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Russia-Ukraine war latest: Russian forces targeting Donetsk cities next, Luhansk governor warns

Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu has claimed that Russia has made two humanitarian corridor in the Black and Azov Seas to facilitate the export of grain.

Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency quotes Shoigu saying: “A set of measures is being taken to ensure the safety of navigation in the waters of the Black and Azov Seas. The mine danger in the waters of the port of Mariupol has been completely eliminated.”

Russia has repeatedly said that it is not obstructing the export of Ukraine’s grain, and that authorities in Kyiv simply need to demine their waters, an act that would also allow Russian warships closer unhindered access to Ukraine’s southern coast.

Yevgeny Balitsky, head of the Russian-imposed administration of the occupied Zaporizhzhia region of Ukraine, has said the region plans to sell Ukraine’s grain to the Middle East, according to reports from Russian news agency Tass.

Tass said that the main countries involved in the deal were Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Ukraine has repeatedly accused Russia of stealing grain, a charge which Moscow has denied.

Yesterday, a senior Turkish official said Turkey had halted a Russian-flagged cargo ship off its Black Sea coast to investigate a Ukrainian claim it was carrying stolen grain.

The Tass news agency has reported that Russia is planning to launch a railway link between Rostov region and the areas of Donetsk and Luhansk it occupies in eastern Ukraine.

Building transport links has also been a priority for the Russian occupiers between Crimea, which it annexed in 2014, and the areas of Kherson which it occupies.

Russia’s ministry of defence has issued its daily operational briefing. None of the claims made have been independently verified.

They claim to have shot down three drones and one Su-25 aircraft, and killed up to 150 Ukrainian servicemen in a “high-precision weapons” attack on Kharkiv in the last 24 hours.

Russia’s running total of claimed equipment losses for Ukraine now stands at:

.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}231 aircraft, 134 helicopters, 1451 unmanned aerial vehicles, 353 anti-aircraft missile systems, 3,910 tanks and other armoured combat vehicles, 716 multiple rocket launcher combat vehicles, 3,092 field artillery and mortar guns, and 4,016 special military vehicles.

Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba has urged the international community to reduce Russian access to maritime transport. He tweeted:

.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}Russia’s export-oriented economy relies heavily on maritime transportation provided by foreign fleets. I urge partners: restrict Russia’s access to their services and deplete Putin’s war machine. After all, what Russia really exports to the world today is death, crisis, and lies.

The self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic has issued its daily military briefing. It claims 12 of the 240 settlements in Ukraine it says it controls were shelled by Ukrainian forces in the last 24 hours, leading to four deaths and 29 civilians being injured.

The claims have not been independently verified. Russia and Syria are the only UN member states to recognise the Donetsk People’s Republic as a legitimate authority.

Maksym Marchenko, Ukraine’s governor of Odesa, has issued a call to Russian forces in the country to lay down their arms and refuse to fight. He writes on Telegram:

.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}Ukrainians are ready to defend their homes and loved ones to the last. Think about your families too. Your loved ones need living healthy fathers, husbands and sons, they need them at home.

Life is not given in order to fulfil the criminal orders of Putin’s regime. Save your life and future – refuse to participate in Putin’s bloody war.

Lay down your arms for the sake of your safe and peaceful future. You can drain fuel, disable equipment, explaining the impossibility of your participation in hostilities.

International human rights defenders and the protection of the United Nations will be provided to those who fear persecution by the Russian authorities. This is not surrender. This is a demonstration of your refusal to participate in a crime against humanity.

Having done this, you are not betraying the Russian people and your homeland. On the contrary, you give Russia a chance to preserve its dignity and give hope for the future.

The British Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood has said the Ukrainians have “done a formidable job” attempting to hold back Russian advances, but expressed fears that Russia may now be in a position to advance on Odesa.

He said the west must act to get the port into use for grain exports, and said “we will have to look Russia in the eyes and see who blinks.”

Interviewed on Sky News, he told called on Great Britain to bypass the security council at the UN and go straight to the general assembly to “get a resolution to call for the port of Odessa to become a humanitarian zone”.

He went on to say:

.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}This would then allow a ‘coalition of the willing’ to go in and protect it. To link up the territorial waters – which are currently mined, those mines will have to be taken away – but link up the territorial waters to international waters so those grain shipments can get out. Only if we use those ships to get the grain out can we get the scale of grain required, not just to feed Europe, but indeed Africa as well.

If we don’t, then the the consequences will almost be biblical. The starvation, the famine that will take place, we’ll get mass migration as well.

Ellwood also believed that Russian president Vladimir Putin has the upper hand in Ukraine, saying: “Russia is gaining more ground than it is losing in Ukraine and for Putin, that registers a win. He can sell that to the Russian people.”

Leisa Vasylenko, a Ukrainian MP for the Holos party, has been interviewed by Sky News in the UK. She conceded that Russia was making military gains, and that “they will continue making them until and unless they are stopped”.

She said: “But the fight is ongoing, definitely, and the fight will be ongoing for as long as Ukraine gets the military support and, of course, the financial support necessary to fight back Russia.”

She described the morale of Ukraine’s armed forces as good despite recent setbacks, saying “the Ukrainian army is as determined as ever to fight back.”

Vasylenko said: “There have been losses in the Ukrainian army. These losses have been big, and there are huge numbers of prisoners of war at the moment. And that gives the resolve to the Ukrainian military, to the men and women alike, who are fighting for Ukraine to fight back harder. To avenge the lives that have been lost. And to get back to their comrades.”

Ukraine’s governor of Luhansk, Serhai Haidai, has posted an update to Telegram casting aspersions on the ability of pro-Russian proxies to restore stability in the newly occupied areas of Ukraine. He writes:

.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}In the recently occupied territories, the Russians establish their own rules, talk nonsense about the opening of schools from 1 September, the rapid restoration of communications. This is all a lie, the same thing happened in Mariupol. The only thing the Rashists [a term for Russian fascists] are capable of is terrorising the local population. Orcs [derogatory slang for Russians/pro-Russian forces] are already looking for activists and military families, collaborators are helping with this.

In a similar vein, Ukraine’s interior ministry has posted a warning this morning about saboteurs and collaborators, claiming that more than 800 have been detained since the start of Russia’s latest invasion of Ukraine. It quotes interior minister Yevhen Yenin claiming:

.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}Over these few months, more than 800 saboteurs were detained and handed over to the SBU [Ukrainian security service] for further procedural actions. And often, they are “sold for thirty pieces of silver”: the price for treason to the motherland reaches no more than 300 dollars.

The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, will fly to Hanoi today for a two-day visit to Vietnam before heading to a G20 meeting later this week in Indonesia, the Vietnamese government has said.

The visit at the invitation of Vietnamese foreign minister, Bui Thanh Son, comes as the two nations mark the 10th anniversary of their “comprehensive strategic partnership”, the government said in a statement as reported by Reuters.

Russia is Vietnam’s biggest arms supplier and its companies are involved in several major energy projects in the country.

The two nations have close ties dating back to the Soviet era and Vietnam has not so far condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In April, Vietnam voted against a resolution to suspend Russia from the UN human rights council over the war.

Trade between Vietnam and Russia rose 25% last year to $7.1bn, the statement said.

Lavrov will attend a meeting of foreign ministers from the Group of 20 biggest economies (G20) held on the Indonesian island of Bali later this week.

Images of Ukrainian servicemen bathing in a stream in Fedorivka in central Ukraine paint an picture of time spent between battling Russian forces on the frontline.

Following Russia’s capture of Lysychansk and control of Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk region, Ukrainian forces will be able to fall back to a more readily defendable, straightened front line, according to the UK Ministry of Defence.

The latest British intelligence report, released shortly before 7am BST, confirms that Russia’s “relatively rapid capture” of Lysychansk has allowed its forces to extend its control across virtually all of the territory of Luhansk and claim substantive progress against the policy objective it presented as the immediate purpose of the war, namely “liberating” the Donbas.

.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}Unlike in previous phases of the war, Russia has probably achieved reasonably effective co-ordination between at least two groupings of forces, the central grouping likely commanded by General-Colonel Alexandr Lapin and the southern grouping probably under the recently appointed General Sergei Surovikin.

Ukrainian forces have likely largely withdrawn in good order, in line with existing plans.

The Ukrainian held areas of Sieverodonetsk-Lyschansk consisted of a bulge or salient which Russian could attack from three sides.”

The report notes that there is a “realistic possibility” that Ukrainian forces will now be able to fall back to a more readily defendable, straightened front line.

.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}The battle for the Donbas has been characterised by slow rates of advance and Russia’s massed employment of artillery, levelling towns and cities in the process.

The fighting in Donetsk Oblast will almost certainly continue in this manner.”

Gas consumption will contract slightly this year due to high prices and Russian cuts to Europe, with only slow growth over coming years as consumers switch to alternatives, the IEA has said.

The International Energy Agency chopped its forecast for global gas demand by more than half in its latest quarterly report on gas markets, according to a report from Agence France-Presse.

It now expects growth of just 3.4% by 2025, an increase of 140bn cubic metres (bcm) from 2021 levels, which is less than the 175 bcm jump in demand registered in 2021 alone. In a statement, the IEA said:

.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}The consequences of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on global gas prices and supply tensions, as well as its repercussions on the longer-term economic outlook, are reshaping the outlook for natural gas.

Today’s record prices and supply disruptions are damaging the reputation of natural gas as a reliable and affordable energy source, casting uncertainty on its prospects, particularly in developing countries where it had been expected to play a growing role in meeting rising energy demand and energy transition goals.”

Some military experts believe the hard fought victory in Luhansk has brought Russian forces little strategic gain, and the outcome of what has been dubbed the “battle of the Donbas” remains in the balance.

Neil Melvin of the RUSI think tank in London compared the battle to the huge fights for meagre territorial gains that characterised the first world war. Speaking to Reuters, he said:

.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}I think it’s a tactical victory for Russia but at an enormous cost.

This has taken 60 days to make very slow progress.

I think the Russians may declare some kind of victory, but the key war battle is still yet to come.”

Melvin said the decisive battle for Ukraine was likely to take place not in the east, where Russia is mounting its main assault, but in the south, where Ukraine has begun a counter-offensive to recapture territory.

“This is where we see the Ukrainians are making progress around Kherson. There are counter-attacks beginning there and I think it’s most likely that we’ll see the momentum swing to Ukraine as it tries to then mount a large-scale counter-offensive to push the Russians back,” he said.

Ukrainian prime minister, Denys Shmyhal, told an international conference that rebuilding his war-ravaged country would cost around $750bn (£620bn).

Speaking at the opening of the Ukraine recovery conference in Switzerland, Shmyhal said the confiscated assets of Russia and Russian oligarchs should be used to help Ukraine put itself back together.

A transcript of his speech later published online reads:

.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}We believe that the key source of recovery should be the confiscated assets of Russia and Russian oligarchs.

The Russian authorities unleashed this bloody war, they caused this massive destruction, and they should be held accountable for it.”

Shmyhal estimated that Russia’s frozen assets amount to between 300 and 500 billion dollars.

Speaking via video message, Zelenskiy said the reconstruction was not the “local task of a single nation” but rather “a common task of the whole democratic world”.

The two-day conference, held under tight security in the southern Swiss city of Lugano, had been planned well before the invasion, and had originally been slated to discuss reforms in Ukraine before being repurposed to focus on reconstruction.

The conference said Ukraine’s recovery plan had three phases: a first focused on fixing things that matter for people’s daily lives, such as water supply, which is ongoing; a second “fast recovery” component that will be launched as soon as fighting ends, including temporary housing, hospital and school projects; and a third that aims to transform the country over the longer term.

Ukrainian forces have taken up new defensive lines in Donetsk, where they still control major cities, and plan to launch counter offensives in the south of the country.

Luhansk governor, Serhiy Haidai, said the weeks-long battle for Lysychansk had drawn in Russian troops that could have been fighting on other fronts, and had given Ukraine’s forces time to build fortifications in the Donetsk region to make it “harder for the Russians there”.

He also reiterated calls for Ukraine’s western allies to provide more arms, saying the country’s armed forces would launch a counteroffensive when they had sufficient long-range weapons.

He added: “The [Russian] tactics will be the same. They will shoot at everything with their artillery, but it will be difficult for them to move forward.”

Oleksiy Arestovych, adviser to President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said Ukraine was hoping to launch counter offensives in the south of the country in a video posted online.

.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}This is the last victory for Russia on Ukrainian territory.

These were medium-sized cities. And this took from 4th April until 4th July – that’s 90 days. So many losses…”

Arestovych said besides the battle for Donetsk, Ukraine was hoping to launch counter offensives in the south of the country.

“Taking the cities in the east meant that 60% of Russian forces are now concentrated in the east and it is difficult for them to be redirected to the south,” he said.

“And there are no more forces that can be brought in from Russia. They paid a big price for Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk.”

Zelenskiy said on Monday that despite Ukraine’s withdrawal on Sunday from Lysychansk, its troops continued to fight.

.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}The Armed Forces of Ukraine respond, push back and destroy the offensive potential of the occupiers day after day.

We need to break them. It is a difficult task. It requires time and superhuman efforts. But we have no alternative.”

Russian forces will target the eastern Donetsk cities of Sloviansk and Bakhmut next, the governor of the neighbouring province of Luhansk has warned.

President Vladimir Putin claimed victory in the heavily fought-over region of Luhansk on Monday after Ukraine’s military command confirmed that its troops had been forced to pull back from the city of Lysychansk.

Luhansk governor, Serhiy Haidai, says he now expects the cities to come under heavy attack as Russia attempts to take full control of Donbas. Haidai told Reuters:

.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}The loss of the Luhansk region is painful because it is the territory of Ukraine.

For me personally, this is special. This is the homeland where I was born and I am also the head of the region.

[Russian forces] will not transfer 100% of their troops to some front because they need to hold the line. If they leave their positions then ours can carry out some kind of counteroffensive.

Still, for them goal number one is the Donetsk region. Sloviansk and Bakhmut will come under attack – Bakhmut has already started being shelled very hard.”

Russian forces are likely to target eastern Donetsk cities

On Monday, Russia’s defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, told Putin that “the operation” in Luhansk was complete. The Russian president said the military units “that took part in active hostilities and achieved success, victory” in Luhansk “should rest, increase their combat capabilities”.

The capture of the city of Lysychansk on Sunday completed the Russian conquest of Luhansk, one of two regions in Donbas, the industrialised eastern region of Ukraine that has become the site of the biggest battle in Europe in generations.

Bakhmut, Sloviansk and nearby Kramatorsk lie south-west of Lysychansk and are the main urban areas holding out against Russian forces in Donetsk.

The latest intelligence briefing from the UK’s Ministry of Defence said Russian forces would “almost certainly” switch to trying to capture Donetsk. The briefing said the conflict in Donbas had been “grinding and attritional” and this was unlikely to change in the coming weeks.

Hello it’s Samantha Lock back with you as we unpack all the latest news from Ukraine this morning.

Leaders from dozens of countries, international organisations and the private sector have gathered in Switzerland to draw up plans to rebuild war-ravaged Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Russia has said it is in control of Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk region after taking over Lysychansk, the last Ukrainian-controlled city in the region.

Here are all the latest lines as of 8am in Kyiv.

  • Russia has declared victory in the eastern Ukrainian region of Luhansk, a day after Ukrainian forces withdrew from their last remaining stronghold in the province. On Monday, Russia’s defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, told Putin that “the operation” in Luhansk was complete. The Russian president said the military units “that took part in active hostilities and achieved success, victory” in Luhansk “should rest, increase their combat capabilities”. Serhiy Haidai, the governor of Luhansk, said he expected the Donetsk cities of Sloviansk and Bakhmut to come under heavy attack as Russia attempts to take full control of Donbas.
  • Ukraine has laid out a $750bn (£620bn) “recovery plan” for its postwar future during the Ukraine Recovery Conference hosted by Switzerland on Monday. Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said the common task of the entire democratic world was to map out a physical future for Ukraine in the event it survives as a western-facing nation after the Russian invasion.
  • Ukraine’s prime minister, Denys Shmyhal, said a key source of funding for the recovery plan should be assets confiscated from Russian oligarchs. Ukraine’s recovery plan so far has three phases: a first focused on fixing things that matter for people’s daily lives, such as water supply, which is ongoing; a second “fast recovery” component that will be launched as soon as fighting ends, including temporary housing, hospital and school projects; and a third that aims to transform the country over the longer term.
  • Ukrainian forces are set to raise the country’s flag on Snake Island, a strategic and symbolic outpost in the Black Sea that Russian troops retreated from last week after months of heavy bombardment. Ukraine’s military earlier stated that the national flag had been returned to the island shortly before 11pm on Monday. However, Natalia Humeniuk, spokesperson for Ukraine’s southern military command, later confirmed in an interview with CNN: “The flag was delivered to the island by helicopter. It will wait for the arrival of the troops, then it will wave.”
  • A British citizen who has been sentenced to death by a Russian proxy court in eastern Ukraine has launched an appeal against the verdict. Aiden Aslin, 28, a British-Ukrainian former care worker from Nottinghamshire who was a Ukrainian marine, was captured by Russian forces in the besieged city of Mariupol in April.
  • The UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, has said alternative routes to retrieve grain stuck in Ukraine would need to be looked at, including through Europe’s Danube River, if it cannot be moved via the Bosphorus strait in Turkey. “The Turks are absolutely indispensable to solving this. They’re doing their very best … We will increasingly have to look at alternative means of moving that grain from Ukraine if we cannot use the sea route, if you can’t use the Bosphorus,” he told parliament on Monday.
  • Turkey has halted a Russian-flagged cargo ship off its Black Sea coast and is investigating a Ukrainian claim that it was carrying stolen grain, a senior Turkish official said on Monday.
  • Ukraine is holding talks with Turkey and the United Nations to secure guarantees for grain exports from Ukrainian ports, Zelenskiy said. “Talks are in fact going on now with Turkey and the UN [and] our representatives who are responsible for the security of the grain that leaves our ports,” Ukraine’s president told a news conference alongside the Swedish prime minister, Magdalena Andersson.
  • Ukraine has renewed its invitation for Pope Francis to visit the country and urged the pontiff to continue praying for the Ukrainian people, a foreign ministry spokesperson said.
  • Western envoys in China have criticised Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, with the US ambassador saying China should not spread Russian “propaganda”, during an unusual public forum in a country that has declined to condemn Moscow’s attack.
  • Russian missiles hit a secondary school in the Kharkiv district at 4am on Monday, according to a report from Oleh Synyehubov, governor of the region.
  • The self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic has claimed that in the last 24 hours Ukrainian forces have shelled 15 of the 240 settlements they say they control. They claim that “five people were killed and another 20 civilians were injured”.
  • Britain is proposing a new law that will require social media companies to proactively tackle disinformation posted by foreign states such as Russia. The law would tackle fake accounts on platforms such as Meta’s Facebook and Twitter that were set up on behalf of foreign states to influence elections or court proceedings, the government said in an announcement on Monday.

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