Ukraine: Residential building in Zelensky’s hometown engulfed by flames after deadly strike

Ukraine claims to have made advances in the face of “extremely fierce” fighting during its counteroffensive against Vladimir Putin’s forces, and has suggested Russia is losing a “staggering” 900 troops a day.

As the lower house of Russia’s parliament gave its initial backing to plans to enable Moscow to enlist suspected or convicted criminals to bolster its army in Ukraine, Kyiv’s deputy defence minister claimed advances of several hundred metres near Bakhmut and Zaporizhzhia.

The claimed advances – which contrast with Russian claims to have repelled attacks – preface a critical Nato meeting this week where Kyiv will urge the West to greenlight delivery of fighter jets, with senior Kyiv official Yuriy Sak telling The Independent that if “had we had F-16s, by now the situation would have been different”.

Meanwhile, Mr Putin said that if necessary Moscow would use weapons with depleted uranium in response to reports that the United States would supply such weapons to Ukraine, as his ally Alexander Lukashenko claimed Belarus had begun to receive Russian tactical nuclear weapons three times more powerful than those dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.


Germany to purchase six air defence systems for Luftwaffe

Germany will purchase six Iris-T air defence systems for its air force at cost of some €950m (£812m), a member of the budget committee has told Reuters after politicians approved the deal.

Boasting a range of some 25 miles and a 360 degree view, the Iris-T system is one of the most coveted weapons which Berlin has supplied to Ukraine, which has deployed the units to shoot down cruise missiles and aircraft including Iranian-made Shahed drones.

The Luftwaffe is due to take delivery of the first unit in 2024. Berlin has bought two Iris-T units built by Diehl for Ukraine and pledged to send another two to Kyiv, but has not yet equipped its own forces with the systems.

Andy Gregory14 June 2023 17:14


Erdogan warns Nato not to expect approval of Sweden’s application bid in time for July summit

Nato should not bet on Turkey approving Sweden’s application to join the military alliance before a July summit, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said, accusing the Nordic nation of failing to fully address his security concerns.

Despite finally relenting to allow Finland’s simultaneous bid several months ago, Ankara still refuses to grant Stockholm permission to join the bloc, accusing Sweden of being too lenient towards groups Turkey claims pose a threat to its security.

Speaking to journalists on his way back from a state visit to Azerbaijan on Tuesday – as senior officials from Nato, Turkey, Sweden and Finland met in Ankara – Mr Erdogan said Turkey’s attitude to the accession was not “positive.”

Mr Erdogan said the Turkish delegation at the meeting “will give this message: ‘This is our president’s opinion, don’t expect anything different at [the upcoming Nato summit in] Vilnius.”


Andy Gregory14 June 2023 16:30


Russia’s Duma gives initial backing for convicts to enlist against Ukraine

The lower house of Russia’s parliament has given its initial backing to plans allowing Moscow’s defence ministry to sign contracts with suspected or convicted criminals to fight in Ukraine.

Under the proposed changes, a contract could be concluded with someone being investigated for committing a crime, who is having their case heard in court or after they have been convicted but before the verdict takes legal effect, according to the database of the State Duma, Russia’s lower house.

People convicted of sexual crimes, treason, terrorism or extremism would not be able to sign up. Those who do sign up would be exempt from criminal liability upon completion of their contract or if they receive awards for their combat prowess.

The new changes being examined by the Duma do not cover recruitment of people already serving their sentences and the Defence Ministry has not commented.

Andy Gregory14 June 2023 15:40


Chechen leader Kadyrov insists reports his second-in-command is wounded are ‘fake’

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has dismissed reports that one of his senior commanders had been killed or wounded in Ukraine, insisting that he was in fact “alive and well”.

The commander, Adam Delimkhanov, leads the Chechen division of the Russian national guard and is also a member of Russia’s parliament, and is widely viewed as the Caucasian region’s second most senior official after Mr Kadyrov, who is a close ally of Vladimir Putin.

Mr Kadyrov claimed to have known that Mr Delimkhanov was uninjured from the start of what he called “a fake information attack”, and to have remained silent in order to embarrass Ukrainian media outlets which reported on the commander’s alleged injury.

Earlier on Wednesday, Russia’s Zvezda television channel cited the parliamentary press service as saying that Mr Delimkhanov had been wounded in Ukraine, with the Kremlin expressing “worry” over the reports.

Mr Delimkhanov, who has an active social media presence, with over half a million followers on Telegram, did not comment.

Andy Gregory14 June 2023 15:37


‘Another hostage in prison’: Navalny associate jailed for more than 7 years by Russian court

An associate of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been sentenced to more than seven years in prison on “extremism” charges – the latest verdict in a crackdown on dissent by the Kremlin as it wages war in Ukraine, reports Dasha Litvinova.

Lilia Chanysheva who used to head Navalny’s office in the Russian region of Bashkortostan, was found guilty of calling for extremism, forming an extremist group and founding an organization that violates rights.

Navalny aide Lyubov Sobol called it a political verdict, saying President Vladimir Putin had “put one more hostage in a penal colony”. Navalny’s spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh said Chanysheva had been punished for fighting for the future of her country.


Fire ‘breaks out at Russian power station’

A fire has broken out at the Novocherkassk power station in Russia’s southern Rostov region, close to the border with Ukraine, RIA has reported.

The Russian state-owned news agency did not say what had caused the blaze.

Andy Gregory14 June 2023 14:23


Russian ‘goodwill’ over Black Sea grain deal cannot last forever, Kremlin says

Russia’s “goodwill” over renewing the Black Sea grain deal cannot last forever, the Kremlin has warned.

The remarks come a day after Vladimir Putin claimed that Moscow could withdraw from the vital grain deal, accusing the West of cheating Moscow by not implementing the promises it has made to ensure Russian agricultural goods reach world markets.

The Russian president will discuss the Black Sea grain deal with African leaders on Saturday, the Interfax news agency reported.

Andy Gregory14 June 2023 13:54


Kremlin expresses concern over reports Chechen military leader wounded in Ukraine

The Kremlin has expressed concern over media reports that a senior Chechen commander has been wounded in Ukraine.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Defence Ministry’s TV channel reported that Adam Delimkhanov, head of Chechnya’s national guard, had been wounded in Ukraine.

The ministry said it was awaiting clarification about what had really happened.

Andy Gregory14 June 2023 13:22


Kyiv claims advances against Putin’s forces in ‘fierce fighting’

Ukraine has made incremental advances in the face of “extremely fierce” fighting during its counteroffensive against Vladimir Putin’s forces on Wednesday, the country’s deputy defence minister Hanna Maliar has claimed.

Describing Kyiv’s actions as having had “partial success”, Ms Maliar said that over the past day Ukrainian troops had advanced 200-500 metres in various areas near the small eastern city of Bakhmut, and 300-350 metres in the direction of Zaporizhzhia.

“Our troops are moving in the face of extremely fierce fighting, and air and artillery superiority of the enemy,” Ms Maliar said.

She reported continuing fighting near the village of Makarivka in the direction of the southern port city of Berdyansk, and said battles were raging in the areas of Novodanylivka and Novopokrovsk in the Mariupol direction.

Russia’s defence ministry, meanwhile, claimed to have repelled Kyiv’s advances on the south Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk fronts, claiming that Ukrainian forces had suffered heavy losses in men and equipment.

Andy Gregory14 June 2023 12:49


Senior Nato officials meet in Turkey to discuss Sweden’s membership bid

Senior Nato officials from Sweden, Finland and Turkey met in Ankara on Wednesday, according to local reports, as the alliance pushes Turkey to ratify Stockholm’s application to join the military bloc.

While both Nordic countries applied to join Nato in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Turkey has held off approving Sweden’s bid, after finally relenting to permit Helsinki to join the alliance, enabling Finland to become Nato’s 31st member in April.

Turkey’s government accuses Sweden of being too lenient toward terror organisations that Ankara says pose a security threat, including militant Kurdish groups and people associated with a 2016 coup attempt. A series of separate demonstrations in Stockholm, including a protest by an anti-Islam activist who burned the Quran outside the Turkish Embassy, also angered Turkish officials.

The officials meeting a Turkey’s presidential palace on Wednesday were scheduled to discuss the steps Finland and Sweden have taken as part of a memorandum they signed with Turkey last year to address Ankara’s security concerns, broadcaster HaberTurk reported.

Nato wants to bring Sweden into the fold by the time the alliance’s leaders hold a summit in Lithuania next month, with US secretary of state Antony Blinken saying after a meeting with Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday that it was “time to welcome Sweden”.

Sweden has amended its constitution and strengthened its anti-terror laws since it applied to join Nato last May, while Stockholm also agreed this week to extradite a Turkish citizen who was convicted on drug charges in Turkey in 2013.

Andy Gregory14 June 2023 12:37

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