain two valued and capable allies who will further strengthen the defence capability of our alliance," the spokesperson told journalists at a regular government news conference.

The official said Germany was optimistic that all NATO members would support the two membership bids, which were formally submitted earlier on Wednesday and approved by the German cabinet soon afterwards.

12:13 PM

Latest MoD intelligence

12:08 PM

US Treasury plans to force Russia into default

The US is preparing to force Russia to default on its international debts for the first time in a century in a blow to Vladimir Putin.

The Office of Foreign Assets Control will allow an exemption permitting Moscow to make bond payments to lapse, leaving it with no option to avoid default, sources told Bloomberg.

The Kremlin insisted it would avoid such an outcome on Wednesday, with finance minister Anton Siluanov saying it could still make payments with roubles.

Read the full story from Louis Ashworth here

11:44 AM

Ukraine opens first war crimes trial against Russian soldier

Ukraine has opened its first war crimes trial against a Russian soldier since the start of Moscow's invasion in February.

Russian serviceman Vadim Shishimarin, 21, appeared at a district court in Kyiv, accused of killing a 62-year-old man in north-east Ukraine and charged with war crimes and premeditated murder.

11:39 AM

Google says its Russian bank account has been seized

Russian authorities have seized Google Russia's bank account, making it impossible for its Russian office to function, a Google spokesperson said on Wednesday after Google's Russian subsidiary declared its intention to file for bankruptcy.

"Google Russia has published a notice of its intention to file for bankruptcy," the spokesperson said.

11:23 AM

Truss congratulates Finland and Sweden on applying for Nato membership

11:19 AM

'Hostile' to expel Italian diplomats from Russia, says Draghi

Russia's decision to expel Italian diplomats is an "hostile act", Prime Minister Mario Draghi said on Wednesday, warning diplomatic channels with Moscow must not be interrupted.

Russia will expel 24 Italian diplomats in a retaliatory move, news agency RIA cited the foreign ministry as saying - the latest in a series of tit-for-tat responses to European countries that have ordered out Russian staff.

"This absolutely must not lead to an interruption of diplomatic channels because it is through those channels that, if we succeed, peace will be achieved and that is certainly what we want," Draghi said.

11:18 AM

EU makes plans to tackle energy price spikes if Russia cut gas supplies

The European Union can limit the impact of high energy prices through joint gas purchases, potential use of windfall profits and a possible price cap if Russia cut gas supplies, the European Commission said on Wednesday.

European energy prices hit record highs this year after the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, Europe's top gas supplier. That followed months of already high gas prices, caused by surging demand in economies recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The European Union executive has presented its "REPowerEU" plan to end the bloc's dependence on Russian fossil fuels and accelerate use of renewable energy, but has also set out short-term options designed to limit harm to consumers.

The Commission said energy prices were likely to remain high for the next three years, particularly so for the rest of 2022.

A number of the European Union's 27 members have taken steps to reduce energy bills and the Commission said it would allow certain measures through next winter, when energy demand surges.

10:30 AM

Russia expels 34 French diplomats in retaliatory move

Russia's Foreign Ministry has said that it was expelling 34 French diplomats in a retaliatory move.

France kicked out 35 Russians with diplomatic status as part of a broader wave of expulsions that saw more than 300 Russians sent home from European capitals.

Later that month France's foreign ministry declared six Russian agents posing as diplomats as "persona non grata" after an investigation by the domestic intelligence services concluded they were working against French national interests.

10:17 AM

Putin’s on a road to nowhere with the Soviet-era Moskvich

Vladimir Putin’s humiliation is almost complete.

The invasion of Ukraine has been such a disaster that Nato’s secretary Jens Stoltenberg has raised the possibility that Ukraine may even win the war, an outcome that no one thought remotely possible when the Kremlin’s tanks rolled across the border in February.

The Russian army has been exposed as amateurish, poorly trained, and ill-equipped.

It has failed to take Kyiv, been repelled from Kharkiv, and the Donbas offensive is faltering to such an extent that the Russian president has begun interfering in low-level tactical decisions usually made by more junior commanders.

Read the full piece from Ben Marlow, our chief City commentator, here

10:01 AM

Boris Johnson welcomes Finland, Sweden to Nato

Boris Johnson has welcomed Finland and Sweden officially applying to join Nato as a "historic day" for the military alliance and the world.

The Prime Minister tweeted: "This is an historic day for our alliance & the world. Not long ago nobody would have predicted this step, but (Vladimir) Putin's appalling ambitions have transformed the geopolitical contours of our continent.

"I look forward to welcoming Finland & Sweden into the @NATO family very soon."

09:56 AM

Top commanders at Azovstal 'haven't surrendered'

Top-ranking Ukrainian commanders at Mariupol's Azovstal steelworks are still inside the plant and have yet to surrender, local media quoted pro-Russian separatist leader Denis Pushilin as saying.

DAN news agency quoted Mr Pushilin as saying that the hundreds of fighters who had given themselves up did not include any commanders of the highest level. "They have not left (the plant)" as of now, he said.

09:36 AM

Court to decide fate of Azovstal fighters - separatist leader

Donetsk separatist leader Denis Pushilin said that a court would decide the fate of the Ukrainian fighters who had surrendered at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, a local media outlet reported.

Russia said earlier on Wednesday that a total of 959 Ukrainian fighters, including 80 wounded, had surrendered from the bunkers and tunnels below the Azovstal steelworks since Monday.

09:14 AM

One of world's largest gene banks 'destroyed'

One of the world’s largest gene banks has been destroyed by fighting near Kharkiv, reports Verity Bowman.

At least 160,000 varieties of plant seeds and hybrids of agricultural crops worldwide were inside the bank.

“These seeds were stored in special storage facilities so that future generations could restore them,” said Sergey Avramenko, the institute’s leading researcher.

Some that no longer exist in Europe or the rest of the world were among those destroyed.

08:55 AM

Ukraine attempts to save Azovstal fighters as Russian MPs want them 'executed'

08:27 AM

Israel delivers helmets, vests

Israel has delivered 2,000 helmets and 500 protective vests for emergency and civilian organisations in Ukraine, Israel's Defense Ministry has said.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz last month said he would authorize the delivery of helmets and vests, signaling a shift in Israel's position on providing such equipment. It follows a request by Ukraine for the supplies.

08:09 AM

694 Ukrainian fighters from Azovstal surrendered over last 24 hours - Kremlin

Russia's defence ministry said that 694 Ukrainian fighters holed up in Mariupol's Azovstal steelworks had surrendered over the last 24 hours, RIA news agency reported.

Since Monday, 959 militants from Azovstal have surrendered, 80 of whom were wounded, RIA reported citing the ministry.

Ukrainian servicemen sit in a bus after they were evacuated from the besieged Mariupol's Azovstal steel plant - Alexei Alexandrov /AP
Ukrainian servicemen sit in a bus after they were evacuated from the besieged Mariupol's Azovstal steel plant - Alexei Alexandrov /AP

07:50 AM

Gazprom says gas transit via Ukraine at 51.6 mcm

Russian gas producer Gazprom said it continues to supply gas to Europe through Ukraine via the Sudzha entry point, with volumes on Wednesday seen at 51.6 million cubic metres (mcm), up from 49.3 mcm on Tuesday.

An application to supply gas via the main Sokhranovka entry point was rejected by Ukraine, Gazprom said.

07:29 AM

Li Truss 'open' to to trying Vladimir Putin for war crimes

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the UK is open to the idea of an international criminal tribunal trying Vladimir Putin and other Russian leaders over the war in Ukraine.

Asked on Times Radio by the Ukrainian MP Alexey Goncharenko if the UK would support the move, she said: "Well, we are very clear that Putin and all of those who've been behind the appalling war crimes that are being committed in Ukraine need to be held to account, and we're working very closely with the ICC.

"We've sent support into Ukraine to help collect evidence, from witness statements to video evidence.

"I've talked to the Ukrainian government about this idea of a tribunal. We are open to the idea of a tribunal, we're currently considering it, but what we want is the most effective way of prosecuting those people who have committed these appalling war crimes including rape, sexual violence, the indiscriminate targeting of civilians.

"If the tribunal will help to do that, then the UK is definitely considering supporting it."

07:11 AM

UK looking at how Russian assets can fund rebuilding of Ukraine

Britain and fellow G7 nations are looking at how Russian assets can be used to fund the rebuilding of Ukraine, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has said.

"We need a new Marshall Plan to rebuild Ukraine and in fact, we've just been discussing this at the G7 meeting that I had with my colleagues from around the world. We are looking at what we can do to use Russian assets to help pay for this," she told Times Radio.

06:49 AM

Finland, Sweden hand in applications to join Nato

Finland and Sweden have handed in their bids to join Nato, after Russia's invasion of Ukraine up-ended decades of military non-alignment.

"The applications you have made today are an historic step, which we must seize. Allies will now consider the next steps on your path to Nato," alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg said, after receiving the bids from the Finnish and Swedish ambassadors at Nato headquarters.

"I warmly welcome requests by Finland and Sweden to join Nato. You are our closest partners, and your membership in Nato will increase our shared security."

The application must now be weighed by the 30 member countries. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has expressed reservations about Finland and Sweden joining.

If his objections are overcome, and accession talks go as well as expected, the two could become members within a few months. The process usually takes eight to 12 months, but Nato wants to move quickly given the threat from Russia hanging over the Nordic countries' heads.

06:34 AM

Ukraine today, in pictures

A Ukrainian soldier hides in the grass during a patrol and monitoring operation on the outskirt of the separatist region of Donetsk - Daniel Ceng Shou-Yi/ZUMA Press Wire/Shutterstock /Shutterstock 
A Ukrainian soldier hides in the grass during a patrol and monitoring operation on the outskirt of the separatist region of Donetsk - Daniel Ceng Shou-Yi/ZUMA Press Wire/Shutterstock /Shutterstock
Ukrainian serviceman wave a flag reading "Glory to Ukraine", top, and "Death to the enemies" as they ride atop a tank in the Kharkiv region - Bernat Armangue /AP
Ukrainian serviceman wave a flag reading "Glory to Ukraine", top, and "Death to the enemies" as they ride atop a tank in the Kharkiv region - Bernat Armangue /AP
A teddy bear hangs on a swing next to a damaged building in Kharkiv  - RICARDO MORAES /REUTERS
A teddy bear hangs on a swing next to a damaged building in Kharkiv - RICARDO MORAES /REUTERS
A Ukrainian serviceman boarding a bus as he is being evacuated from the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol - ALESSANDRO GUERRA/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock /Shutterstock 
A Ukrainian serviceman boarding a bus as he is being evacuated from the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol - ALESSANDRO GUERRA/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock /Shutterstock

06:15 AM

Latest MoD updates

05:59 AM

Peace talks stagnate as Russian attacks continue

Peace negotiations between Russia and Ukraine have stagnated, officials said, with both sides trading blame and Moscow indicating a return to talks may be difficult.

Russia accused Ukraine of hardening its stance and the West for bolstering the government in Kyiv, with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov saying that Washington, London and Brussels want to use Ukraine to their strategic advantage.

Lavrov said no peace deal could be made if negotiators tried to "transfer the dialogue" to focus on what the West had to say instead of the immediate situation in Ukraine. That ruled out chances for progress in talks, he said.

"We always say that we are ready for negotiations ... but we were given no other choice," Lavrov said.

Lavrov's deputy Andrey Rudenko said Ukraine "has practically withdrawn from the negotiation process", while Russian negotiator Leonid Slutsky said talks were not being conducted in any format.

"The (US) State Department should not try to create 'conditions' through military assistance to Kyiv. Useless," Slutsky said.

05:32 AM

In pictures: Destruction in Kharkiv

A teddy bear hangs on a swing next to a damaged building in Saltivka district, in Kharkiv - REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes
A teddy bear hangs on a swing next to a damaged building in Saltivka district, in Kharkiv - REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes

Ukraine's military command said Russia continued to shell Ukrainian positions along the entire frontline in the east on Wednesday.

"In the Kharkiv direction, the enemy focused on maintaining its positions and preventing the further advance of our troops," Ukraine's general staff said.

A local woman returns to her building, which was damaged in a shelling in Kharkiv - SERGEY KOZLOV/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
A local woman returns to her building, which was damaged in a shelling in Kharkiv - SERGEY KOZLOV/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Around a third of the Donbas was held by Russia-backed separatists before the invasion. Moscow now controls around 90pc of Luhansk region, but it has failed to make major inroads towards the key cities of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk in Donetsk in order to extend control over the entire Donbas.

A woman sits at the entrance of her apartment building, which was damaged in Kharkiv. The residents no longer access to electricity, gas or water indoors
A woman sits at the entrance of her apartment building, which was damaged in Kharkiv. The residents no longer access to electricity, gas or water indoors

05:19 AM

UN attempts to restore Ukrainian grain shipments

UN chief Antonio Guterres is expected to publicly disclose on Wednesday that he is in talks with Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, the US and the EU in an attempt to restore Ukrainian grain shipments and revive fertiliser exports from Russia and Belarus.

The war has fuelled soaring global prices for grains, cooking oils, fuel and fertiliser, and Mr Guterres has warned it will worsen food, energy and economic crises in poor countries.

Mr Guterres is expected to discuss his efforts at a Global Food Security Call to Action ministerial meeting hosted by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the UN in New York later on Wednesday. Mr Blinken will also chair a Security Council meeting on conflict and food security on Thursday.

04:48 AM

Russian gymnast banned over pro-war 'Z' symbol

A Russian gymnast who sported an insignia linked to his country's invasion of Ukraine on a medal podium has been banned for one year, a disciplinary panel said.

Ivan Kuliak's singlet had the letter "Z" prominently placed as he stood next to Ukraine's Kovtun Illia, the gold medallist at a World Cup event in Doha in March.

The "Z" has been seen daubed on Russian tanks and vehicles in Ukraine and has come to symbolise support for the invasion.

A disciplinary commission of the Gymnastics Ethics Foundation (GEF) found that Kuliak violated rules of the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG), the sport's ruling body.

"Mr Kuliak is not allowed to participate in any FIG-sanctioned event or competition organised by an affiliated FIG member federation for one year as of the date of this decision," GEF said.

Kuliak must also return his bronze medal and prize money of 500 Swiss francs (£400). He has 21 days to appeal against the punishment.

It had already been decided that all Russian and Belarusian gymnasts will be banned from future competitions.

03:35 AM

Russian soldier to go on trial today

The war crime trial of a Russian soldier accused of killing an unarmed civilian gets underway in Kyiv on Wednesday.

Vadim Shishimarin, 21, is set to appear at Kyiv's Solomyansky district court from 2pm (11am GMT) over the death of a 62-year-old man in northeastern Ukraine on February 28.

Charged with war crimes and premeditated murder, the soldier from Irkutsk in Siberia faces a possible life sentence.

Russian soldier Vadim Shishimarin during a court hearing in Kyiv - REUTERS/Viacheslav Ratynskyi
Russian soldier Vadim Shishimarin during a court hearing in Kyiv - REUTERS/Viacheslav Ratynskyi

"He understands what he is being accused of," his lawyer, Viktor Ovsiannikov, told AFP.

Ukrainian authorities say he is cooperating with investigators and admitting the facts of the incident.

In early May, Ukrainian authorities announced his arrest and published a video in which Shishimarin said he was fighting in Ukraine to "support his mother financially".

"I was ordered to shoot, I shot him once. He fell and we continued our journey," he said.

03:24 AM

'Animals in human form' should be executed

Injured soldiers being evacuated - RUSSIAN DEFENCE MINISTRY PRESS SERVICE HANDOUT/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Injured soldiers being evacuated - RUSSIAN DEFENCE MINISTRY PRESS SERVICE HANDOUT/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Russian defence ministry video has shown Azovstal fighters leaving the plant, some carried on stretchers, others with hands up to be searched by Russian troops.

There were some women on at least one of the buses in Olenivka, Reuters video showed.

The Kremlin said Vladimir Putin had personally guaranteed the prisoners would be treated according to international standards.

Russian soldiers search Ukrainian servicemen - RUSSIAN DEFENCE MINISTRY PRESS SERVICE HANDOUT/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Russian soldiers search Ukrainian servicemen - RUSSIAN DEFENCE MINISTRY PRESS SERVICE HANDOUT/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Kyiv aimed to arrange a prisoner swap for the wounded once their condition stabilised.

But Russian Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations Dmitry Polyansky said there had been no deal, tweeting: "I didn’t know English has so many ways to express a single message: the #Azovnazis have unconditionally surrendered."

Ukrainian servicemen wait on a bus as they are evacuated from the Azovstal steel plant - RUSSIAN DEFENCE MINISTRY PRESS SERVICE HANDOUT/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Ukrainian servicemen wait on a bus as they are evacuated from the Azovstal steel plant - RUSSIAN DEFENCE MINISTRY PRESS SERVICE HANDOUT/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

TASS news agency reported a Russian committee planned to question the soldiers, many of them members of the Azov Battalion, as part of an investigation into what Moscow calls "Ukrainian regime crimes".

High-profile Russian lawmakers spoke out against any prisoner swap. Lawmaker Leonid Slutsky, one of Russia's negotiators in talks with Ukraine, called the evacuated combatants "animals in human form" and said they should be executed.

02:16 AM

Sadness as Mariupol's last protectors are captured

Ukrainian MP Lesia Vasylenko has expressed her fears for the Azovstal soldiers captured in Mariupol:

The capture of Mariupol makes it the biggest city to be taken by Moscow's forces and gives the Kremlin a much-wanted victory, though the landscape has largely been reduced to rubble.

More than 260 Ukrainian fighters – some of them seriously wounded and taken out on stretchers – left the ruins of the Azovstal plant on Monday and turned themselves over to the Russian side in a deal negotiated by the warring parties. An additional seven buses carrying an unknown number of Ukrainian soldiers from the plant were seen arriving at a former penal colony on Tuesday in the town of Olenivka, about 55 miles north of Mariupol.

A screengrab from a video released by the Russian Defence Ministry shows Ukrainian soldiers being searched by pro-Russian military personnel after leaving the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Ukraine's port city of Mariupol - Russian Defence Ministry/AFP
A screengrab from a video released by the Russian Defence Ministry shows Ukrainian soldiers being searched by pro-Russian military personnel after leaving the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Ukraine's port city of Mariupol - Russian Defence Ministry/AFP

While Russia called it a surrender, the Ukrainians avoided that word and instead said the plant's garrison had successfully completed its mission to tie down Russian forces and was under new orders.

The destruction of Mariupol "just hurts", Ms Vasylenko tweeted: "Insatiable pain. That doesn’t stop. For all the people. For all the lives lost. 20 thousand. 20,000. Just gone. And even more will go, as the Kadyrov terrorists are put in charge of the city. Just emptiness and pain."

02:00 AM

Azovstal fighters should be put to death, say Russian MPs

Ukrainian servicemen on a bus as they are evacuated from the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol - ALESSANDRO GUERRA/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Ukrainian servicemen on a bus as they are evacuated from the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol - ALESSANDRO GUERRA/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Hardliners in Russia are calling for the death penalty for the Azovstal soldiers, who have been portrayed as Nazis by the Kremlin to justify the invasion.

The Ukrainian soldiers evacuated from the last stand of Mariupol’s steelworks should be executed, Russian MPs and former military commanders said as they urged Vladimir Putin to tear up plans for a prisoner swap.

Leonid Slutsky, a prominent Russian MP, said: “In case their horrendous crimes against humanity are proven, I would like to revive my idea to lift the moratorium on capital punishment in Russia and let the court consider using it.”

Margarita Simonyan, head of Russia's RT news channel, on Tuesday quoted sources saying that the Azovstal fighters had been taken to a Russian jail.

The fall of Mariupol represents a rare victory for Putin after scaling back his invasion and suffering losses in the eastern Donbas region. However, it has come at a huge cost to resources.

Read the full story here.

01:54 AM

Today's top stories

  • Ukrainian soldiers evacuated from the last stand of Mariupol’s steelworks should be executed, Russian MPs and former military commanders said as they urged Vladimir Putin to tear up plans for a prisoner swap

  • Ukraine's film bosses have demanded a blanket boycott of Russia at the Cannes Film Festival and planned a conference on “cancelling Russian culture”

  • When it comes to military operations, political leaders should be looking outwards: explaining the action to maintain support from domestic society and international allies. But Vladimir Putin is personally intervening in the tactical direction of the Kremlin's stuttering war in Ukraine

  • The Ukrainian invasion has put Russia at risk of “full international isolation”, a retired colonel has said in a rare broadcast of dissent on state television