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Ukraine war: New 'iron curtain' descending, warns Sergei Lavrov

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 30/06/2022 Sam Hall, Marcus Parekh, Chanel Zagon, Tony Diver
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A new "iron curtain" is descending between Russia and the West following Moscow’s offensive in Ukraine, the Kremlin’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has warned.

Lavrov said Russia has not had any relations with the European Union since 2014, when Moscow annexed the peninsula of Crimea from Ukraine.

"As far as an iron curtain is concerned, essentially it is already descending," Lavrov told reporters after talks with his counterpart from Belarus.

He added that Moscow would not trust Washington and Brussels "from now on".

"The EU is not at all interested in understanding our interests. It is interested in what has been decided in Brussels. 

"And what has been decided in Washington has been decided in Brussels," Lavrov said.

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06:57 PM

Washington blocks more than $1 billion in Russian oligarch's US assets 

The United States has blocked a US-based company worth more than $1 billion linked to Russian oligarch Suleiman Kerimov, saying the ally of Vladimir Putin used it to funnel and invest shadowy funds.

The Treasury Department said that Kerimov, a billionaire active in Russian politics, secretly managed the Delaware-based Heritage Trust which put its money into a number of large public companies.

Heritage Trust, set up in 2017, brought money into the United States through shell companies and under-the-radar foundations established in Europe, Treasury Department officials said.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen vowed that the United States would keep taking action "even as Russian elites hide behind proxies and complex legal arrangements."

06:49 PM

PM dismisses Putin's nuclear threats as 'sabre-rattling'

Boris Johnson has dismissed threats by Vladimir Putin of a possible nuclear response over Ukraine as "sabre-rattling".

The Prime Minister said it had been calculated by one think tank that the Russians had made 35 mentions of the possible use of nuclear weapons.

"It's very, very important that we shouldn't allow ourselves to be side-tracked by this kind of sabre-rattling, because fundamentally, what Putin is trying to do is to reframe this," he told LBC radio.

"It's about Russia versus Nato. It's about, you know, a stand-off of that kind. It's not. It's about his attack on an entirely innocent country."

06:40 PM

UK guarantees over 400 million euros of loan for Ukraine 

Ukraine has received a 446.8 million euro loan from the World Bank with 424.6 million euros of it guaranteed by Britain, Kyiv's finance ministry said today.

"The funds raised will secure funding for public sector employees. We are grateful to the Government of the United Kingdom and the World Bank team for supporting Ukraine in this difficult period of our history," Finance Minister Serhiy Marchenko was quoted by his ministry as saying.

06:20 PM

'Extremely difficult' situation in Lysychansk, says regional governor 

The situation in Lysychansk, a city in eastern Ukraine under Russian attack, is "extremely difficult" with relentless shelling making it impossible to evacuate civilians, the regional governor of Luhansk said today.

"There is a lot of shelling and from multiple directions. The Russian army is approaching from different directions towards Lysychansk," Sergiy Gaiday said in a video posted on Telegram.

Russia's forces remain at the outskirts of the city where there is currently no street fighting, he said.

06:07 PM

New podcast episode: Exclusive interview with the Klitschko brothers

05:52 PM

Moscow summons UK envoy over Boris Johnson's Putin remarks

Russia said it has summoned the British ambassador to voice a strong protest against "offensive" British statements, including about alleged Russian threats to use nuclear weapons.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said a strong protest was expressed to Ambassador Deborah Bronnert over "the frankly boorish statements of the British leadership regarding Russia, its leader and official representatives of the authorities, as well as the Russian people".

It said Ms Bronnert was handed a memorandum stating that "offensive rhetoric from representatives of the UK authorities is unacceptable. In polite society, it is customary to apologise for such statements."

The ministry said Russia had told her it objected to British statements containing "deliberately false information, in particular about alleged Russian 'threats to use nuclear weapons'".

05:26 PM

Boris Johnson is Ukraine’s favourite foreign leader, poll finds

Boris Johnson’s favourability among Ukrainians is almost as high as Volodymyr Zelensky’s, a poll has revealed.

The Prime Minister was viewed “very” or “somewhat” favourably by nine out of 10 Ukrainians surveyed, in comparison to 93 per cent who thought the same of the Ukrainian president.

Joe Biden was also regarded highly by the Ukrainian public, with 89 per cent sharing a similarly positive view of the US president.

However, Emmanuel Macron and Olaf Scholz do not rank well, with just 42 per cent of the 1,012 Ukrainians surveyed stating they had a favourable view of the French and German leaders.

Read the full story here. 

05:03 PM

Kuleba: Russia presenting Snake Island retreat as ‘gesture of good will’

04:47 PM

Indonesian president says he delivered Zelensky's message to Putin 

Indonesian President Joko Widodo said in Moscow that he delivered a message from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to Vladimir Putin.

Putin hosted Mr Widodo more than four months into Moscow's offensive in Ukraine, as Russia seeks to pivot toward Asia and Africa following the onset of unprecedented Western sanctions.

Indonesia holds the rotating presidency of the G20 this year and is preparing to host a summit in Bali in November.

"I conveyed President Zelensky's message to President Putin," Mr Widodo said after talks with Putin in comments translated into Russian.

04:45 PM

Boris Johnson: UK defence spending to reach 2.5pc of GDP by end of decade

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04:17 PM

Why Russia's Snake Island defeat could be major blow for Putin 

In Ukrainian hands, the threat to Moscow’s Black Sea fleet will go up, and the risk of an amphibious assault on Odesa will go down, writes Dominic Nicholls

Wars can sometimes turn on the most seemingly insignificant factors.

Time will show whether Russia’s decision to abandon Snake Island - which for the sake of analysis we will take at face value for now - is one such moment.

Snake Island is that tiny lump of rock in the Black Sea, 20km off the south-west tip of Ukraine and made famous in the early days of this war with the resolute call from the defenders for the Russian warship shelling them to “go f---” itself.

The frigate in question, the Moskva, the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, was later sunk in one of the most stunning blows Ukraine has landed on her invader since February 24.

As the war has ebbed and flowed on land, the island has proved critical for both sides.

Read the full analysis here.

03:59 PM

European court orders Russia not to execute British soldiers captured in Mariupol 

The European Court of Human Rights has ordered Russia not to execute two British soldiers captured in Mariupol while fighting in the Ukrainian army, James Rothwell reports. 

Earlier this month, Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner were sentenced to death by a court in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic. They were falsely accused of being mercenaries when they were both fully enlisted in the Ukrainian military.

Russia “should ensure that the death penalty imposed on the applicants was not carried out”,  the ECHR said in a statement on Thursday.

According to the European court, the Britons joined the Ukrainian army in 2018. They had been deployed to Mariupol, where Ukrainian soldiers were defending the city as it came under intense bombardment from the Russians.

It went on to state that Russia must “ensure appropriate conditions of their detention and provide them with any necessary medical assistance and medication”.

Read the full story here. 

03:40 PM

Tobias Ellwood: Moving to 2.5pc defence spend by 2030 'too little too late'

03:38 PM

Erdogan urges new push to end war in Ukraine 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for intensified effort to end the war in Ukraine, adding that there were "no losers in a just peace".

Mr Erdogan said Turkey was trying to pursue "a balanced policy" because of its heavy reliance on Russian energy imports.

Turkey has supplied Ukraine with armed drones and other weapons, but Mr Erdogan also enjoys a close working relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"We should intensify our diplomatic efforts for a long-lasting ceasefire," Mr Erdogan told reporters at the end of a Nato summit focused on Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

03:37 PM

Putin downplays Ukraine grain blockage and denies Russia to blame

Vladimir Putin denied that Moscow was blocking Ukrainian grain exports and questioned the impact of missing Ukrainian agricultural goods on the world food market.

"We do not prevent the export of Ukrainian grain. The Ukrainian military has mined the approaches to their ports, no one prevents them from clearing those mines and we guarantee the safety of shipping grain out of there," Putin said, speaking alongside visiting Indonesian President Joko Widodo.

Putin repeated Russia's assertion that Western sanctions are to blame for problems on the global food market and rising prices.

03:25 PM

Snake Island: How Ukraine's long range attacks drove out Russia's troops

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03:04 PM

Snake Island: Why Ukraine just won’t let it go

The invasion of Ukraine was just hours old when Russia’s flagship Moskva was famously told to ‘go f–k yourself’ by a lone but resolute Ukrainian voice on Snake Island.

Four months later, the seemingly insignificant, rocky outcrop in the Black Sea has earned near-mythical status as a symbol of Ukrainian resistance.

Now, Russian forces have withdrawn from Snake Island as a “gesture of goodwill”, the Russian defence ministry said. The ministry said the move showed Russia is not impeding United Nations efforts to organise a humanitarian corridor to export agricultural products out of Ukraine.

Find out how the rocky Black Sea outcrop has taken on a new significance.

02:42 PM

New 'iron curtain' is descending between Russia and West, Moscow says 

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said today that a new "iron curtain" was descending between Russia and the West.

"It's practically already coming into place. Let them just behave carefully," Lavrov said of Western countries during a press conference.

02:23 PM

Biden: US to support Ukraine 'as long as it takes'

President Joe Biden said the United States and its allies will support Ukraine "as long as it takes" to ensure the country is not defeated by Russia.

"We are going to stick with Ukraine, and all of the alliance are going to stick with Ukraine, as long as it takes to make sure they are not defeated by Russia," he said at a Nato summit in Madrid.

"Ukraine has already dealt a severe blow to Russia," Mr Biden said, adding that he did not "know how it's going to end, but it will not end with a Russian defeat of Ukraine."

02:15 PM

German leader slams 'ridiculous' Putin claim that Nato is imperialist 

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has dismissed as "ridiculous" accusations from the Vladimir Putin that Nato has "imperial ambitions".

Mr Scholz insisted at the end of a Nato summit in Madrid that the Western military alliance was "not a threat to anyone" and said it was Putin "who has made imperialism the goal of his politics".

Putin on Wednesday hit out at Nato after its leaders dubbed Moscow their "most significant and direct threat" following the Kremlin's of invasion of Ukraine.

"The Nato countries' leaders wish to... assert their supremacy, their imperial ambitions," he said.

02:06 PM

Biden: US will announce $800 million of additional weapons aid to Ukraine 

"We intend to announce more than $800 million more" for air defence, artillery, counter battery systems and other weaponry, the US President told reporters at the NATO summit in Madrid.

As well as announcing the additional funding, Joe Biden said that America was rallying the world to stand behind Ukraine. 

The US President praised Nato countries for announcing increases to their defence spending in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. 

Mr Biden reiterated Nato's article five commitment to defend "every inch of Nato territory". 

01:56 PM

Greece offers ships to export grain from blocked Ukrainian ports

Greece is willing to provide ships to help export grain from Ukraine's Black Sea ports that have been blocked by Russia, Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said today.

"Greece announced that they are ready to make available ships to get the grain out of Ukraine," Mr Stoltenberg told reporters on the third and last day of a Nato summit in Madrid.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis added that his country "has a special role to play in this effort as it controls the world's largest merchant fleet.

"Greece, once again, is offering to help and support any effort made, under the auspices of the United Nations, in order for the grain currently trapped in Ukraine, primarily in Odesa, to leave Ukraine and eventually end up in the countries that need it today," Mr Mitsotakis told reporters.

01:34 PM

Ukraine says Russian equipment on Snake Island destroyed 

Oleksii Hromov, a brigadier general in Ukraine's armed forces, said on that Russian equipment on Snake Island had been destroyed.

Mr Hromov added at a news conference that Ukraine's military would do everything possible so ships carrying grain could pass through the Black Sea and that there were currently no plans to withdraw from the eastern city of Lysychansk, which Russian forces are trying to encircle.

01:13 PM

PM: UK needs a 'balanced approach' to China

Boris Johnson said there must be a "balance" in the approach to China and that the Ukraine war should serve as a sign that the West should not be complacent.

The Prime Minister said: "It's very important that we remember that we have a huge economic relationship with China ... but at the same time, we've got to understand that there are areas where we need to compete, contest and sometimes challenge what China is up to.

"There has to be a balanced approach and every country around that table can see that, but obviously one of the reasons why what is happening in Ukraine is so important is because there is a clear read-across to other theatres, and that's why we're sticking up to the rules-based international system in the way that we are".

01:05 PM

Putin reaping consequences of his 'barbaric actions', says PM

Boris Johnson has told Vladimir Putin that allies are "appalled and repelled" by his behaviour after the Russian President suggested Western leaders look "disgusting" topless.

Speaking from the Nato conference in Madrid, the Prime Minister said: "He should think about the consequences of his barbaric actions, the way his invasion has actually brought the West together, Nato G7, EU, look at the way people have come together.

"If he wanted less Nato on his borders by getting into Ukraine, which by the way it was never remotely likely that Ukraine was going to join Nato any time in the foreseeable future, everybody knew that, it was completely mythical.

"But, instead, what he's got is Sweden and Finland breaking their historic vows of neutrality because they're so appalled and repelled by his violence and aggression.

"I think that is an absolutely devastating comment on what he's done and his behaviour."

12:53 PM

Boris Johnson: Cost of freedom 'always worth paying' 

Boris Johnson said the "cost of freedom" is "always worth paying" amid spiralling inflation exacerbated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Speaking from the Nato conference in Madrid, the Prime Minister said: "The point I would make about the cost of freedom, as it were, is actually it's always worth paying.

"Unless we get the right result in Ukraine, Putin will be in a position to commit further acts of aggression against other parts of the former Soviet Union, more or less with impunity, that will drive further global uncertainty, further oil shocks, further panics and more economic distress for the whole world."

12:51 PM

PM: Russia's exit from Snake Island shows 'impossible' to subdue Ukraine

Russia's withdrawal from the captured Snake Island in the Black Sea shows the futility of Vladimir Putin's strategic goals in Ukraine, Boris Johnson said today.

"In the end, it will prove impossible for Putin to hold down a country that will not accept his rule," the Prime Minister told a news conference after a Nato summit in Madrid, while also stressing the alliance's unity against Russia.

12:48 PM

Breaking: UK will spend 2.5 per cent of GDP on defence by end of decade, says PM

The UK will spend 2.5 per cent of its GDP on defence by the end of this decade, Boris Johnson has announced at a Nato press conference in Madrid.

The move comes as Nato calls for alliance countries to increase their defence spending in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. 

12:46 PM

Boris Johnson: Any peace agreement a matter for Zelensky 

Boris Johnson said it was up to Kyiv to decide what they want to do in terms of ending the war and that cutting any kind of deal or peace agreement was a matter for Volodymyr Zelensky and his government. 

He said it was the West's job to simply "stand up for the principle of the right of the Ukrainians to protect themselves".

He added that public opinion surveys in Ukraine showed strong opposition to an agreement and that Putin was not currently offering any deals. 

12:41 PM

PM: Nato moving beyond 'tripwire deterrence' in eastern Europe

The PM said Nato was moving beyond its doctrine of "tripwire deterrence" on the alliance's eastern flank to a new approach of "defence, deterrence by denial". 

He said that alliance countries recognised they needed to spend more in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. 

12:37 PM

PM: Putin responsible for global food crisis not western sanctions

Boris Johnson said that it was important to "explode" a number of myths, including that western sanctions were responsible for global shortages of food rather than the Russian invasion and blockade of Ukrainian ports. 

He said it was also a "myth" that Nato had responsibility for provoking the conflict, pointing to the "peace-loving" nations of Finland and Sweden joining the organisation.

He said that the "final myth" is that when it comes to a crisis like this, western democracy "do not have the same staying power".

12:33 PM

Boris Johnson: Europe's boundaries cannot be changed by force

The Prime Minister said that Nato was more resolved than ever that Europe's boundaries cannot be changed by force.

He added that the impacts of Putin's invasion were being felt around the world through increases in energy prices and shortages of food. 

12:28 PM

Macron says France will soon deliver more CESAR guns to Ukraine 

French President Emmanuel Macron told the Nato summit in Spain that France would soon deliver six further CESAR guns to help Ukraine in its fight against Russia.

Earlier this week, US President Joe Biden pledged more American troops, warplanes and warships for Europe as Nato agreed the biggest strengthening of its deterrents since the Cold War in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. 

12:19 PM

Stoltenberg: 'Significant' increase in Nato's common-funded budgets 

Jens Stoltenberg said that agreements reached today represented a "considerable, significant increase" in Nato's common-funded budgets.

The Secretary General added that "in a more dangerous world we need to strengthen what we do together in Nato".

12:13 PM

Nato summit: Jens Stoltenberg gives press conference 

The Secretary General of Nato said Finland and Sweden are sovereign nations and have the right to choose their own path and join Nato despite protestations from Moscow. 

Mr Stoltenberg said Nato will welcome both nations and "prepare for any eventuality" in light of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. 

He added that Ukraine needs a wide range of modern heavy Nato-standard equipment.

11:58 AM

Russian missile kills five after hitting residential building in Mykolaiv 

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11:43 AM

Captured Azov fighters will face trial, Putin ally says 

Captured members of Ukraine's armed forces who served in the Azov battalion will face trial, the speaker of Russia's lower house of parliament said today.

"These nationalists, who hands are covered in blood, are not humans. They are awaiting trial," said Vyacheslav Volodin, an ally of Vladimir Putin, in a post on Telegram.

11:34 AM

Russia's Medvedev says sanctions could be justification for war 

Russia's deputy security council chairman Dmitry Medvedev said that in certain circumstances, sanctions against Moscow may be seen as an act of aggression and a justification for war.

"I would like to point out once again that under certain circumstances such hostile measures can also qualify as an act of international aggression. And even as a casus belli (justification for war)," Medvedev said, adding that Russia has the right to defend itself.

Russia has faced a barrage of crippling economic sanctions from Western countries in response to its invasion of Ukraine.

Medvedev, a former Russian president who was once seen as a liberal, has emerged as one of the most hawkish proponents of the war, delivering a series of scathing denunciations of the West. 

11:22 AM

Russia says it has more than 6,000 Ukrainian POWs

Russia is holding more than 6,000 Ukrainian prisoners of war, the Russian defence ministry said today, a day after the two sides swapped imprisoned soldiers.

"The total number of Ukrainian troops captured or who surrendered is more than 6,000," Igor Konashenkov, a spokesman for the ministry, said in a statement.

On Wednesday each side received 144 detained soldiers.

Ukraine said 95 of its troops who returned home were those who fought in the Azovstal steel plant in the port of Mariupol, one of the war's bloodiest battles.

The Ukrainian defence ministry said most of the Ukrainian soldiers had been seriously wounded.

11:01 AM

Pope implicitly accuses Russia of aggression, imperialism

Pope Francis has implicitly accused Russia of "armed conquest, expansionism and imperialism" in Ukraine, calling the conflict a "cruel and senseless war of aggression".

The pope was speaking to a delegation of Orthodox leaders who had come to Rome for a religious celebration on Wednesday.

10:54 AM

Beijing slams Nato over 'completely futile' China warning

Beijing has slammed Nato over a "completely futile" warning in which the group said for the first time in a guiding blueprint that China's power challenges the military alliance.

The response came after Nato's strategic concept, published at a summit in Madrid, said Beijing's stated ambitions and coercive policies challenged its interests, security and values.

Nato also said that China's closer ties to Russia went against Western interests, drawing a fiery response from Beijing.

"Nato's so-called new strategic concept document disregards facts, confuses black and white... (and) smears China's foreign policy," foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a regular briefing Thursday.

He added that China "firmly opposes it".

"We would like to warn Nato that hyping up the so-called China threat is completely futile," Mr Zhao told reporters.

10:47 AM

Russian lawmakers toughen legislation on foreign media

Russian lawmakers have approved legislation that will make it easier to shut down foreign media amid Moscow's offensive in Ukraine.

Russian parliament's lower house said the legislation gives the Prosecutor General and his deputies the right "in the event of unfriendly actions of a foreign state against Russian media abroad to promptly take a decision to ban or restrict the activities of media outlets of this country in Russia."

10:38 AM

SNP hit out at Westminster over pressure to fund Ukraine weapons

SNP ministers have hit out at the UK Government after being pressured to hand over £65 million of their budget to buy weapons for the Ukraine, reports our Scottish Political Editor Simon Johnson.

Kate Forbes, the Scottish Finance Secretary, said she had agreed to hand over the money "on this occasion" but made clear "this must not be seen as any kind of precedent."

The request was highly unusual as foreign affairs and defence spending are reserved to Westminster. However, the Scottish Government has previously voluntarily spent money in other reserved areas such as international development by sending foreign aid to other countries, including the Ukraine.

The Scottish Government said its £65 million would be used to help fund "sophisticated air defence systems and thousands of pieces of vital kit for Ukrainian soldiers."

Ms Forbes said: "“This further funding is to assist Ukrainian armed forces to fight Russian aggression and the unspeakable brutality being perpetrated.

“We have agreed to providing funding on this occasion given the clear need to maximise the international effort to support Ukraine. However, we are clear that this must not be seen as any kind of precedent which leads to devolved budgets being used to help pay for clearly reserved policy areas.”  

The Scottish Government has previously provided financial aid of £4 million has already been provided to help provide basic humanitarian assistance in health, water and sanitation, and shelter for those fleeing Ukraine.

10:26 AM

Putin: 'I will mirror Nato if troops are deployed to Finland and Sweden'

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10:14 AM

Norway denies it is blocking Russian access to Arctic islands

Norway is not blocking Russian access to the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, only applying international sanctions, and Russia has other means to reach its settlements, the Nordic country's foreign minister told Reuters.

Russia on Wednesday accused Norway of disrupting the delivery of critical supplies and threatened retaliation against Oslo over access to Svalbard, citing unspecified "retaliatory measures" unless it resolved the issue.

Svalbard, midway between Norway's north coast and the North Pole, is part of Norway, but Russia has the right to exploit the archipelago's natural resources under a 1920 treaty, and some settlements there are populated mainly by Russians.

Nato member Norway, which is not in the European Union but applies EU sanctions against Russia, has said sanctions would not affect the transport of goods by sea to Svalbard.

Much of the freight for the archipelago's Russian settlements, however, passes first by road through the border point between Russia and Norway on the mainland, which is closed to sanctioned goods.

"Norway is not breaking the Svalbard Treaty," Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt said.

10:02 AM

Putin rejects Boris Johnson's claim a woman wouldn't have invaded Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin has rejected Boris Johnson's charge that if he were a woman he would not have invaded Ukraine.

Speaking at a news conference during a visit to Turkmenistan, Putin pointed to Margaret Thatcher's decision to send troops into the Falklands as a rebuttal of Mr Johnson's theory.

Yesterday, the PM dubbed Putin's decision to launch what Moscow calls a "special military operation" against Ukraine a "perfect example of toxic masculinity" and mocked Putin's macho posturing.

Hitting back, Putin told reporters: "I just want to recall the events of recent history, when Margaret Thatcher decided to launch military operations against Argentina for the Falkland Islands. So, a woman took the decision to launch military action.

"Therefore it's not an entirely accurate reference from the British Prime Minister to what is happening today."

The Russian leader went on to criticise Britain's move, 40 years ago, to respond militarily to Argentina's attempt to seize the sparsely populated British-run islands in the South Atlantic.

"Where are the Falkland Islands and where is Britain?" Putin asked. "Thatcher's actions were dictated by nothing less than imperial ambitions and (a desire to) confirm their imperial status."

09:45 AM

Over 100 Ukrainian soldiers return after Russia's largest prisoner swap since beginning of the war

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09:29 AM

European court tells Russia: Ensure two Britons do not face death penalty

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) said it has issued an order to Russia to ensure that the death penalty was not carried out against two Britons who were captured after fighting for Ukraine.

Earlier this month, a court in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) in eastern Ukraine sentenced British citizens Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner to death, accusing them of "mercenary activities".

The ECHR said it had issued an order for interim measures, telling Russia it "should ensure that the death penalty imposed on the applicants was not carried out; ensure appropriate conditions of their detention; and provide them with any necessary medical assistance and medication".

The men's families deny that the two, who were contracted to the Ukrainian armed forces, were mercenaries.

Ukraine war: Liz Truss urges Nato allies to up defence spending as she brands Putin an 'appalling dictator' - STRINGER/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock /Shutterstock  © STRINGER/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock /Shutterstock Ukraine war: Liz Truss urges Nato allies to up defence spending as she brands Putin an 'appalling dictator' - STRINGER/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock /Shutterstock 

09:10 AM

Volodymyr Zelensky thanks UK for 'additional support'

08:59 AM

Liz Truss distances herself from Boris Johnson's 'toxic masculinity' comments

Liz Truss has distanced herself from Prime Minister Boris Johnson's suggestion that the Russian president's invasion of Ukraine is an example of "toxic masculinity" and that a female president would not have made the same mistake.

The Foreign Secretary told Times Radio: "He (Vladimir Putin) clearly is capable of very, very evil acts...

"I don't pretend that I can conduct a psychological analysis on him, nor do I think it's helpful."

Asked if female leaders are less aggressive, Ms Truss said: "I think that both women and men are capable of terrible and appalling acts."

08:48 AM

West must 'learn lessons' from Ukraine - Liz Truss

Liz Truss has said the West must "learn the lessons from Ukraine" and repeated her call for western allies to arm Taiwan for its protection against China.

She told Times Radio: "The fact is Ukraine wasn't in a good enough position to defend itself, that made it a target for Russia.

"That's what we, as a free world, need to do is make sure that Taiwan has the ability to defend itself, that we continue to maintain peace in the Taiwan Strait.

"These are things that we're discussing with our allies and working on with our allies."

She added: "The lesson is that we need to make sure that sovereign nations are in a position to defend themselves."

Asked if this meant providing arms, Ms Truss said: "There are different ways of doing that, and Finland and Sweden have joined Nato as a way of making sure that they are defended.

"Ultimately, it is making sure that those countries have the capabilities that they need."

08:28 AM

Grain ship leaves Ukrainian port - pro-Russian officials

A ship carrying 7,000 tonnes of grain has sailed from Ukraine's port of Berdyansk, currently controlled by Russian forces, the region's Moscow-appointed official said on Thursday.

"After numerous months of delay, the first merchant ship has left the Berdyansk commercial port, 7,000 tonnes of grain are heading toward friendly countries," Evgeny Balitski, the head of the pro-Russia administration, said on Telegram.

08:05 AM

Putin's rhetoric should be 'ignored' - Liz Truss

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has said Vladimir Putin's "rhetoric" should be "ignored" after the Russian president issued a fresh threat to Nato.

Mr Putin said Moscow would respond in kind if Nato deployed military infrastructure in Finland and Sweden after they join the alliance.

Speaking from the Nato summit in Madrid, Ms Truss told Sky News: "We've heard this rhetoric from Putin about all kinds of plans in the past.

"So, he said that it was a red line for him that Finland and Sweden would join Nato, he said it was a red line if Western nations supplied weapons to Ukraine.

"This is rhetoric, we have to ignore the rhetoric and instead do all we can to continue to support Ukraine with the weapons they need to win this appalling war."

07:48 AM

Conflict today, in pictures

Ukraine war: Russia's deadly attack on Mariupol theatre 'a clear war crime', says Amnesty - Defense Intelligence Ministry of Defense of Ukraine HANDOUT/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock/Shutterstock 

Ukraine war: Russia's deadly attack on Mariupol theatre 'a clear war crime', says Amnesty - Defense Intelligence Ministry of Defense of Ukraine HANDOUT/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock/Shutterstock 
© Defense Intelligence Ministry of Defense of Ukraine HANDOUT/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock/Shutterstock

07:31 AM

Putin an 'appalling dictator' - Liz Truss

Liz Truss has called Russian President Vladimir Putin an "appalling dictator".

Speaking from the Nato summit in Madrid, the Foreign Secretary told Sky News: "I would describe him as an appalling dictator perpetrating a war that was neither legal nor justified in any possible way.

"I've not met Vladimir Putin, I don't know the motivation for carrying out this appalling war. All I know is that we have to make it our absolute priority to stop this war and to push Vladimir Putin and the Russian troops out of Ukraine."

It comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson called Mr Putin "evil" and Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said he was a "lunatic".

07:14 AM

South Korea warns of 'universal threats' at Nato summit

South Korea's president warned a Nato summit of the threat to universal values at a time of new conflict and competition, a reference to Russia's aggression in Ukraine and China's engagement with Russia, a South Korean official said.

President Yoon Suk-yeol became the first South Korean leader to attend a Nato summit, joining national Nato leaders as an observer at a meeting in Spain as Russian forces intensified attacks in Ukraine.

"As a new structure of competitions and conflicts is taking shape, there is also a movement that denies the universal values that we have been protecting," Mr Yoon said in a speech, according to a South Korean official.

Mr Yoon, while he did not identify Russia or China, said the international community was facing complex security threats that a single country could not solve, the official cited Yoon as saying in his speech that was not made public.

"He was referring to the Ukraine war, and as most other participating countries did, he raised concern about Russia's responsibility for the war and China's responsibility in the international community," the official, who declined to be identified, said.

South Korea is a staunch U.S. ally and hosts some 28,000 U.S. troops. It has also developed a crucial economic relationship with China, South Korea's largest trading partner.

06:53 AM

Ukraine holding on in frontline city of Lyschansk

Ukrainian forces continue to hold their positions in the frontline eastern city of Lyschansk after withdrawing from Severodonetsk, the UK's Ministry of Defence has said. 

"Russian forces continue to pursue an approach of creeping envelopment from the Popasna direction, removing the need to force a major new crossing of the Siverskyi Donets River in this sector," the ministry said on Thursday.

"At the operational level, Russian forces continue to make limited progress as they attempt to encircle Ukrainian defenders in northern Donetsk Oblast via advances from Izium."

Ground combat is likely focused around the Lyschansk oil refinery, 10km south-west of the city centre, the ministry added.

06:44 AM

Search for missing Ukrainians continues after shopping mall attack

Emergency crews continue to rummage through the rubble of the shopping mall in Kremenchuk where Ukrainian authorities say 20 people remain missing.

Ukrainian State Emergency Services press officer Svitlana Rybalko said 18 people had been killed and investigators also found fragments of eight more bodies. However, it was not immediately clear whether that meant there were more victims as a number of survivors suffered severed limbs.

“The police cannot say for sure how many (victims) there are. So we are finding not the bodies but the fragments of bodies,” Ms Rybalko said.

“Now we are clearing at the very epicenter of the blast. Here, we practically cannot find bodies as such.”

Replay Video

06:28 AM

Ukrainian soldiers sharpen their aim on Salisbury Plain

As the Ukrainian soldiers strike their target, a rallying cry can be heard, writes Defence Editor Danielle Sheridan.

But this is not the Donbas. This is Salisbury Plain, where the British Army is training Ukrainians how to fire multiple-launch rocket systems (MLRS) and L119 light guns to fight back against the Russians.

“When they get it right, they cheer,” said Warrant Officer Class One Rebecca Bullock, who has been working alongside troops on the L119, a 105mm (4.1in) light gun gifted to the Ukrainian armed forces by the Government.

The 40-year-old Master Gunner, of the Royal Artillery Capability assurance team, said it had been a privilege to train with the Ukrainians, who are professional rocket artillerymen, and to see their impressive work ethic.

British Army personnel teach members of the Ukrainian armed forces are taught how to operate L119 Light Guns - PA © PA British Army personnel teach members of the Ukrainian armed forces are taught how to operate L119 Light Guns - PA

Read the full story here

05:06 AM

Russia ramps up attacks in Ukraine after landmark NATO summit

Russia's offensive in eastern Ukraine continued on Thursday after NATO branded Russia the biggest "direct threat" to Western security.

Evacuation attempts to rescue residents from Lysychansk remain underway, with about 15,000 people remaining in the frontline eastern city.

"Fighting is going on all the time. The Russians are constantly on the offensive. There is no let-up," regional Governor Serhiy Gaidai told Ukrainian television.

"Absolutely everything is being shelled."

In the southern Kherson region, Ukrainian forces were fighting back with artillery strikes of their own, Oleskiy Arestovych, adviser to the Ukrainian president, said in a video posted online.

Smoke rises over the remains of a building destroyed by a military strike, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues in Lysychansk - Reuters © Reuters Smoke rises over the remains of a building destroyed by a military strike, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues in Lysychansk - Reuters

03:40 AM

Volodymyr Zelensky meets Sir Richard Branson in Kyiv

British billionaire Sir Richard Branson has travelled to Ukraine to meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky and witnessed some of the devastation caused by Russia's "appalling invasion" first-hand.

The entrepreneur and founder of Virgin Group met with Mr Zelensky, foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba and a group of Ukrainian business leaders on Wednesday.

Sir Richard said the meeting's aim was to "learn what business, in partnership with civil society and governments, can do to support Ukraine most effectively".

He visited a residential area with a destroyed kindergarten and travelled to Gostomel Airport to see the remains of Antonov AN-225, the world's largest transport plane.

"It is clear these kinds of attacks are not unintended and arbitrary," Sir Richard said.

"They are part of a deliberate strategy to spread fear and terror among Ukraine's civilian population.

"I hope the Russian perpetrators of these shocking acts will be held to account."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during his meeting with Sir Richard Branson in Kyiv - PA © PA Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during his meeting with Sir Richard Branson in Kyiv - PA

Read the full story here

02:41 AM

In pictures: Mariupol theatre after being hit by twin airstrikes in March

Emergency management specialists and volunteers remove debris from the theatre building - Reuters © Reuters Emergency management specialists and volunteers remove debris from the theatre building - Reuters Aerial view of the destroyed theatre in Mariupol - Reuters © Provided by The Telegraph Aerial view of the destroyed theatre in Mariupol - Reuters

02:30 AM

'The war is not over': Ukrainian Parliament

01:28 AM

Nato rapid response plan in disarray as it struggles to muster firepower

Jens Stoltenberg’s pledge of a 300,000-strong Nato rapid response force has been thrown into disarray, as alliance members refused to commit their troops.

Nato officials were forced to concede that the project - announced on Monday - was instead a work in progress, as they tried to muster enough firepower to make it a reality.

Speaking at the end of the second day of a Nato summit in Madrid, the alliance’s secretary-general acknowledged his plan required allies to “contribute the forces they have promised to contribute”.

Jens Stoltenberg said the proposed new rapid response force requires allies to 'contribute the forces they have promised to contribute'  - Reuters © Reuters Jens Stoltenberg said the proposed new rapid response force requires allies to 'contribute the forces they have promised to contribute'  - Reuters

Read the full story here

01:20 AM

Today's top stories

  • Russia's deadly airstrikes on a Mariupol theatre being used as a shelter for civilians was a "clear war crime", Amnesty International says
  • Vladimir Putin still wants to take most of Ukraine and the picture for the war there remains "pretty grim," a top U.S. intelligence official said
  • A pledge of a 300,000-strong Nato rapid response force has been thrown into disarray as alliance members refuse to commit soldiers to the project
  • 144 Ukrainian soldiers have been freed in Kyiv's "largest" prisoner swap with Moscow since the beginning of the war
  • Boris Johnson said Vladimir Putin is an example of “toxic masculinity” and would not have invaded Ukraine if he was a woman
  • Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday told Indonesia's visiting President Joko Widodo that he will attend the upcoming G20 summit in Bali depending on who else is attending
  • Nato leaders decried Russia's "appalling cruelty" in Ukraine and pledged more support for Kyiv as it faces the onslaught from Moscow
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