• Deal on exporting Ukraine’s grain remains out of reach
  • Russia losing “up to 300 soldiers per day,” Zelenskyy claims
  • 1,000 Ukrainian prisoners from Mariupol to be sent to Russia
  • World Bank approves almost $1.5 billion for Ukraine

These live updates are now closed. For the latest from Ukraine, please head to Thursday’s blog. 

Mariupol official describes ‘endless caravan of death’

Up to 100 bodies found in the ruins of high-rise buildings in the devastated Mariupol are being moved to morgues and landfills, a mayoral aide of the Ukrainian port city said Wednesday.

In a Telegram post, Petro Andryushchenko described the transportation of the bodies as an “endless caravan of death.”

A view shows a plant of Azovstal Iron and Steel Works during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol

The Azovstal steelworks was the last stronghold held by Ukrainian forces in Mariupol

Russia continues crackdown on critics of military actions

A court in Moscow has extended the detention of Vladimir Kara-Murza Jr., a journalist and former associate of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, who was assassinated in 2015.

Originally due to expire on June 12, the court in the Russian capital extended Kara-Murza’s detention to August 12. He is accused of disseminating “false information” about Russia’s armed forces. Kara-Murza rejects the charges.

In both 2015 and 2017 the activist was poisoned. He blames the authorities for the poisonings, something Russian officials deny.

UK foreign fighters on trial in Donetsk

Two British men and a Moroccan, who had been captured while fighting on the Ukrainian side, have now pleaded guilty to some of the charges against them, according to a report by Russia’s news agency RIA Novosti.

Shaun Pinner and Aiden Aslin, both UK nationals, and Moroccan Brahim Sadun were detained in Mariupol in April. It was not clear if they were captured by Russian forces or surrendered voluntarily.

All three men are now on trial in the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic” (DNR), an entity on Ukrainian territory controlled by pro-Russian rebels. The entity’s prosecutors have said the trio might face a death penalty.

According to RIA Novosti, Pinner, Aslin, and Sadun confessed to taking part in a training for “terrorist activities,” with Pinner and Sadun also pleading guilty to acts aimed at violent takeover of government in DNR. All three defendants rejected the charges of being mercenaries taking part in an armed conflict, the report said.

UK Justice Secretary Dominic Raab previously said London would make “representations” on behalf of its citizens.

UN: World on verge of ‘unprecedented hunger and destitution’

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says the global consequences of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine are “threatening to unleash an unprecedented wave of hunger and destitution, leaving social and economic chaos in its wake.”

“The war’s impact on food security, energy and finance is systemic, severe, and speeding up,” the UN chief said.

While this year’s food crisis is “about lack of access,” next year’s “could be about lack of food,” he continued.

“There is only one way to stop this gathering storm: the Russian invasion of Ukraine must end.”

Guterres said the UN was seeking “a package deal that allows for the safe and secure export of Ukrainian-produced food through the Black Sea, and unimpeded access to global markets for Russian food and fertilizers.”

“This deal is essential for hundreds of millions of people in developing countries, including in sub-Saharan Africa,” said Guterres.

The UN report says that an estimated 94 countries, home to around 1.6 billion people, are “severely exposed to at least one dimension of the crisis and unable to cope with it.”

Canada adds to Russia sanctions

Canada said it is imposing new sanctions on Moscow, hitting areas such as accounting and advertising, that are needed for the operation of Russian oil, gas and chemical industries.

Ottawa’s fresh sanctions target an industry that accounts for about 50% of Russia’s federal budget revenues, according to a statement from the Canadian Foreign Ministry.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine, Canada has imposed measures against more than 1,070 individuals and entities and the ministry said it would “continue to relentlessly pursue accountability for Vladimir Putin’s senseless war.”

Sanctions set to take major toll on Russian economy

Russia’s economy is set to diminish by 15% this year and shrink a further 3% in 2023, “wiping out over a decade of economic growth,” according to the Institute of International Finance.

The resilience of the ruble, propped up by energy sales, has partially protected its economy from the full impact of sanctions imposed by the West since the invasion began on February 24.

But the global finance institute has argued that the sanctions “are unraveling its economy and some of the most meaningful consequences have yet to be felt.”

Ukrainian forces pushed back by Russian shelling — Sievierodonetsk governor

The governor of the eastern Ukrainian city of Sievierodonetsk said that Ukrainian forces have been pushed back by a Russian bombardment, according to media outlet RBC-Ukraine.

Serhiy Haidai said it made no sense for Ukrainian forces to remain in the area while Russian forces bombarded it with artillery and air strikes.

“Our (forces) now again control only the outskirts of the city. But the fighting is still going on, our (forces) are defending Sievierodonetsk, it is impossible to say the Russians completely control the city,” Haidai said.

Earlier, the governor said Ukrainian forces may need to retreat from the city due to constant shelling.

Lavrov calls on Ukraine to de-mine its ports to allow grain exports

Ukraine should remove mines from its ports or create corridors to export grain that has been delayed due to the fighting, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said after meeting his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu in Ankara.

Lavrov added that Russia would not use the crisis to gain military advantage and would “take all necessary steps to ensure that the ships can leave there freely.”

But several Ukrainian officials dismissed the proposal, saying that de-mining seas around Ukraine’s ports would leave them open to attack.

“Lavrov’s words are empty,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko. “Russia cannot be allowed to use grain corridors to attack southern Ukraine.”

Separately, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that “direct and indirect sanctions against Russia must be lifted” in order for Russia’s grain shipments to reach global markets.

Russia and Ukraine exchange bodies of those killed in action

Ukraine and Russia exchanged the bodies of 50 of their soldiers killed in action. The exchange included 37 Ukrainian soldiers killed during Russia’s siege on the Azovstal steelworks, according to Ukraine’s Ministry for Reintegration.

The ministry said on its website that the exchange occurred on the frontlines in the southeastern region of Zaporizhzhia and added such exchanges would continue.

Ukraine’s ambassador criticizes Merkel’s justification of Russia policy

Andriy Melnyk, the Ukrainian ambassador to Germany, criticized former German Chancellor Angela Merkel following an interview she gave for the first time six months after leaving power.

Melnyk said Merkel offered “not a hint of self-criticism” and added, “The ex-chancellor’s remarks about the infallibility of her Russia course and her far too lenient treatment of Russian dictator President Vladimir Putin are disconcerting,” he told news agency dpa.

Merkel defended her approach toward Russia during her time in office during the interview at the Berlin Ensemble.

“Diplomacy isn’t wrong just because it didn’t work,” Merkel said. She added, “I don’t see why I should have to say that it was wrong and I won’t apologize for it.”

Melnyk called Merkel’s statements “very regrettable.”

Ukrainian parliamentary chairman addresses European Parliament

Ruslan Stefanchuk, the chairman of Ukraine’s parliament known as the Verkhovna Rada, addressed the European Parliament. 

Stefanchuk praised Roberta Metsola, the President of the European Parliament who was the first EU leader to address the Verkhovna Rada “when fighting was still going on around Kyiv.” 

He also met with the President of the European Council Charles Michel who tweeted that the two “discussed political, financial and material assistance to Ukraine; sanctions to keep pressure on Russia; and the EU’s and Ukraine’s common future.” 

Ahead of Stefanchuk’s address, the head of the European People’s Party in the European Parliament, Manfred Weber told DW Ukraine should be invited to join the bloc.

“You are welcome, you are European, you have to join,” Weber said, adding, “That is why we need now the message that we have to give candidate status to Ukraine immediately.”

Ukraine will not de-mine the port of Odesa

Ukraine said it would not de-mine the Black Sea waters around the port city of Odesa for grain to be exported due to the ongoing threat of Russian attacks on the city.

Serhiy Bratchuk, a spokesman for the Odesa regional government, said, “The moment we clear access to the port of Odessa, the Russian fleet will be there.”

Bratchuk added that any exports from the port of Odesa would need to be escorted out “by NATO countries.” Turkey has offered to accompany maritime convoys from ports in Ukraine.

Before Russia’s invasion on February 24, Ukraine was the world’s fourth-largest exporter of wheat and supplied half the sunflower seeds and oil in the world.

This week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned the war could triple the amount of grain blocked from export via Ukraine’s Black Sea ports within months.

Moscow’s chief rabbi leaves Russia

Moscow’s chief Rabbi, Swiss-born Pinchas Goldschmidt, left Russia after feeling pressure to endorse the Russian government’s invasion of Ukraine.

Goldschmidt has served as the chief rabbi of Moscow since 1993. He also leads a large rabbinical organization in Europe.

New York-based journalist Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt wrote on Twitter that her in-laws, Rabbi Goldschmidt and Dara Goldschmidt, “have been put under pressure by authorities to support the ‘special operation’ in Ukraine – and refused.” 

Chizhik-Goldschmidt said two weeks after the February 24 invasion, Goldschmidt flew to Hungary to raise money for refugees in Eastern Europe before flying to Israel. In Russia, Jewish organizations have been more critical of the war than other groups.

The Chief Rabbi of Russia, Berel Lazar, called for participants in the conflict to “silence the guns and to stop the bombs,” on March 2 though he did not condemn Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Ukraine files 8 more war crimes cases

Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova said Ukraine had filed eight more war crimes cases.

Ukraine has already handed down three sentences in war crimes cases to Russian soldiers. There are currently more than 16,000 war crimes investigations open in Ukraine. 

Scholz speaks by phone with Zelenskyy

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and discussed a May 28 phone call he had with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, a German government spokesperson said.

Scholz and Zelenskyy also spoke about the war in Ukraine and efforts to ship grain exports from the country via maritime routes.

Zelenskyy said he raised the issue of Russia’s compliance with the Geneva Convention that governs the treatment of prisoners of war.

On Tuesday, Russian state-run TASS news agency reported that more than 1,000 Ukrainian soldiers that surrendered in the occupied city of Mariupol were transferred to Russia for further investigation.

Lavrov joins Turkish foreign minister at Ankara press conference

Talks between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Ankara failed to deliver a breakthrough on how to get grain from ports in Ukraine to market. Lavrov blamed Ukraine in a press conference in the Turkish capital Ankara.

Cavusoglu said Russia’s demand for an end to sanctions to bring grain from Ukrainian ports to world markets was “legitimate.” For his part, Lavrov downplayed the global food crisis as “really a small problem.”

Russia has captured the city of Mariupol, where a grave humanitarian crisis is unfolding, and has set up a naval blockade in addition to hammering the southwestern port city of Odesa.

Cavusoglu said, “If we need to open up the international market to Ukrainian grain, we see the removal of obstacles standing in the way of Russia’s exports as a legitimate demand.” He also said he saw a will for a return to talks between Moscow and Kyiv.

Lavrov was in Ankara after his trip to landlocked Serbia earlier in the week was cancelled after Bulgaria, North Macedonia and Montenegro, all NATO members, denied flyover rights to Lavrov’s plane on its route to Belgrade. To get to the Turkish capital, Lavrov’s plane only had to traverse the Black Sea.

Russia’s ruble stabilizes with loosening of capital controls

The Russian ruble firmed up and headed toward an exchange rate of 60 rubles to the US dollar (66 rubles to the Euro). Russia was also able to ease some capital controls.

Capital controls were imposed following sanctions from Western countries after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24. 

On Tuesday, some of those controls were eased and export-focused companies were permitted to transfer currency to their foreign accounts under certain conditions to pay for imports. 

The central bank of Russia also lifted the limit for individuals to transfer funds abroad from the equivalent of $50,000 per month to $150,000 every month.

Lavrov due to hold talks in Turkey

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov arrived in Turkey after the forced cancellation of a trip to Serbia earlier in the week due to the fact that NATO members closed their airspace to his aircraft. 

Bulgaria, North Macedonia and Montenegro had all refused permission for Lavrov’s aircraft to enter their airspace. By contrast, Lavrov could fly directly over the Black Sea from Russia to the Turkish capital Ankara.

Turkey has objected to the expansion of NATO to include Finland and Sweden.

Russia and Turkey are also involved in discussions with a UN-led mechanism to create a secure corridor for grain, food and fertilizer to ship out from Black Sea ports to world markets through the Bosporus.

Ukraine may have to retreat from Sievierodonetsk

Serhiy Haidai, the regional governor of Luhansk, said Ukrainian troops may have to retreat from Sievierodonetsk as the city is being shelled “24 hours a day.”

In an interview with TV channel 1+1, Haidai said, “It is possible that we will have to retreat,” to better, more fortified locations though Ukraine did not plan to surrender the city.

Haidai added Ukraine expects Russia will focus all its efforts and mount a significant offensive in trying to take Sievierodonetsk.

Norway announces new weapons delivery

The Norwegian Defense Ministry said that it had sent 22 howitzers, including spare parts and ammunition, to Ukraine. 

“The Norwegian government has waited to publicly announce the donation for security reasons. Future donations may not be announced or commented upon,” the ministry said in a statement.

Previously, Norway has sent anti-tank weapons, an air defense system, and thousands of units of basic equipment like helmets and bullet-proof vests to Kyiv, as well as contributed to a military aid fund.

Russian airline Aeroflot to raise $3 billion in emergency share issue

Russian state flagship airline Aeroflot said it plans to raise up to 185.2 billion rubles ($3 billion, €2.8 billion) in an emergency share issue.

The company has been under pressure from Western sanctions and airspace bans. The European Union, United States, Britain and Canada have shut their airspace to Russian planes, and Airbus and Boeing have halted the supply of aircraft parts and services to Russian carriers.

Aeroflot said shareholders at its annual meeting approved the issuance of 5.42 billion new shares that could be bought at a price of 34.29 rubles each.

The airline also plants to order 300 aircraft from United Aircraft Corporation which is majority owned by Russia’s state aerospace and defense conglomerate.

DW Explainer: Why Sievierodonetsk is so important

Sievierodonetsk and neighboring Lysychansk are the last major cities in the Luhansk area, still partly controlled by Kyiv. Russia claims it has “97% control” of the region.

Russian attacks have turned the two cities into “dead cities,” president Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Monday. Ukrainian troops defending the region risk being trapped, as they were in Mariupol.

Street-by-street fighting remains intense. DW explains why Sievierodonetsk is so important.

Zelenskyy: Ukraine launching ‘Book of Torturers’ war crime information system

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that Kyiv was launching a “Book of Torturers,” a system to collate evidence of war crimes.

“Next week, a special publication is to be launched — ‘The Book of Torturers’ — an information system to collect confirmation of data about war criminals, criminals from the Russian army,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address.

Ukrainian prosecutors say they have registered more than 12,000 alleged war crimes involving more than 600 suspects.

1,000 Ukrainian soldiers sent to Russia for investigation — Russian law enforcement

More than 1,000 Ukrainian soldiers who surrendered in the southeastern city of Mariupol have been transferred to Russia for investigation, the Tass news agency reported citing a Russian law enforcement source.

The source told Tass that more Ukrainian prisoners would be sent to Russia.

Kyiv is seeking the handover of all the estimated 2,000 soldiers from the Azovstal plant in a prisoner swap. Russian lawmakers have demanded that some soldiers be put on trial.

“More than 1,000 people from Azovstal were brought to Russia. Law enforcement organs are working with them closely,” Tass cited Russian law enforcement as saying.

Ukraine has expressed concern in the past that prisoners taken to Russia may face torture or even execution.

Moscow playing ‘blame game’ around Ukrainian grain exports

DW correspondent Nick Connolly reported from Ukraine’s southwestern port city of Odesa and said that Russia was playing a “blame game” around grain exports after destroying key infrastructure.

Connolly said that there was a lot of “diplomatic noise,” a solution to the impasse between Kyiv and Moscow regarding Ukrainian grain exports, referring to talks in Turkey. He added that “this is about the blame game right now. This is not about real solutions.”

“Otherwise, Russia would not have destroyed Ukraine’s second-biggest grain terminal just a few days ago in Mykolaiv.” He said that the infrastructure that would allow grain to get to North Africa and the Middle East was being “destroyed bit by bit.”

Connolly said that Russia has been bombing oil refineries and oil storage units and roads.

Ruins around grain silo destroyed by Russian shelling in the Donbas town of Siversk

Connolly said Russia is destroying key infrastructure for grain exports

According to Connolly, Moscow is attempting to place the blame on Kyiv for stalled exports after seeing that African and Middle Eastern countries were concerned. These countries are “traditionally a lot more sympathetic to Russian narratives than is the case in Europe”, Connolly said.

Odesa’s tourism industry has been devastated and Ukrainians’ savings are running low, Connolly said. “Even in parts of the country that are safe from Russian attack, people don’t know if their jobs will still be there in a week or a month’s time.”

Connolly said that there were unconfirmed reports of a cholera outbreak in the southeastern port city of Mariupol. “Mariupol is a city of ruins, people there have very little access to sanitation.”

World Bank approves $1.49 billion for Ukraine

The World Bank’s executive board has approved $1.49 billion (€1.39 billion) of additional financing for Ukraine.

This expands the organization’s total pledged support to over $4 billion.

The funds are to help Kyiv pay wages for government and social workers. Ukraine has said it needs at least $5 billion per month in the near term to keep its government operating.

Ukraine’s Zelenskyy says front line hasn’t moved, Russia losing 300 soldiers a day

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address that Russian troops have not achieved a breakthrough against Ukrainian forces in Donbas.

“The situation on the front has not undergone any significant changes in the past 24 hours,” Zelensky said. He added that “the extremely heroic defense of Donbas continues.”

Ukraine’s president said that the fiercest fighting was continuing around Sievierodonetsk, Lysychansk and Popasna.

“There’s a sense that the occupiers did not believe the resistance would be so strong,” he said.

Zelenskyy claimed that 31,000 Russian soldiers have lost their lives in Ukraine since the invasion began.

“Since February 24, Russia has been paying almost 300 lives a day for a completely pointless war against Ukraine,” Zelenskyy said. The figure could not be independently verified.

“And still the day will come when the number of losses, even for Russia, will exceed the permissible limit.”

Map of the fighting in eastern Ukraine

Zelenskyy said that a “stalemate is not an option” in the war with Russia while speaking at a conference organized by the Financial Times. He added that victory for Kyiv would entail Ukraine regaining “all of [its] territory,” including areas that were under the control of Moscow or pro-Russian separatists before February 2022.

What happened in Russia’s war on Ukraine on Tuesday

The Ukrainian military has said that Russia handed over to Kyiv the bodies of 210 Ukrainian fighters, most of whom who died defending the city of Mariupol.

In her first major interview since leaving office, former German Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but said she refused to apologize for her policies towards Moscow. She also defended her opposition to Ukraine and Georgia joining NATO in 2008.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arrived in Turkey for talks over unblocking grain exports from Ukraine.

Deutsche Bank offered all 1,500 or so employees of its IT centers in St. Petersburg and Moscow a job position in Germany.

A Russian military prosecutor said that 12 military officers were being charged for allegedly allowing conscripts to be sent to fight in Ukraine.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz held talks in Lithuania with the heads of three Baltic countries about the state of security on NATO’s eastern flank.

Russia’s ambassador to the UN stormed out of a Security Council meeting after European Council President Charles Michel accused Russia of using food supplies as “a stealth missile against developing countries.”

You can revisit our live updates from June 7 here.

jsi, ar, sdi, es/fb, rt (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)





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