Russia-Ukraine war: major shake-up in Russian high command, says UK; Ukrainian troops withdraw from Sievierodonetsk – live

1 month ago

Ukrainian troops pulling out of Sievierodonetsk

Russian forces are attempting to blockade the eastern city of Lysychansk, the region’s governor said on Saturday, after Ukrainian troops were forced to begin pulling out of neighbouring city Sievierodonetsk.

Here is an update on the situation in the cities, which are in the eastern Luhansk province (one of two provinces making up the Donbas region).

Russian and separatist fights are trying to block the city of Lysychansk from the south, Serhiy Haidai, governor of Luhansk province, said on Facebook.
A spokesman for the separatist forces, Andrei Marochko, said the fighters had entered Lysychansk and that there was fighting in the city centre, Russia’s Interfax news agency reports.
The two cities and surrounding areas are the last major pockets of Ukrainian resistance in Luhansk, 95% of which is under Russian and local separatist control. Some Ukrainian troops remain in the Azot chemical factory on the city’s edge, along with about 500 civilians. A separatist representative, Ivan Filiponenko, said 800 civilians were evacuated from the plant overnight, Interfax reported. Ukraine’s troops have ‘almost left’ Sievierodonetsk, the local mayor has said
A tank of the Ukrainian Armed Forces its seen in the industrial area of the city of Sievierodonetsk
A tank of the Ukrainian Armed Forces its seen in the industrial area of the city of Sievierodonetsk. Photograph: Reuters

Russian helicopters have launched missiles at a border village in the northeastern Ukrainian province of Sumy province.

Two Russian helicopters “carried out six launches of unguided missiles” on the Krasnopillia village in Sumy, near the Ukrainian border with Russia, Kyiv Independent reports, citing Ukraine’s border guard service.

No casualties have been reported yet.

The mayors of several European capitals were tricked into holding video calls with a deepfake of the Kyiv mayor, Vitali Klitschko, last week.

There were “no signs that the video conference call wasn’t being held with a real person”, said the office of the mayor of Berlin, Franziska Giffey, who was among those who were duped.

Ukrainian troops pulling out of Sievierodonetsk

Russian forces are attempting to blockade the eastern city of Lysychansk, the region’s governor said on Saturday, after Ukrainian troops were forced to begin pulling out of neighbouring city Sievierodonetsk.

Here is an update on the situation in the cities, which are in the eastern Luhansk province (one of two provinces making up the Donbas region).

Russian and separatist fights are trying to block the city of Lysychansk from the south, Serhiy Haidai, governor of Luhansk province, said on Facebook.
A spokesman for the separatist forces, Andrei Marochko, said the fighters had entered Lysychansk and that there was fighting in the city centre, Russia’s Interfax news agency reports.
The two cities and surrounding areas are the last major pockets of Ukrainian resistance in Luhansk, 95% of which is under Russian and local separatist control. Some Ukrainian troops remain in the Azot chemical factory on the city’s edge, along with about 500 civilians. A separatist representative, Ivan Filiponenko, said 800 civilians were evacuated from the plant overnight, Interfax reported. Ukraine’s troops have ‘almost left’ Sievierodonetsk, the local mayor has said
A tank of the Ukrainian Armed Forces its seen in the industrial area of the city of Sievierodonetsk
A tank of the Ukrainian Armed Forces its seen in the industrial area of the city of Sievierodonetsk. Photograph: Reuters
Gennady Goncharov, 67, surveys the damage of his apartment following previous night’s shelling in Donetsk
Gennady Goncharov, 67, surveys damage to his apartment following previous night’s shelling in Donetsk. Photograph: Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters
People clean up debris next to an office building near the centre of Kharkiv
People clean up debris next to an office building near the centre of Kharkiv. Photograph: Leah Millis/Reuters
A woman carries her belongings and a cat while leaving a damaged house following recent shelling in the Petrovsky district of Donetsk
A woman carries her belongings and a cat while leaving a damaged house following recent shelling in the Petrovsky district of Donetsk. Photograph: Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters

Almost all of Ukraine’s troops have now withdrawn from the strategic frontline city Sievierodonetsk, the local mayor has said.

Fierce fighting over the city has been ongoing for weeks against advancing Russian forces.

Reuters reports that mayor Oleksandr Stryuk did not confirm whether a full withdrawal was under way, but told national television:

Unfortunately, they have almost left the city.

Summary

It is 15:30 in Ukraine – here are the day’s developments so far.

Ukraine is likely re-configuring its defence of the Sievierodonetsk-Lysychansk sector, as Russian armoured units continue to make incrimental gains on the area’s southern edge, according to UK military intelligence. The UK Ministry of Defence claims that there has been a major shake-up in the Russian army’s high command since the start of June leading to the removal of the commander of airborne forces (VDV), Gen-Col Andrei Serdyukov, and commander the southern army group (SGF), Gen Alexandr Dvornikov. Russian missiles have hit military infrastructure in northern and western Ukraine, local officials have said. Strikes hit military facilities in the Zhytomyr region, in the country’s north, killing one, as well as the northern town of Desna. Four were wounded in an attack on the Yavoriv military facility, in western Ukraine. Russian authorities have removed a Polish flag from a memorial for the thousands of Poles killed by the Soviet Union during the 1940 Katyn massacre amid deteriorating relations between Moscow and Warsaw over the war in Ukraine.
Ukraine stands with Moldova amid threats from Moscow, the country’s foreign minister has said. “All Russia has left is spitting out threats at other states after decades of failed policies based on aggression, coercion, and disrespect,” Dmytro Kuleba tweeted, adding that it “only shows Russia’s weakness”. It comes after both Ukraine and Moldova were accepted as candidates for EU membership. Germany has signed an agreement to provide Ukraine’s state budget with €1 billion in grant funding, according to a statement issued by Ukraine’s finance ministry. The funds will reach Ukraine via the Monetary Fund.

Greece has suspended visa applications for Russians, the Association of Tour Operators of Russia has said.

Russians will no longer be able to apply for a visa for the country from 27 June, the Russian state-owned news agency RIA reported.

Greece joins several other European countries in suspending new visa applications from Russians since its invasion of Ukraine, including Bulgaria and Spain. Greece had already stopped issuing ‘golden visas’ – residence permits for investment purposes – to Russians.

Germany has signed an agreement to provide Ukraine’s state budget with €1 billion in grant funding, according to a statement by Ukraine’s finance ministry.

The funding will be “directed to the state budget of Ukraine to finance priority social and humanitarian expenditures during martial law”, it said. Ukraine will receive the funds via the Monetary Fund.

Ukraine’s finance minister Serhiy Marchenko said: “Mr Lindner [referring to German finance minister Christian Lindner], thank you personally, your team and everyone involved in the process, thanks to whose efforts we structured this agreement very quickly.

“We hope to receive funds in the near future. This grant is an extremely important contribution to support our state in this difficult time. We highly appreciate the assistance from the government of the Federal Republic of Germany.”

Russian forces have killed dozens of Polish fighters in the eastern Donetsk region, according to the country’s defence ministry.

It said “up to 80” Polish fighters were killed in “precision strikes” on the Megatex zinc factory in Kostyantynivka, AFP reports.

A rescuer stands amid rubble following the destruction of a heating system plant after a Russian missile attack in Kostyantynivka, in Donetsk region, on June 24, 2022.
A rescuer stands amid rubble following the destruction of a heating system plant after a Russian missile attack in Kostyantynivka, in Donetsk region, on June 24, 2022. Photograph: Anatolii Stepanov/AFP/Getty Images

Rocket systems supplied by the US are already working and hitting targets in Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine, the country’s top general said on Saturday.

“Artillerymen of the Armed Forces of Ukraine skilfully hit certain targets - military targets of the enemy on our, Ukrainian, territory,” chief of Ukraine’s general staff Valeriy Zaluzhnyi wrote on Telegram.

A view shows a M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) is being fired in an undisclosed location, in Ukraine in this still image obtained from an undated social media video uploaded on June 24, 2022 via Pavlo Narozhnyy/via REUTERS
A view shows a M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) is being fired in an undisclosed location, in Ukraine in this still image obtained from an undated social media video uploaded on June 24, 2022 via Pavlo Narozhnyy/via REUTERS Photograph: Via Pavlo Narozhnyy/Reuters

Russia launched artillery bombardments and airstrikes on the cities of Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk on Saturday, hitting a chemical plant where hundreds of civilians were trapped, a Ukrainian official has said.

Ukraine says it stands with Moldova amid threats from Moscow

Ukraine stands with Moldova amid threats from Moscow, the country’s foreign minister has said.

“We stand with the people and the government of friendly Moldova amid renewed threats coming from Moscow. All Russia has left is spitting out threats at other states after decades of failed policies based on aggression, coercion, and disrespect. This only shows Russia’s weakness,” Dmytro Kuleba tweeted.

We stand with the people and the government of friendly Moldova amid renewed threats coming from Moscow. All Russia has left is spitting out threats at other states after decades of failed policies based on aggression, coercion, and disrespect. This only shows Russia’s weakness.

— Dmytro Kuleba (@DmytroKuleba) June 25, 2022

It comes after the Kremlin said on Friday that it hoped Ukraine and Moldova’s relations with Moscow would not further deteriorate after they were accepted as candidates for European Union membership.

President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the bloc’s decision was “of course an internal European matter”, the Moscow Times reported. “[But] it’s very important for us that all these processes don’t bring more problems to us and more problems in the mentioned countries’ relations with us,” he said.

Russian authorities have taken a Polish flag down from a memorial for the thousands of Poles killed by the Soviet Union amid deteriorating relations between Moscow and Warsaw over the war in Ukraine.

The mayor of Smolensk city confirmed the flag’s removal on Friday evening, sharing a photo showing the Russian flag flying alone at the Katyn memorial’s entrance.

“There cannot be Polish flags on Russian monuments. Even less so after the frankly anti-Russian comments by Polish political leaders,” Andrei Borisov said on social media platform VKontakte.

“The culture ministry of the Russian Federation made the right decision by removing the Polish flag. Katyn is a Russian memorial.”

The Katyn memorial was erected to commemorate the 25,000 Poles massacred on Joseph Stalin’s orders in a forest near Smolensk in 1940. For decades, the Soviet Union denied it had been behind the massacre, accusing the Nazis of the crime, before admitting the truth in 1990.

The Ukrainian prosecutor-general’s office has shared an update of alleged war crimes it claims Russia has committed as its invasion enters its fifth month.

It says it has registered 19,530 alleged crimes of aggression and war crimes and 9,678 alleged crimes against national security. Additionally, 339 children have been killed, it says.

Eurovision winners Kalush Orchestra have said they hope Ukraine is able to host next year’s contest despite organisers saying it would not be possible.

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) on Thursday said the “severe” risk of air raids in Ukraine alongside the “high” risk of mass casualties contributed to the decision that the “necessary requirements for hosting” the competition were not met.

In an interview with the PA news agency, Kalush, thanked Boris Johnson for saying the event should take place in Kyiv. He said: “Right now there [are still] a lot of discussions [going on] in Ukraine. Maybe Ukraine will be invited [to host Eurovision]. And we altogether hope Eurovision will be in Ukraine.”

Johnson on Friday said he believed it would be possible for Ukraine, which won the contest, to host the event next year, saying “they deserve to have it”. “I believe that they can have it and I believe that they should have it. I believe that Kyiv or any other safe Ukrainian city would be a fantastic place to have it.”

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