Russia deploys its ‘Terminator’ vehicles as Moscow steps up Donbas assault

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Ukrainian servicemen near the frontline in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas - AFP
Ukrainian servicemen near the frontline in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas - AFP

Russia is believed to have deployed ‘Terminator’ tank support vehicles in Severodonetsk, as Moscow attempts to make a major breakthrough in its Donbas offensive.

The UK’s Ministry of Defence said that the vehicles were likely being deployed by Russia’s Central Grouping of Forces which previously suffered heavy losses while failing to break through to eastern Kyiv in the first phase of the invasion.

The ministry said in an intelligence update shared on Twitter that the Severodonetsk area “remains one of Russia’s immediate tactical priorities”.

“However, with a maximum of ten Terminators deployed they are unlikely to have a significant impact on the campaign,” it added.

The BMPT tank support vehicles, nicknamed ‘Terminator’, are heavily armoured with four anti-tank missile launchers to help survive urban combat.

02:54 PM

That’s all for today       

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

  • Russia pounded Ukrainian forces with airstrikes and artillery in the east and the south overnight, targeting command centres, troops, and ammunition depots.

  • Moscow is also believed to have deployed ‘Terminator’ tank support vehicles in Severodonetsk, as Russia attempts to make a major breakthrough in its Donbas offensive.

  • Ukraine has extended martial law for three more months through to August 23 as the war drags on.

  • Only Ukraine has the right to decide its future, the Polish president Andrzej Duda told lawmakers in Kyiv today, as he became the first foreign leader to give a speech in person to the Ukrainian parliament since Russia's invasion.

  • And finally, France's Europe minister said a bid by Ukraine to join the EU could not be finalised for "15 or 20 years," pouring cold water on Kyiv’s hopes for a quick entry.

02:46 PM

Ukraine must not give in to Putin's demands, Poland's president says

Ukraine must not give in to Vladimir Putin, the Polish president has said in a speech to Kyiv's parliament, as he warned the West against appeasing Russia, reports Nataliya Vasilyeva.

Andrzej Duda, who became the first foreign leader to address Ukrainian MPs in person since the start of the war, said only Ukraine has the right to decide its future after calls for a settlement.

Ukrainian officials are seething at increasing calls from the West for Kyiv to cede territory to Russia and end the conflict to avoid the war from spilling over into a global conflict.

"Worrying voices have appeared, saying that Ukraine should give in to Putin’s demands," he said in his speech to the Verkhovna Rada, interrupted by standing ovations.

"Only Ukraine has the right to make decisions about its future… Nothing about you without you."

Read the full story here.

02:40 PM

Zelensky promises reciprocal rights for Poles in Ukraine

Polish citizens in Ukraine will be granted the same rights that Ukrainian refugees in Poland are currently receiving, Volodymyr Zelensky said during a visit to Kyiv by his Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda.

Poland has granted the right to live and work and claim social security payments to over three million Ukrainian refugees fleeing Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Earlier on Sunday, a Ukrainian ruling party lawmaker said that the Ukrainian Presidenthad announced the imminent tabling of a parliamentary bill to give Polish citizens "special legal status" in Ukraine.

02:05 PM

Morgan Freeman among Americans added to Russia's barred list

Hollywood star Morgan Freeman and the late senator John McCain have been banned from entering Russia, reports David Millward.

They featured on a list of 963 Americans who will be excluded from the country released by the Russian foreign ministry over the weekend. Freeman appears to have aroused Moscow’s ire after he appeared in a video accusing Russia of interfering in the 2016 presidential election.

John McCain is one of three dead senators who appear on the Kremlin's list of people excluded from the country.

Joe Biden was banned by the Kremlin in March – with the White House wryly noting that the president had not been planning a holiday in Russia anyway.

01:40 PM

Russia-backed mayor of nuclear plant town wounded by explosion

The Russian-appointed head of the occupied Ukrainian town next to Europe's largest nuclear power plant was injured in an explosion today, a Ukrainian official and a Russian news agency said.

Andrei Shevchuk, who was appointed mayor of Enerhodar, home to the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, following the Russian army's occupation of the town, was in intensive care following the attack, Russia's RIA news agency reported, citing a source in the emergency services.

"We have accurate confirmation that during the explosion the self-proclaimed head of the 'people's administration' Shevchuk and his bodyguards were injured," Dmytro Orlov, who Ukraine recognises as mayor of the town said in a post on the Telegram messaging app.

01:05 PM

France sees EU membership for Ukraine in '15 or 20 years'

A bid by Ukraine to join the European Union could not be finalised for "15 or 20 years," France's Europe minister said today, pouring cold water on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's hopes for a quick entry in the wake of Russia's invasion of his country.

"We have to be honest. If you say Ukraine is going to join the EU in six months, or a year or two, you're lying," Clement Beaune told Radio J.

"It's probably in 15 or 20 years, it takes a long time."

12:54 PM

Ukraine extends martial law

Ukraine has extended martial law for three months through to August 23 as the war with Russia drags on.

President Volodymyr Zelensky first signed the decree along with a general military mobilisation call on February 24 when Russian forces invaded.

Ukraine's parliament on Sunday voted by an absolute majority for the third extension of the decree as Russia pursues its offensive targeting the eastern Donbas region.

After failing to take control of the capital Kyiv, Moscow has switched its focus to the east of Ukraine.

12:20 PM

Phillips O'Brien: Ukraine is showing the future of modern warfare

Ben Wallace should pay close attention to events that may be a turning point in how we win wars, writes Phillips O'Brien.

In an address to the National Army Museum earlier this month, the Defence Secretary Ben Wallace gave a fascinating view of the present state, and possible future, of military power. Though he focused on Ukraine, he also gave some tantalising hints about where the UK might be moving next.

Wallace painted a picture of a Russian army that was “rotten” from top to bottom; with demoralised rank-and-file troops and a class of “failing” generals, whose planning, if that word could even be used, left their men helpless against fierce Ukrainian resistance. Corruption and inefficiency were ubiquitous, from soldiers selling their vehicles’ fuel for extra cash, to expensive and vital logistics vehicles being poorly maintained. All of this contributed to an enormous strategic failure at the Battle of Kyiv.

Read the full piece here.

11:54 AM

Russia has been waiting for this moment - but they could come unstuck

While the dried earth of the Ukrainian steppe presents advantages for tank movements, the fields of Donbas are still littered with danger, writes Roland Oliphant.

When Vladimir Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine, it was winter.

It was a war of snow, sleet and thick sinking mud that clung to boots and caterpillar tracks, confining ill-fated Russian columns to narrow roads where they were sitting ducks for the Ukrainian gunners.

Now, it is a different story.

In the fields of Donbas, the earth is being dried by a friendly late spring sun, and the fresh green shoots of young crops are appearing even where rocket strikes have left black marks on the steppe.

In the wetlands around Slavyansk, the distant sounds of battle are drowned out by croaking frogs.

And south-west of Izyum, the Ukrainian defenders have cut new trenches into the rich sod as they prepare to defend against the grinding Russian offensive.

Read the full story here.

11:30 AM

Ukrainian MP: ‘Putin is the Hitler of the 21st century'

Oleksii Goncharenko, Ukrainian MP who has documented Russian war crimes  - Jeff Gilbert 
Oleksii Goncharenko, Ukrainian MP who has documented Russian war crimes - Jeff Gilbert

Having worked as an ambulance medic dealing with front-line emergencies, Oleksii Goncharenko thought he had seen it all. Then the Russian tanks rolled into Ukraine, writes Camilla Tominey.

But everything changed when the doctor-turned-MP embarked on a quest to document the war crimes that have occurred in his beloved country since Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion on February 24.

It is the image of the scarred remains of a child, who could only have been six years old, that continues to haunt his everyday thoughts as he tells me why he is determined to bring Putin before the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

With his youthful good looks and sharp tailoring, the 41-year-old businessman-like father-of-two does not seem the type to singlehandedly take on the evils of the Kremlin.

Read the full story here.

10:55 AM

PM faces fresh pressure over Lord Lebedev's peerage

Boris Johnson is facing renewed pressure to release "critical information" about the appointment of Lord Lebedev after the peer's father, a former KGB officer, was subjected to new sanctions by Canada.

Alexander Lebedev, a Russian businessman and former KGB officer, was one of 15 Russian nationals targeted on Friday with a visa ban and asset freeze for their alleged ties to the Kremlin.

Mr Lebedev bought Britain’s Evening Standard and Independent newspapers in 2010 before transferring ownership to his son, Lord Lebedev, who is known for his close ties to Mr Johnson.

Mr Lebedev is still listed as a director of Independent Print Ltd, which according to its most recent Company House statement for the year ending 2020 provided outsourced digital publishing services to the Independent and Standard.

Read the full story here.

10:18 AM

Ukraine must decide its own future, says Poland's president in Kyiv

Only Ukraine has the right to decide its future, the Polish president told lawmakers in Kyiv today, as he became the first foreign leader to give a speech in person to the Ukrainian parliament since Russia's invasion.

"Worrying voices have appeared, saying that Ukraine should give in to Putin's demands," Andrzej Duda said. "Only Ukraine has the right to decide about its future... nothing about you without you."

09:42 AM

Russia pounds Donbas and Mykolaiv

Russia pounded Ukrainian forces with airstrikes and artillery in the east and the south, targeting command centres, troops, and ammunition depots, the Russian defence ministry said today.

Major General Igor Konashenkov, spokesman for the defence ministry, said air-launched missiles hit three command points, 13 areas where troops and Ukrainian military equipment amassed, as well as four ammunition depots in the Donbas.

In Ukraine's southern region of Mykolaiv, Russian rockets hit a mobile anti-drone system near the settlement of Hannivka, around 100 km northeast of Mykolaiv city, Konashenkov said.

Rockets "and artillery hit 583 areas where troops and Ukrainian military equipment amassed, 41 control points, 76 artillery and mortar units in firing positions, including three Grad batteries, as well as a Bukovel Ukrainian electronic warfare station near the settlement of Hannivka, Mykolaiv region," he added.

09:08 AM

Daniel Johnson: Putin's catastrophic war has exposed Russia as a third-rate power

Embittered and isolated, the president has made all his nightmares come true, writes Daniel Johnson.

Vladimir Putin is now the loneliest man on earth. Three months ago, he invaded Ukraine to prove that Russia was still a first-rate power. Rather, it has been exposed as a third-rate one.

Putin’s pretentions to be a political “genius” (as Donald Trump unwisely dubbed him) are belied by his almost complete isolation. The autocrat of the conference table has been unmasked as a prisoner of his own megalomania.

He counted on the success of his tried and tested tactic of divide and rule. But he has united the West against him, while the Ukrainians refuse to be ruled by him.

Instead, the grandmaster of realpolitik fell into a trap — the strategic equivalent of Fool’s Mate. A third of his invaders are dead, wounded or missing, with little to show for their sacrifice.

Read the full piece here.

08:25 AM

Russian state TV claims Russia could have 'dealt with Ukraine in hours'

08:07 AM

War pushes millions into starvation

Russia's blockade dealt a serious blow to what was already a perilous situation, pushing food prices to record highs in the Horn of Africa, reports Sarah Newey.

By the time Fahima had scrapped together $10 for a lift to the health clinic, her youngest son was wasting away. At 16 months old, Bilar weighed just 10 pounds when he was admitted to the whitewashed paediatric ward – less than half the average for a young boy his age.

“His whole demeanour has changed,” Fahima told the Telegraph this week, soothing the sleepy toddler in her arms. “He was friendly and loved to play. Now, you can see, he has nothing left.”

The pair are from Somaliland, a de facto state considered internationally as part of Somalia. They are among roughly 15 million people experiencing acute hunger or starvation across the Horn of Africa, where a major drought has been exacerbated by a food crisis linked to the war in Ukraine.

According to estimates from Save the Children and Oxfam, one child is dying every 48 seconds in the region. In Somalia alone, 81,000 people are already living in “pockets of famine”, while the United Nations has warned that 350,000 children “will perish by the summer” without urgent action.

Read the full story here.

07:38 AM

How Ukraine's warmer weather could now give Russia an advantage

07:30 AM

Russia destroys major shipment of Western weapons en route to Donbas

Moscow has claimed to have destroyed a major Western weapons shipment meant to reinforce Ukraine's defence of the Donbas, as the Russian army intensified its attempts to seize the key eastern region.

The weapons were in transit near the Malin Railway station, around 80 miles West of Kyiv, when they were hit by “high-precision long-range sea-based Kalibr missiles,” according to the Russian ministry of defence. Elsewhere, Russia also claimed to have destroyed a Ukrainian special-operations base in the Black Sea region of Odesa.

In another blow to Kyiv, Russia said that it had finally seized the Azovstal steel factory in Mariupol, which had become a symbol of Ukraine’s stoic defence.

The brutal three-month campaign in the city ended with the surrender of more than 2,000 Ukrainian soldiers.

Read the full story here.

07:08 AM

Terminator tanks likely deployed to Severodonetsk

Russia’s only operational company of BMP-T Terminator tank support vehicles has likely been deployed to the Severodonetsk axis of the Donbas offensive, the UK's Ministry of Defence has advised.

"Their presence suggests that the Central Grouping of Forces (CGF) is involved in this attack, which is the only formation fielding this vehicle," the ministry said in a post on Twitter on Sunday.

"CGF previously suffered heavy losses while failing to break through to eastern Kyiv in the first phase of the invasion."

The Severodonetsk area continues to be one of Russia’s immediate tactical priorities.

"However, with a maximum of ten Terminators deployed they are unlikely to have a significant impact on the campaign," the ministry said.

05:56 AM

Widespread damaged following missile strikes in Lozova

More than a thousand apartments and 11 educational institutions have been damaged following Russian missile strikes in the Ukrainian city of Lozova, the Kharkiv region, on Friday.

"The figures are shocking: 11 educational institutions, including five schools," Lozova mayor Serhiy Zelensky said in a video statement on Telegram on Saturday.

"There are questions about the amount of damage suffered by a hospital and a clinic. Our Palace of Culture was completely destroyed too.

"Among the damaged educational facilities is the Lozova branch of the Kharkiv Automobile and Road College. Educational building number 1, training and production workshops, and a dormitory that are located on the territory of the college suffered damage as well."

Seven people were injured in the missile strike, including an 11-year-old child.

A destroyed building after an airstrike on the Cultural Centre, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues - Reuters
A destroyed building after an airstrike on the Cultural Centre, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues - Reuters

05:42 AM

Moldova wine industry's EU focus pays off amid war

In the small Moldovan village of Pereni, winemaker Nicolae Tronciu gazes at his vineyard, with its buds ready to bloom.

The 71-year-old launched his current brand four years ago, selling it to Europe rather than Russia, traditionally his country's biggest customer - a move that is paying off amid the war in Ukraine.

"Most of my production goes to Europe, especially to our Romanian brothers," Mr Tronciu told AFP at his vineyard, about 30 miles away from the Ukrainian border.

Moldova - a small former Soviet republic of some 2.6 million people nestled between Ukraine and Romania, and among the world's 20 largest wine producers - has long sought closer ties with Europe.

This has now mitigated the war's impact as the industry struggles with rising prices for raw materials and a lack of Ukrainian consumers.

Winemaker Nicolae Tronciu in his vineyard in the Moldovan village of Pereni - AFP
Winemaker Nicolae Tronciu in his vineyard in the Moldovan village of Pereni - AFP

03:10 AM

Moscow considers prisoner exchange

Russia will consider exchanging prisoners captured in Ukraine's Azovstal steel plant for Viktor Medvedchuk, a wealthy Ukrainian businessman and close ally of President Vladimir Putin.

"We are going to study the possibility," Leonid Slutsky, a senior member of Russia's negotiating team on Ukraine, said.

Mr Medvedchuk, 67, is a politician and is known for his close ties to Mr Putin.

He escaped from house arrest after Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February but was re-arrested in mid-April.

02:01 AM

Further sanctions against Russia 'should be accelerated'

A sixth package of sanctions against Russia "should be accelerated", Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky has said, following a phone conversation with Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi on Saturday.

"The main focus was on the situation on the battlefield and how Ukraine's victory can be brought closer," he said in his video address.

"We agreed that the sixth package of sanctions against Russia should be accelerated. I am grateful for Italy's full support on our path to the European Union."

01:56 AM

Ukrainian parliament to hear from Poland's president

Polish President Andrzej Duda will address the Ukrainian parliament in person on Sunday.

Mr Duda, who also met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv last month, is the first head of state to address Ukraine's parliament in person since the invasion, his office said.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivered an address on May 3 to lawmakers via videolink.

01:08 AM

Today's top stories

  • Volodymyr Zelensky claimed that Ukraine has "broken the backbone" of the Russian army in a wide-ranging interview marking his three years as Ukraine's president

  • Moscow has claimed to have destroyed a major Western weapons shipment meant to reinforce Ukraine's defence of the Donbas

  • Russia has banned entry to 963 Americans including US President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and CIA chief William Burns

  • Ukrainian forces in the separatist-controlled regions of Luhansk and Donetsk said on Saturday they had repelled nine attacks and destroyed five tanks and 10 other armoured vehicles in the previous 24 hours

  • Russian troops destroyed a bridge on the Siverskiy Donets River between Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk, Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Gaidai said

  • Russia's state gas company, Gazprom, said it halted gas exports to Finland, which refused Moscow's demands to pay in roubles for Russian gas after Western countries imposed sanctions over the invasion.

  • Alexander Lebedev, a former KGB agent, has been sanctioned by Canada in a fresh wave of penalties against those with alleged links to the Russian president's regime, it has been reported

  • Representatives of the United States and several other nations walked out of an Asia-Pacific trade ministers meeting in Bangkok to protest Russia's invasion of Ukraine

  • Olaf Scholz has seen his approval rating sink in the wake of his handling of the Ukraine crisis