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Strikes hit Kyiv; Biden says G-7 will ban Russian gold imports

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 6/26/2022 Siobhán O'Grady, Matt Viser, Ashley Parker, Rachel Pannett, Julian Duplain, Annabelle Timsit, Kim Bellware, James Bikales
Rescuers and firefighters work in a damaged residential building, hit by Russian missiles in Kyiv on June 26, 2022. (Photo by Genya SAVILOV / AFP) © Genya Savilov/AFP/Getty Images Rescuers and firefighters work in a damaged residential building, hit by Russian missiles in Kyiv on June 26, 2022. (Photo by Genya SAVILOV / AFP)

KYIV, Ukraine — Russian airstrikes early Sunday disrupted a sense of relative calm in Ukraine’s capital since Russian forces withdrew in April and refocused their efforts on other parts of the country. The latest attacks on Kyiv — which hit an apartment block and a kindergarten playground — killed a man and injured his 7-year-old daughter, among several others.

President Biden said the Group of Seven nations will announce an import ban on Russian gold in an attempt to further isolate the country from financial markets and punish Russian President Vladimir Putin for the invasion of Ukraine. Biden, who is in Germany attending a two-day G-7 summit beginning Sunday, said in a tweet that gold is a “major export that rakes in tens of billions of dollars for Russia.”

Russia is attempting to draw Belarus more directly into the war, according to Ukrainian officials, who said Saturday marked the first time that Russia fired missiles from Belarusian airspace. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke directly to Belarusians in his nightly address Sunday, telling them they can refuse to participate in the war. “You are not slaves or cannon fodder,” he said. “You do not have to die. And you can prevent anyone from deciding for you what awaits you next.”

Here’s what else to know

  • G-7 leaders on Sunday reportedly discussed capping the price of Russian oil and gas imports.
  • Despite Moscow’s recent territorial gains in the east, the war could shift back in Kyiv’s favor in the coming months because the Russian military will soon deplete its combat capabilities, Western intelligence assessments and military experts say.
  • Moscow is closing in on the city of Lysychansk, near the strategically important city of Severodonetsk, which Russia captured last week in one of its biggest wins since it launched its offensive in the Donbas region nearly three months ago. If Lysychansk falls, it would give Russia almost complete control of the eastern Luhansk region.

11:11 PM: A Russian musician mounts a modest antiwar protest and pays the price

Alexandra Skochilenko, a St. Petersburg musician, gestures during a court hearing. (Andrei Bok) © Photo by Andrei Bok/Photo by Andrei Bok Alexandra Skochilenko, a St. Petersburg musician, gestures during a court hearing. (Andrei Bok)

RIGA, Latvia — Five weeks after Russia invaded Ukraine, a whip-thin 31-year-old musician walked into a supermarket on Maly Street in the Russian city of St. Petersburg, carrying her guitar and tiny stickers about the war. In a small protest action, she stuck them on top of price tags.

“The Russian army bombed an art school in Mariupol where about 400 people were hiding from shelling,” read one. And another: “Weekly inflation reached a new high not seen since 1998 because of our military actions in Ukraine. Stop the war.”

But a shopper snitched to police, and the musician, Alexandra Skochilenko, now jailed pending trial, confronts a sentence of up to 10 years in prison and, she says, harrowing abuse.

Russians routinely face fines, jail and stigma for protesting the war. But some small-time activists are getting singled out for worse — prosecution on charges of terrorism or hate crimes that carry prison sentences of a decade or more — to deter others from engaging in even the mildest dissent.

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By: Robyn Dixon

10:43 PM: A bloody retreat as Ukrainian unit hit by Russian cluster bombs

Ukrainian soldiers lie exhausted after their unit was hit by Russian cluster bombs while pulling back from the front on June 26. © Heidi Levine for The Washington Post Ukrainian soldiers lie exhausted after their unit was hit by Russian cluster bombs while pulling back from the front on June 26.

OUTSIDE LYSYCHANSK, Ukraine — The Ukrainian Airborne unit was relieved to be pulling back from the front Sunday morning, riding a column of armored personnel carriers away from the embattled city of Severodonetsk, which had already fallen to the Russians, and Lysychansk, which was on the brink.

“Nothing happened to us to when we were at the front,” the unit commander said. “It was while we were retreating that we got hit.”

They were hit, and hit badly.

As the convoy moved into the farm village of Verkhniokamianske, with many of the soldiers riding outside the vehicles, the first blast struck right by them. It was a cluster bomb, they would later surmise, something that tore through the contingent of men clinging to that side of one truck.

Several men were wounded, with blood pouring from limbs and, in one case, a soldier’s head. But there was no time to treat them while the convoy remained in the crosshairs of Russian artillery. The uninjured applied tourniquets where they could, dragged the hurt back onto the vehicles and raced out of the village, across rutted farm lanes to a line of trees across a golden wheat field about a kilometer away.

It was just one of the many chaotic scenes that keep unfolding as Ukrainians give up ground to Russia’s relentless push to control the eastern Donbas region.

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By: Steve Hendrix and Serhii Korolchuk

9:35 PM: Embattled Scholz, hosting first major summit, tries to prove mettle

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz attends a news conference during a European Union leaders summit in Brussels on Friday. © Johanna Geron/Reuters German Chancellor Olaf Scholz attends a news conference during a European Union leaders summit in Brussels on Friday.

SCHLOSS ELMAU, Germany — As German Chancellor Olaf Scholz hosts his first major international summit this weekend, he is a leader with something to prove.

His first six months in office have come during perhaps the most tumultuous period in European history since World War II. And with it has come criticism that he is simply not up to the job.

Scholz has been lampooned as taking a dithering, confused stance as the war has unfolded in Ukraine, whose western border lies just 500 miles from the German capital. And he is dogged by accusations that he is dragging his feet on deliveries of heavy weapons to the Ukrainians.

As the meeting among Group of Seven leaders in the Bavarian Alps this weekend brings closer attention to Germany’s leadership role — or lack of it — Scholz and his party faithful have been attempting to turn around the country’s public relations disaster.

Guinan-Bank reported from Berlin.

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By: Loveday Morris, Rick Noack and Vanessa Guinan-Bank

8:32 PM: Updates from key battlefields: Airstrikes hit Kyiv, Moscow closes in on another key eastern city

Smoke rises from an oil refinery outside Lysychansk, Ukraine, on June 23. © Anatolii Stepanov/AFP/Getty Images Smoke rises from an oil refinery outside Lysychansk, Ukraine, on June 23.

Russia fired dozens of missiles across Ukraine over the weekend, including a deadly strike in the capital, Kyiv, Sunday, Ukrainian officials said.

Here are some updates from across the country:

Severodonetsk: Russian forces have captured the strategically important city after Ukrainian troops announced their withdrawal, which marks one of Russia’s biggest wins since it launched its offensive in the Donbas region nearly three months ago.

Lysychansk: Russian-backed troops are closing in on this city on the Siverskyi Donets River opposite Severodonetsk, and they hit the city with an airstrike Sunday, according to officials. The city’s capture would give Russia almost complete control of the eastern Luhansk region. Ukrainian forces have been digging trenches around Lysychansk over the past week to seal the city to everyone but military and humanitarian rescue missions.

Kyiv: Local officials reported several explosions in Ukraine’s capital early Sunday as Russia bombarded the country with missile strikes for a second day. At least one person was reported killed, and several were injured, disrupting an uneasy calm that had settled over the city since Russia withdrew its forces from the area in April.

Lviv region: A military base near the western Ukrainian town of Yavoriv was hit by four Russian missiles fired from the Black Sea on Saturday, according to its regional governor, Maksym Kozytskyy. Although it is a long way from the front lines, the Lviv area has been attacked a number of times throughout the conflict as Moscow attempts to disrupt supply lines for fuel and other essential supplies.

Black Sea: Russian warships are focused on blocking civilian shipping in the northwestern part of the Black Sea, Ukraine’s armed forces said in an operational update.

Siobhán O’Grady contributed to this report.

By: Rachel Pannett

7:06 PM: Zelensky addresses Belarusians as their country’s role in war grows

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke directly to Belarusians in his nightly address Sunday amid warnings from Ukraine that Russia is seeking to draw Belarus more directly into the war.

“The Kremlin has already decided everything for you — your lives are worth nothing to them,” Zelensky said. “But you are not slaves or cannon fodder. You do not have to die. And you can prevent anyone from deciding for you what awaits you next.”

He said Russia is attempting to “sow hatred” between Ukraine and Belarus “even more actively” than in the early stages of the war.

“A lot now depends on the ordinary people of Belarus,” he said. “Your lives belong only to you, not to someone in the Kremlin.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko are close allies, and Russia launched part of its early invasion from Belarus. That partnership appears to have deepened in recent days as Saturday marked the first time Russian airstrikes were fired from Belarusian airspace, according to Ukraine’s Defense Ministry.

On Sunday evening, the General Staff of Ukraine’s armed forces said Russian “sabotage and reconnaissance groups” are staging in Belarus for actions in Ukraine. It followed a Sunday morning warning of the ongoing threat of missile attacks from Belarus’s territory and airspace.

Putin met with Lukashenko on Saturday and committed to sending nuclear-capable missile systems to Belarus and helping to upgrade Belarusian aircraft to be able to carry nuclear weapons.

By: James Bikales

3:58 PM: Putin to visit ex-Soviet states in first reported trip abroad since February

Russian President Vladimir Putin will travel to two former Soviet states in Central Asia this week, according to state television, marking what would be his first publicly known visits abroad since the start of Russia’s war in Ukraine more than four months ago.

Pavel Zarubin, Kremlin correspondent for the Rossiya 1 television station, said Putin plans to visit Tajikistan and Turkmenistan before returning to Moscow to meet with Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Reuters reported.

Putin will meet with Tajik President Emomali Rahmon in Dushanbe before traveling to the Turkmen capital of Ashkhabad to join a meeting of Caspian leaders, including from Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, Zarubin said.

Since the Ukraine invasion, Putin has grown increasingly isolated on the world stage; he has been denounced by foreign leaders and been slapped with travel and economic sanctions.

His last known visit abroad was several weeks before the formal start of the war, when he traveled to China in early February at the invitation of President Xi Jinping.

By: Kim Bellware

2:19 PM: G-7 leaders reportedly discuss capping price of Russian oil imports

The Group of Seven leaders were moving toward a consensus on a price cap on Russian oil imports, said one person with knowledge of the Sunday discussion who spoke on the condition of anonymity about the private talks.

To incentivize other countries’ participation, the leaders discussed ways to make it difficult to insure or ship Russian oil that doesn’t comply with the cap. French President Emmanuel Macron reportedly was particularly keen to stress that a price cap also cover gas.

Price caps on Russian natural gas flowing through pipelines to Europe are considered easier to enforce because the infrastructure ensures it can’t be sold elsewhere.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi raised concerns about the potential political ramifications of rising energy prices.

“The energy crisis must not produce a return of populism,” he said, according to the person with knowledge of the talks, adding that the G-7 has the tools to safeguard against that.

“Putting a ceiling on the price of fossil fuels imported from Russia has a geopolitical objective as well as an economic and social one,” Draghi said, according to the person. “We need to reduce our funding to Russia. And we must eliminate one of the main causes of inflation.”

The United States also has been pushing for an agreement on a price cap on Russian oil imports, a European official and a U.S. official said. The aim is to put a ceiling on the amount that nations pay for Russian oil, a move intended to hurt Moscow’s ability to fund the war in Ukraine and to alleviate inflation hitting Americans at the pumps.

A similar price cap on imports of Russian gas also is being discussed, officials said.

By: Loveday Morris and Matt Viser

1:01 PM: Sanctions may help shrink Russian economy by up to 15 percent, Blinken says

Russia’s economy is predicted to slow between 8 and 15 percent next year amid new sanctions by the United States and other Group of Seven members, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday.

In the four months since its invasion of Ukraine, Russia has faced mounting economic pressure from sanctions by Ukraine’s Western allies. Several North American and European countries have banned Russian oil and energy imports; Russian banks have been blocked from accessing the SWIFT international payment system, effectively cutting off Russia from global banking; and international companies have pulled out of the country.

On Sunday, G-7 members announced that they would ban imports of Russian gold, denying President Vladimir Putin the revenue he needs to fund the war against Ukraine. Penalties for the Kremlin could amount to tens of billions of dollars, President Biden tweeted Sunday morning.

Blinken, speaking Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” said the sanctions are having a “dramatic” effect.

“Well, first, let’s take gold, the thing that we’re just announcing. That is the second-most-lucrative export that Russia has after energy. It’s about $19 billion a year. And most of that is within the G-7 countries,” he said.

Blinken added that Russia cannot capitalize on higher oil prices because of export controls, denying it a way to modernize its defense sector, technology and energy exploration. Those sectors, he said, will continue to decline.

“Already, we’re seeing predictions that the Russian economy will shrink by 8 to 15 percent next year,” Blinken said. “The ruble is being propped up artificially, at great expense.”

By: Kim Bellware

12:26 PM: French deny G-7 tensions between Johnson and Macron over Ukraine

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks with French President Emmanuel Macron during the official Group of Seven group photo at Schloss Elmau in Germany on June 26. © Martin Meissner/AP British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks with French President Emmanuel Macron during the official Group of Seven group photo at Schloss Elmau in Germany on June 26.

MITTENWALD, Germany — French officials on Sunday denied the existence of tensions between President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson over Ukraine, after the two met at the Group of Seven summit in southern Germany.

In a statement, Johnson’s Downing Street office said he “stressed” to Macron that “any attempt to settle the [Ukrainian] conflict now will only cause enduring instability” and allow Russian President Vladimir Putin to “manipulate both sovereign countries and international markets in perpetuity.”

The remarks appeared to be criticism of earlier comments from Macron, who had said in mid-June that the Ukrainian president and his officials will need to negotiate with Russia at some point.

Johnson’s comments, made before Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and other European leaders traveled to the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, earlier this month, raised concerns among Ukrainian officials that France and Germany may push for talks with Russia in the near future, as the economic toll of the war mounts.

French officials have rejected those concerns and clarified that it is up to Ukraine to determine when to resume talks with Russia, which stalled in April.

A spokesperson for the French presidency said Sunday that Macron and Johnson “had a discussion on Ukraine in which the president strongly reaffirmed his determination to support Ukraine.”

France has delivered or pledged almost one-fourth of its existing stocks of Caesar artillery weapons systems to Ukraine. Thanks largely to its relatively low dependence on Russian fossil fuels, France has become an early champion of a European Union embargo on imports of Russian oil.

But both Macron and Scholz, the host of this week’s G-7 summit, have spoken to Putin several times on the phone since the invasion, drawing criticism in Eastern Europe.

“France and Germany are quite aligned in their thinking on Russia and continue to be. I think both understand and have understood for a while that they need to support Ukraine,” said Joseph de Weck, author of a book on the Macron presidency. “But both have the same sort of reflex to also think: One should have to think about a way out of the conflict at some point.”

By: Rick Noack and Loveday Morris

11:54 AM: Blinken: Putin has already failed in his ‘strategic objectives’ in Ukraine

Secretary of State Antony Blinken holds a news conference in Berlin on June 24. © Michael Sohn/AP Secretary of State Antony Blinken holds a news conference in Berlin on June 24.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday that Russian President Vladimir Putin has already failed in his “strategic objectives” in the war against Ukraine.

“Let’s not confuse the tactical with strategic,” Blinken said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” when asked whether Russia is winning the war. “When it comes to Putin’s strategic objectives, he’s already failed. His strategic objective was to end Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence, to erase it from the map, to subsume it in Russia. That has failed.”

Blinken acknowledged that a “tactical, ferocious battle” is going on in eastern Ukraine. But he said “a sovereign, independent Ukraine” would be around longer than Putin — and that NATO has been strengthened.

Putin has “also tried to divide NATO,” Blinken said. “We’re about to go to a NATO summit, where the alliance is going to show greater unity, greater strength than in my memory.” He added: “In Ukraine itself, here at this meeting of the [Group of Seven], as well as at NATO, we will continue to do collectively everything we can to make sure that the Ukrainians have what they need in their hands to repel the Russian aggression.”

On the same program, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson echoed Blinken’s sentiments, saying he would tell Americans suffering from “Ukraine fatigue” to remember that standing up for freedom and democracy is something the United States has historically done.

“And if we let Putin get away with it and just annex, conquer sizable parts of a free, independent, sovereign country, which is what he is poised to do, if not the whole thing, then the consequences for the world are absolutely catastrophic,” Johnson said.

By: Amy B Wang

11:22 AM: Johnson, Trudeau joke about going shirtless to threaten Putin with ‘our pecs’

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TELFS, Austria — Vladimir Putin was not in the room as Group of Seven leaders gathered in the Bavarian Alps. But the Russian president remained very much on the leaders’ minds — even during a discussion over proper attire for a group photo.

Hours after President Biden said the G-7 nations would announce a ban on new imports of Russian gold in an attempt to further punish Putin for the invasion of Ukraine, Western leaders made jokes on the opening day of the G-7 summit about how they might intimidate Putin in an unconventional way.

“Jackets on? Jackets off? Shall we take our clothes off?” Prime Minister Boris Johnson asked, ostensibly wondering how the leaders should dress for an unofficial photo before their lunch meeting began.

“We all have to show that we’re tougher than Putin,” the British leader joked at the summit site in Schloss Elmau, Germany.

Hassan reported from London.

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By: Ashley Parker, Matt Viser and Jennifer Hassan

11:03 AM: Ukrainian officials warn of continued threat from Belarus

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, attends a meeting with his Belarusian counterpart, Alexander Lukashenko, in St. Petersburg on Saturday. (Sputnik/Reuters) Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, attends a meeting with his Belarusian counterpart, Alexander Lukashenko, in St. Petersburg on Saturday. (Sputnik/Reuters)

Ukrainian officials said over the weekend that Russia plans to send more of its military aircraft to bases in Belarus, and they suggested that Russia could use Belarusian territory to launch more attacks on Ukraine.

The comments from Ukraine’s military and Defense Ministry came after “Russian forces conducted an abnormally large series of missile strikes against Ukrainian rear areas” on Saturday, according to the U.S.-based Institute for the Study of War think tank. Ukrainian officials said Russian bombers launched missiles at Ukraine from Belarusian airspace for the first time since the start of the war.

The General Staff of Ukraine’s armed forces said Sunday that “the threat of using missile weapons from the territory and airspace of [Belarus] remains.”

Russia plans “to increase the number of operational and tactical aircraft in Belarus,” Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said in a statement Sunday.

Ten aircraft will be sent to Baranovichi air base, less than 100 miles south of Minsk — “officially, to conduct a joint airspace patrol as part of the joint training-combat center for preparing aviation and air defense units,” the ministry added, implying that the transfer may serve another, less official, purpose.

When Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, thousands of its troops crossed the border from Belarus, where they were conducting joint military exercises with the Belarusian armed forces.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko visited his Russian counterpart in St. Petersburg on Saturday to discuss how to deepen their countries’ relationship, according to the Kremlin.

As The Washington Post has reported, Russian President Vladimir Putin told Lukashenko that Russia would provide nuclear-capable missile systems to Belarus in the coming months.

By: Annabelle Timsit

10:44 AM: Russia heads for first foreign default this century

Russia will enter its first foreign default this century at the end of Sunday, when a deadline for an overdue $100 million interest payment on government debt expires. The payment should have been made on May 27, and the grace period of one month is almost up.

The country has the money but is unable to send it to creditors because sanctions have cut Russia out of international payment systems. Finance Minister Anton Siluanov has accused the West of forcing Russia into an “artificial” default, describing the failure to pay as due to “force majeure.” Moscow says it has already met its obligations by sending the money to an international clearing house, but any such transactions are now blocked by sanctions. The last Russian default was in 1998.

Last month, the U.S. Treasury Department closed a loophole that had allowed American investors to receive sovereign bond payments from Russia. The Biden administration imposed sanctions on Russia’s central bank shortly after the invasion of Ukraine, but it issued a special license exempting bond payments, allowing Russia to continue to pay its loan obligations. That license was not renewed when it expired in late May.

President Vladimir Putin has proposed paying creditors in rubles, which could then be converted to dollars. However, the contracts stipulate that payment must be made in dollars.

Another $400 million in Russian payments is due later in the week, and further defaults appear inevitable.

By: Julian Duplain

10:11 AM: Erdogan says Sweden must take steps to gain Turkish support for its NATO bid

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, seen in May in Ankara. © Burhan Ozbilici/AP Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, seen in May in Ankara.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Saturday in a call with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson that Sweden has not taken steps to address Turkey’s concerns about her country’s NATO membership bid.

Ankara has been blocking applications by Sweden and Finland to join the transatlantic defense alliance in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine because it claims the Nordic countries support Kurdish separatist guerrilla groups in Turkey and in Syria. One of those groups, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, was designated a terrorist organization by the United States in 1997. Swedish officials have said they do not directly support those groups.

Why Turkey dissents on Finland and Sweden joining NATO and why it matters

Erdogan on Saturday “reiterated that Sweden should take steps regarding such fundamental matters as combating terrorism” and said “Sweden should make concrete changes in its attitude” toward those groups, according to a readout of the call published by his office.

He repeated calls for Sweden to lift an arms embargo it imposed on Turkey over its 2019 offensive against Kurdish fighters in northern Syria, and he demanded that the Swedish government fulfill Ankara’s requests for the extradition and deportation of alleged Kurdish militants in Sweden.

So far, Erdogan said, he had not seen “tangible action” from Stockholm on those fronts.

Andersson issued a short — and more upbeat — statement on Twitter, in which she thanked Erdogan for the call and said she hoped to see “progress” on Sweden’s NATO membership application ahead of a summit of NATO member states that begins Tuesday in Madrid.

As “partner countries,” Finland and Sweden are invited, according to the British Parliament.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Saturday also said he had a good call with Erdogan about Sweden’s and Finland’s NATO membership bids. Calling Turkey a “valued Ally,” Stoltenberg tweeted that he and Erdogan “agreed to continue the talks in Brussels and Madrid next week.”

Bryan Pietsch contributed to this report.

By: Annabelle Timsit

9:14 AM: Photos: Apartment building, playground damaged in Kyiv missile strikes

Rescue workers are elevated by a crane at an apartment building struck by a Russian missile in Kyiv, Ukraine, June 26, 2022. (REUTERS/Gleb Garanich) Rescue workers are elevated by a crane at an apartment building struck by a Russian missile in Kyiv, Ukraine, June 26, 2022. (REUTERS/Gleb Garanich)

KYIV, Ukraine — Missiles damaged a residential building and a children’s playground in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, on Sunday — after Russia launched what a U.S.-based defense think tank called an “abnormally large series of missile strikes against Ukrainian rear areas,” including Kyiv, on Saturday.

Sunday’s strikes just after 6 a.m. local time shattered the uneasy sense of calm that had settled over the city and left piles of burned insulation in the street and the lingering smell of smoke in the air. A dark cloud hung above the area that was hit, photos from the ground showed. At least one person was reported killed and several, including a Russian woman residing in the capital, were injured.

President Biden, on a visit to Germany for the summit of the Group of Seven nations, called the strikes another example of Russia’s “barbarism.”

Smoke rises after a missile strike in Kyiv, Ukraine, June 26, 2022. (REUTERS/Gleb Garanich) Smoke rises after a missile strike in Kyiv, Ukraine, June 26, 2022. (REUTERS/Gleb Garanich)

At a kindergarten in the capital, the remnants of a missile sat in a giant puddle of water outside. The strike damaged the playground and left explosive marks on the walls of the building.

A crater is seen at a compound of a kindergarten after a Russian missile strike in Kyiv, Ukraine, on June 26, 2022. © Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters A crater is seen at a compound of a kindergarten after a Russian missile strike in Kyiv, Ukraine, on June 26, 2022.

Around the residential building, first responders and emergency workers cleared the debris from the blast and prepared to search for survivors, as journalists and residents looked on.

About 10:30 a.m. local time, a group of first responders rushed out of the structure carrying a badly injured woman on a stretcher. The workers who loaded her into an ambulance at the scene were covered in dust and debris from the rescue mission.

Rescuers carry a wounded woman from an apartment building that was hit by a missile in Kyiv, Ukraine on June 26, 2022. (Reuters) Rescuers carry a wounded woman from an apartment building that was hit by a missile in Kyiv, Ukraine on June 26, 2022. (Reuters)

Some residents were injured by the blast, although the full extent of the damage from the strikes to people and property was not immediately clear. Some survivors held each other or called loved ones as they surveyed the scene.

A couple embrace as they look at smoke billowing from a residential building after a Russian missile strike in Kyiv, Ukraine, on June 26, 2022. © Nariman El-Mofty/AP A couple embrace as they look at smoke billowing from a residential building after a Russian missile strike in Kyiv, Ukraine, on June 26, 2022. A Ukrainian resident named Bohdan, slightly injured from a Russian missile strike, talks on his cellphone at the scene of a damaged residential building, in Kyiv, Ukraine, on June 26, 2022. © Sasha Stashevskyi/AP A Ukrainian resident named Bohdan, slightly injured from a Russian missile strike, talks on his cellphone at the scene of a damaged residential building, in Kyiv, Ukraine, on June 26, 2022.

Timsit reported from London.

By: Siobhán O'Grady and Annabelle Timsit

8:36 AM: Russia uses airstrikes against ‘final fortress’ in eastern Ukraine

Smoke rises from an oil refinery outside Lysychansk, Ukraine, on June 23. © Anatolii Stepanov/AFP/Getty Images Smoke rises from an oil refinery outside Lysychansk, Ukraine, on June 23.

Russia is carrying out airstrikes on the city of Lysychansk in Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk region, the governor said Sunday morning. The capture of what Serhiy Haidai called the “final fortress” would give Russia almost complete control of the region.

“Lysychansk is almost unrecognizable,” said Haidai, noting widespread destruction from Russian bombardment. “The TV tower is lying on the ground, the road bridge has been seriously damaged, shells have hit houses” and other buildings. The town of Bila Gora, just to the south, has also been hit by airstrikes, he said.

Ukrainian forces on Friday announced their withdrawal from Severodonetsk after weeks of fighting. At the time, Haidai said it “makes no sense to be in broken positions.” Severodonetsk, just across the Donets River east of Lysychansk, used to be home to about 100,000 people. The city in recent weeks has emerged as a focal point of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Haidai said Sunday that Russia has now “entrenched itself” in Severodonetsk and the nearby towns of Sirotyn, Voronovo and Borivsky. Russia shelled the Azot chemical plant, which had served as the last stronghold of Ukrainian resistance in the town and a shelter for hundreds of civilians. Haidai said Russian troops checked the strength of the bridges across the Donets River to Lysychansk that were already destroyed and shelled.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said that Severodonetsk and the other three towns are now under control of the Luhansk People’s Republic, the self-proclaimed pro-Russian breakaway region in eastern Ukraine.

However, an official from the Interior Ministry of the Luhansk People’s Republic said Severodonetsk is still not completely cleared of Ukrainian forces, Russia’s Tass news agency reported. The official, Vitali Kiselev, said he hoped the “epic” would end in the next three or four days.

By: Julian Duplain

8:04 AM: Russian missile strike in Kyiv shatters capital’s relative calm

Rescue workers are elevated by a crane at an apartment building hit by a Russian missile strike, in Kyiv, Ukraine, June 26, 2022. (REUTERS/Gleb Garanich) Rescue workers are elevated by a crane at an apartment building hit by a Russian missile strike, in Kyiv, Ukraine, June 26, 2022. (REUTERS/Gleb Garanich)

KYIV, Ukraine — A series of strikes on the Ukrainian capital early Sunday disrupted a recent sense of relative calm here, after Russian forces withdrew from the city this spring and refocused their efforts on other parts of the country.

The blasts that hit Kyiv just after 6 a.m. Sunday struck a residential building and a playground outside a kindergarten. Authorities said at least one person was killed and five were injured.

A 7-year-old girl was pulled out of the rubble, but her father died in the strike and her mother, a Russian citizen, was severely injured, according to Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s Interior Ministry. The girl suffered “numerous wounds” and underwent surgery, Gerashchenko said, adding that her condition is now stable.

The missiles were fired from Russian bombers flying over the Caspian Sea, a Ukrainian air force spokesperson said.

Rescue workers were still digging through the remains of the top floors of the apartment building hours after the strike. A group of first responders rushed outside about 10:30 a.m. carrying a badly injured woman. The workers who loaded her into an ambulance were covered in dust and debris from the rescue mission.

Gerashchenko stood outside showing journalists a damaged Russian passport found near the site of the blast. The passport belonged to the woman carried out in serious condition after several hours trapped under concrete slabs, he said. She appeared to be a civilian living in Ukraine.

The passport was proof, he said, that Russian President Vladimir Putin was wounding Russian citizens, too, in his violent bid to seize Ukrainian territory.

Russian forces struck the same area on April 29 and hit the same complex, killing Ukrainian journalist Vira Hyrych, a resident of the building. It appeared the Russians were trying to strike a factory across the street.

A member of the first response team, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because she feared repercussions for speaking publicly, said she saw a man’s hand sticking out from under a pile of rubble inside. She was not sure whether he had been killed or could still be rescued alive.

The air still smelled of smoke after the attack as rescue workers tossed debris from the roof to the ground in their search for survivors. Piles of burned insulation littered the street below.

A first responder who gave his name only as Volodymyr sat in a vehicle with two search-and-rescue dogs, waiting for word that the site was clear enough for them to begin searching for more survivors.

At a kindergarten around the corner, the remnants of a missile sat in a giant puddle of water outside. The strike damaged the playground and left explosive marks on the walls of the building. “Putin is shooting at a kindergarten,” Gerashchenko said. If the strike occurred on a school day with class in session, he added, children would probably have been killed or wounded.

Nearby, Oleksii Brazytsky, 55, stood outside his apartment building, a bandage around his head. The first two explosions woke him up just after 6 a.m. When he went to the balcony to assess the damage outside, a third blast hit even closer, shattering his windows and spraying glass onto his face.

Originally from Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, Brazytsky fled his home eight years ago to avoid the conflict there. He said he knew there was a factory nearby that might be the target of the strikes in Kyiv, but he also suspected Russian forces of intentionally targeting civilians. In his hometown, he said, “Russians shoot civilian buildings. They are probably doing the same thing here.”

Kostiantyn Tatarchuk contributed to this report.

By: Siobhán O'Grady

7:57 AM: Photos: KyivPride relocates to Warsaw as missiles rain down on Ukraine

A participant in the WarsawPride and KyivPride parade holds a Ukrainian flag on Saturday in Warsaw. © Wojtek Radwanski/AFP/Getty Images A participant in the WarsawPride and KyivPride parade holds a Ukrainian flag on Saturday in Warsaw.

As missiles rained down on Ukraine and its capital, Kyiv, over the weekend, several hundred Ukrainians marched in the city’s Pride parade — over 450 miles away, in Warsaw.

Some 300 people traveled from Ukraine to Poland’s capital on Saturday to take part in WarsawPride, a yearly event that this year also included KyivPride. An organizer told the Associated Press that they could not march in Kyiv this year because of the bombings.

Poland has taken in the most Ukrainian refugees in Europe since the start of the war.

Photos from the event show crowds of people marching under the sun on the streets of Warsaw, holding the traditional rainbow Pride flag, as well as Ukrainian flags and signs calling for an end to the war.

People take part in the WarsawPride and KyivPride march for freedom in Warsaw on Saturday. © Michal Dyjuk/AP People take part in the WarsawPride and KyivPride march for freedom in Warsaw on Saturday. A participant holds a Ukrainian flag. © Wojtek Radwanski/AFP/Getty Images A participant holds a Ukrainian flag.

Some LGBTQ activists told The Washington Post that they believe that the war could change their treatment in Ukraine for the better. As recently as 2020, 69 percent of Ukrainians said homosexuality should not be accepted by society, according to a Pew survey.

Past KyivPride parades have been disrupted by far-right and anti-LGBTQ activists, and before Russia’s invasion, there was an increase in beatings of LGBTQ people by police in Ukraine.

Two women, one of them wrapped in a Ukrainian flag, kiss on Saturday. © Wojtek Radwanski/AFP/Getty Images Two women, one of them wrapped in a Ukrainian flag, kiss on Saturday. Participants in the Pride parade are reflected in the sunglasses of another. © Wojtek Radwanski/AFP/Getty Images Participants in the Pride parade are reflected in the sunglasses of another.

But Russia’s invasion has — at least for now — brought different factions of Ukrainian society that didn’t previously agree to work together toward the common goal of winning the war.

Nations in the European Union recently agreed to officially recognize Ukraine as a candidate for membership in the bloc, a process that could set in motion deep changes in the country’s laws and practices, including those that touch on the rights of LGBTQ Ukrainians.

By: Annabelle Timsit

6:53 AM: U.K. report highlights significance of fall of Severodonetsk

A map locating Severodonetsk, Ukraine © The Washington Post A map locating Severodonetsk, Ukraine

Russia’s capture of Severodonetsk “is a significant achievement” because it provides access to the rest of the Donbas region via the Donets River and because it was a major industrial center, Britain’s Defense Ministry said in its latest intelligence assessment.

Russia’s goal in the war, the ministry said, is to secure control of Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region bordering Russia.

“However, it is only one of several challenging objectives Russia will need to achieve to occupy the whole of the Donbas region,” the ministry added. “These include advancing on the major centre of Kramatorsk and securing the main supply routes to Donetsk city.”

Most Ukrainian forces have probably pulled out of the area, the ministry said. Ukrainian officials said Friday that their forces would withdraw from Severodonetsk but that the process could take time. The Pentagon downplayed the significance of the move, with a senior U.S. defense official saying the Ukrainians were moving to a “position where they can better defend themselves.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky vowed Saturday to retake cities captured by Russian forces, including Severodonetsk.

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, whose forces are said to be fighting alongside pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, claimed Saturday that the airport and industrial area in Severodonetsk had been cleared of Ukrainian forces and that hundreds of civilians sheltering in a chemical plant in the city were freed.

On Sunday, however, an official from the Interior Ministry of the pro-Moscow self-declared Luhansk People’s Republic said Severodonetsk is still not completely cleared of Ukrainian forces, Russia’s Tass news agency reported. The official, Vitali Kiselev, said he hoped the “epic” would end in the next three or four days.

Dan Lamothe contributed to this report.

By: Annabelle Timsit

6:14 AM: Biden hails Germany’s Scholz ahead of G-7 summit

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz welcomes President Biden at Schloss Elmau in Germany on Sunday. (Michael Kappeler/DPA/AP) German Chancellor Olaf Scholz welcomes President Biden at Schloss Elmau in Germany on Sunday. (Michael Kappeler/DPA/AP)

TELFS, Austria — Two hours before President Biden was scheduled to meet with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, administration officials previewed the meeting by saying that Biden would be thanking the German leader for “his leadership at the G-7 during what’s been a truly unprecedented time in Europe over the last number of months.”

But when Biden glimpsed his German counterpart standing on a pavilion at the summit venue high in the Bavarian Alps, he began instead with a favorite joke: “Don’t jump.”

The small talk continued from there as they took in the scene and discussed the types of outdoor activities that it offered.

“I used to ski a lot, too,” Biden remarked. “I haven’t skied in a while. It’s beautiful.”

The two then turned toward the business of the summit, and Biden made good on the prediction from his aides, thanking Scholz several times for Germany’s resolve in the face of Russian aggression.

“I think we can get through all this and come out stronger,” Biden said.

“Good messages that we all made it to stay united,” Scholz responded. “Which obviously [Russian President Vladimir] Putin never expected.”

Biden leaned close to Scholz and grabbed his forearm: “And that was in no small part because of you. No small part because of you. Seriously.”

“We have to stay together. Because Putin has been counting on from the beginning that somehow NATO and the G-7 would splinter,” Biden added. “But we haven’t, and we’re not going to. We can’t let this aggression take the form it has and get away with it.”

The two thanked each other. Reporters shouted questions, press aides shouted at them to leave, and the two leaders sat grinning.

By: Ashley Parker and Matt Viser

5:48 AM: Sean Penn lobbies U.S. lawmakers for fighter jets for Ukraine

Actor Sean Penn at the Capitol in Washington on June 23. © J. Scott Applewhite/AP Actor Sean Penn at the Capitol in Washington on June 23.

American actor and filmmaker Sean Penn joined two Ukrainian fighter pilots in Washington last week to lobby for fighter jets and air defense systems to help Ukraine win its fight against Russia’s invasion.

In an interview with CNN’s Jim Acosta, broadcast Saturday, Penn said Ukrainian fighter pilots are currently “flying the equivalent of suicide missions, and all they need is the most basic kind of support from the American government.”

“The ask is not a big, grand ask. It’s a very practical ask to be able to match the air, the air technology of the Russian fighters at this point,” Penn said. He was joined by two Ukrainian pilots, identified only by their call signs: “Moonfish” and “Juice.”

Reps. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) and Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.), Air Force veterans, introduced a bill this month that would allow the United States to begin training Ukrainian pilots and aircrew members on F-15 and F-16 fighter jets while the Biden administration considers sending such equipment to Ukraine.

The actor and activist was on the ground in Ukraine in the war’s earliest days, filming a documentary about the invasion, and he has been a vocal supporter of Ukraine throughout the five-month conflict, denouncing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade as “a most horrible mistake for all of humankind.”

In March, he called for a boycott of the Oscars ceremony if Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was not on the program, saying he would smelt his own awards in public if that turned out to be the case.

By: Rachel Pannett

5:16 AM: Russian missile hits Kyiv apartment block

Firefighters worker to put out a fire as smoke rises from a residential building damaged by a Russian missile strike in Kyiv on June 26. © Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters Firefighters worker to put out a fire as smoke rises from a residential building damaged by a Russian missile strike in Kyiv on June 26.

KYIV, Ukraine —A Russian missile struck an apartment block Sunday morning in Kyiv’s Shevchenkivskyi district, killing at least one person and injuring several others, according to local officials at the scene. A kindergarten near the apartment building was also hit.

Two more explosions were heard later on Sunday morning, as air raid sirens sounded for a third time.

Rescuers at the apartment block saved a young girl buried under rubble, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said, and later her mother was also brought out alive. Officials at the scene said the man who died was from the same family.

The State Emergency Service of Ukraine reported that the strike damaged the top three floors of the nine-story residential building and caused a fire. It said emergency teams were dispatched to put out the blaze and rescue residents.

Klitschko said that 25 people were rescued from the building and that four injured residents were rushed to a hospital.

Duplain reported from London, Chapman from Paris and Nichols from Seoul.

By: David L. Stern, Julian Duplain, Annabelle Chapman and Kendra Nichols

5:07 AM: Putin promises missile systems for Belarus

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet near St. Petersburg on Saturday. © Maxim Blinov/AP Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet near St. Petersburg on Saturday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko met Saturday at Putin’s summer residence near St. Petersburg, where they discussed increasing weapons shipments to Belarus, including nuclear weapons.

Lukashenko is a long-standing ally of Putin, and he allowed Russian troops and materiel to remain in Belarus after joint exercises in February. Those troops, tanks and other equipment were then used in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Putin told Lukashenko that Russia would hand Iskander-M missile systems to Belarus in coming months and added that the missile was capable of carrying conventional and nuclear warheads.

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By: Amy Cheng, Julian Duplain, David L. Stern and Robyn Dixon

4:26 AM: World leaders arrive in Germany for G-7 summit dominated by Ukraine

President Biden landed in Munich on Saturday for a meeting of leaders of industrialized economies that is expected to be dominated by discussions of the fallout from the war in Ukraine.

Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Munich as Biden and other world leaders arrived in Germany for the Group of Seven summit in the Bavarian Alps. The protesters chanted antiwar slogans and clamored for more action from them on climate change, poverty and other issues.

The U.S. president was then expected to travel to Schloss Elmau, a remote resort in the Alps near the border with Liechtenstein, where the summit will run Sunday to Tuesday.

Reuters reported that some protesters planned to try to get close to Schloss Elmau to advocate their cause.

A view of the secluded Schloss Elmau luxury hotel in Elmau, Germany, on June 26, 2022. © Susan Walsh/AP A view of the secluded Schloss Elmau luxury hotel in Elmau, Germany, on June 26, 2022.

Biden was scheduled to hold a bilateral meeting about Ukraine with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Sunday, ahead of G-7 sessions focused on the global economy and infrastructure.

Biden made a major announcement before the summit officially kicked off. He tweeted early Sunday that G-7 nations would ban Russian gold imports in an effort to deny Russian President Vladimir Putin revenue for his war in Ukraine.

“Together, the G7 will announce that we will ban the import of Russian gold, a major export that rakes in tens of billions of dollars for Russia,” Biden said.

By: Annabelle Timsit

3:51 AM: In Africa, Eastern Europe battles Russian narrative on Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Senegalese President Macky Sall, the chairman of the African Union, on June 3. © Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin/Sputnik/Reuters Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Senegalese President Macky Sall, the chairman of the African Union, on June 3.

With fears growing of a severe food crisis sparked by the war in Ukraine, Kyiv and its Eastern European allies are opening a new front in their battle to build diplomatic alliances against the Kremlin: African nations, many of which depend on grain and fertilizer from Ukraine and Russia to feed their citizens.

The effort is a measure of how Russia’s war in Ukraine is shaping alliances far from the battlefield. The Kremlin has deep ties to many African nations dating back to the Soviet era, and has acted to utilize them in the current crisis, welcoming leaders from the continent to Russia and expanding its own propaganda efforts among local populations.

Central and Eastern European countries shared those ties until the collapse of Communism, but they have spent decades wiring themselves into Western institutions, to the neglect of relations with Africa. In recent weeks, however, leaders of those countries have been knocking on doors in Africa.

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By: Michael Birnbaum

3:14 AM: G-7 to ban gold imports from Russia, Biden says

TELFS, Austria — President Biden and his counterparts in the Group of Seven nations are announcing a ban on new imports of Russian gold in an attempt to further isolate the country from financial markets and punish Russian President Vladimir Putin for the invasion of Ukraine.

The ban on gold imports, which could amount to a penalty of tens of billions of dollars, appeared to be the primary new economic sanction to be imposed on Russia out of this week’s G-7 summit. Administration officials declined to comment on whether other punitive steps would be taken.

“The United States has imposed unprecedented costs on Putin to deny him the revenue he needs to fund his war against Ukraine,” Biden tweeted Sunday morning. “Together, the G7 will announce that we will ban the import of Russian gold, a major export that rakes in tens of billions of dollars for Russia.”

During a background briefing with reporters ahead of the day’s summit, administration officials cast the move as an important demonstration that the world’s largest economies are willing to continue punishing Russia. The official announcement will come Tuesday, according to administration officials, and the U.S. Treasury Department will make a formal determination to prohibit imports of new gold.

“The U.S. has rallied the world in imposing swift and significant economic costs to deny Putin the revenue he needs to finance his war,” said one of the officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity under ground rules for the briefing. “In this case, gold — after energy — is the second-largest export for Russia and a source of significant revenue for Putin.”

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By: Matt Viser and Ashley Parker

3:04 AM: Russia will soon exhaust combat capabilities, Western assessments predict

ON THE ROAD TO LYSYCHANSK, UKRAINE-JUNE 21: Elenna, 24, a female member of Ukraine’s Territorial Defense forces together with the other troops as they stopped on a road that leads to Lysychansk, Ukraine on June 21, 2022. She was the only female soldier in the unit in the area of Lysychansk where they have been fighting against the Russian forces who have for weeks been concentrating their firepower on Severodonetsk and its sister city of Lysychansk across the river.  (Photo by Heidi Levine for The Washington Post). © Heidi Levine/FTWP ON THE ROAD TO LYSYCHANSK, UKRAINE-JUNE 21: Elenna, 24, a female member of Ukraine’s Territorial Defense forces together with the other troops as they stopped on a road that leads to Lysychansk, Ukraine on June 21, 2022. She was the only female soldier in the unit in the area of Lysychansk where they have been fighting against the Russian forces who have for weeks been concentrating their firepower on Severodonetsk and its sister city of Lysychansk across the river. (Photo by Heidi Levine for The Washington Post).

The Russian military will soon exhaust its combat capabilities and be forced to bring its offensive in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region to a grinding halt, according to Western intelligence predictions and military experts.

“There will come a time when the tiny advances Russia is making become unsustainable in light of the costs and they will need a significant pause to regenerate capability,” said a senior Western official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive issue.

The assessments come despite continued Russian advances against outgunned Ukrainian forces, including the capture on Friday of the city of Severodonetsk, the biggest urban center taken by Russia in the east since launching the latest Donbas offensive nearly three months ago.

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By: Liz Sly

2:15 AM: Ukraine accuses Russia of launching missiles from Belarusian airspace

Russia fired nearly 50 missiles at areas in western and northern Ukraine early Saturday and launched airstrikes from Belarus for the first time, Ukrainian officials said, as Moscow’s war entered a fifth month and President Biden headed to Germany for a summit with Group of Seven leaders.

The barrage of missiles struck a wide swath of territory as Ukrainian forces struggled to hold on to the eastern city of Lysychansk, Kyiv’s last foothold against a Russian onslaught in the Luhansk region.

A military base near the western Ukrainian town of Yavoriv was hit by four Russian missiles fired from the Black Sea, regional governor Maksym Kozytskyy said. He said two other missiles were intercepted. Details of casualties were not immediately known, but at least 35 people were killed in a similar attack on Yavoriv in March. Missile strikes were also reported on Chernihiv and Zhytomyr in the north, with a total of 48 missiles launched, according to Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak.

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By: Amy Cheng, Julian Duplain, David L. Stern and Robyn Dixon

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