Finland’s armed forces chief, Gen Timo Kivinen, said his country is prepared for a Russian attack and would put up stiff resistance in the event that one should occur.
Finns are motivated to fight and the country has built up a substantial arsenal, Kivinen said in an interview. He said:
The most important line of defence is between one’s ears, as the war in Ukraine proves at the moment.
Finland has maintained a high level of military preparedness since the second world war, having fought two wars in the 1940s against its eastern neighbour, with which it shares a 1,300-km (810-mile) border.
We have systematically developed our military defence precisely for this type of warfare that is being waged there (in Ukraine), with a massive use of firepower, armoured forces and also airforces.
Ukraine has been a tough bite to chew (for Russia) and so would be Finland.
A Russian missile strike has left at least one person dead in the southern Ukrainian port city of Mykolaiv, according to its mayor Oleksandr Senkevych.
The attack caused several fires and damaged a number of buildings including a school, Senkevych said on national television.
I keep saying it’s still dangerous in the city. Before, people were going out in droves but they go out less now.
Earlier today, regional governor Vitaliy Kim said seven missiles had hit Mykolaiv. It has not been possible to independently verify the situation in the city.
Europe needs to prepare immediately for Russia to turn off all gas exports to the region this winter, according to the head of the International Energy Agency, who has called on governments to work on reducing demand and keeping nuclear power plants open.
Fatih Birol said reductions in supplies in recent weeks which the Kremlin has attributed to maintenance work could, in fact, be the beginning of wider cuts designed to prevent the filling of storage facilities in preparation for winter, as Russia seeks to gain leverage over the region.
“Europe should be ready in case Russian gas is completely cut off,” he said in an interview with the Financial Times. “The nearer we are coming to winter, the more we understand Russia’s intentions.
“I believe the cuts are geared towards avoiding Europe filling storage, and increasing Russia’s leverage in the winter months.”
EU countries are racing to refill storage sites, with Germany hoping to reach 90% of capacity by November. Its stores are only half full.
Member states have also been working to reduce their reliance on Russian fossil fuels, by sourcing gas from other countries, including the US, and speeding up the switch to renewable energy, although officials have conceded that the race to phase out Russian oil and gas would mean burning more coal and keeping nuclear plants going.
Birol said emergency measures taken by European governments to reduce energy demand had probably not gone far enough, and urged countries to work on preserving energy supplies.
“I believe there will be more and deeper demand measures as winter approaches,” Birol said. He added that gas supplies may need to be rationed, if Russia were to further reduce gas exports.
Read the full article here.
Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, has warned the west to stop talking about triggering Nato’s “article 5” mutual defence clause in a standoff between Lithuania and Russia.
Ryabkov was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying:
I would like to warn Europeans against dangerous rhetorical games on the topic of conflict.
His comments come after the US government said yesterday that its commitment to article 5 of Nato’s founding treaty, which states that an attack on one member of the alliance is an attack on all, was “ironclad”.
Earlier today we reported comments by Russian foreign ministry spokesperson, Maria Zakharova, who said Moscow’s response to Lithuania’s ban on the transit of goods sanctioned by the EU to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad would not be exclusively diplomatic but practical in nature.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov has now also spoken about Lithuania’s goods transit ban. During his briefing with reporters today, Peskov said the EU sanctions that led Lithuania to block the transit were “absolutely unacceptable”.
Moscow was working on retaliatory measures in response to the “illegal sanctions” by the EU, he said. But Peskov and Russian officials have remained tight-lipped about the exact nature of Moscow’s response.
Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said its staff has seen evidence of a “shocking level” of “indiscriminate violence” being inflicted on civilians in Ukraine.
The medical charity, which set up a hospital train in Ukraine after Russia’s invasion, said it had seen an “outrageous” lack of effort to spare and protect civilians caught up in hostilities.
Between 31 March and 6 June, more than 650 patients were medically evacuated by train from war-affected areas in eastern Ukraine to hospitals in safer parts of the country, it said in a statement. More than 40% of the wounded on the train were elderly people and children.
The wounded came onto the train with blast wounds, traumatic amputations, shrapnel and gunshot wounds, it said, adding:
Most patients we talked to when designating who is responsible for their injuries pointed at Russian and Russian-backed military forces.
The patients talked about civilians being shot while evacuating, indiscriminate bombing and shelling of residential areas and elderly people being brutalised.
MSF’s emergency coordinator Christopher Stokes said:
Our patients’ wounds and the stories they tell show unquestionably the shocking level of suffering the indiscriminate violence of this war is inflicting on civilians.
Many of the patients were wounded during military strikes that hit civilian residential areas, he said. Blast injuries accounted for 73% of the war-related trauma cases the charity handled, with 20% caused by shrapnel or gunshots.
More than 10% of the war-trauma patients had lost at least one limb, with the youngest such patient just six years old.
Hours after Russia’s invasion started, Serhiy Kit was receiving phone calls from members of the Ukrainian Association for the Blind at his factory’s office in Dnipro.
Like everyone else in the country, people with visual impairments in Ukraine were terrified when the invasion began. In their case, they had an 88-year-old association to fall back on.
Kit is the director of a Dnipro factory that welds parts for railway tracks and was established in 1945 by the association, one of the country’s oldest-running organisations. The factory is a non-profit, predominantly managed and staffed by visually impaired people.
Kit’s factory is one of 48 owned by the organisation in Ukrainian-controlled areas; a further 32 enterprises are in Russian-occupied Ukraine.
“We were the first shelter to open in Ukraine, on 25 February,” said Kit. “Twenty-six of our [association] members in Kharkiv rang me and asked me to help them leave. We said they could stay in the factory.”
Kharkiv, which is located 18 miles (30km) from the border with Russia, was bombarded by Russian forces from the first day of the invasion, whereas Dnipro, in south-central Ukraine, was relatively calm. The Kharkiv members drove with their families to Dnipro.
“We rang around and found mattresses for them and cleared out one of our offices,” said Kit. “But then the calls kept coming. We’d never done anything like this before, but we couldn’t just stop.”
Read the full article here.
Russia and Turkey have agreed to continue discussions on safe vessel departures and grain exports from Ukrainian ports, the Russian defence ministry said.
Turkish presidency sources said yesterday that its military delegation would travel to Russia this week to discuss details of a possible safe sea corridor in the Black Sea to export grain, Reuters reported.
Russian state-owned news agency Tass confirmed plans for the talks, citing Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov.
The UK government has responded to accusations from Moscow that members of the Russian delegation to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) had been denied visas.
Russian lawmaker and delegation member Vladimir Dzhabarov was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying that Russia had “ahead of time” requested “to resolve the issue of providing guarantees from the British side that visas will be issued” because of UK sanctions.
We received an outrageous response that the British government – literally – cannot issue visas to members of the Russian delegation to the OSCE parliamentary assembly whatever their reason for visiting the country.
Asked about Dzhabarov’s comments, a spokesperson for the Home Office said:
There are currently no restrictions or limitations for Russian nationals to work in the UK on long-term work visas.
The spokesperson said the UK was prioritising applications from Ukrainians, and that applications for study, work and family visas were taking longer to process.
Dzhabarov said Russia sent a letter to all other delegations stating the “exclusion of the Russian delegation seriously damages the credibility of the event”.
All decisions adopted in its absence “will not be recognised by us as legitimate”, the letter said, according to Dzhabarov.
The 29th annual session of the OSCE parliamentary assembly is due to take place in Birmingham between 2-6 July.
- Ukraine’s army said it launched airstrikes on Zmiinyi Island, also known as Snake Island, causing “significant losses” to Russian forces. The military’s southern operational command said it had undertaken “aimed strikes with the use of various forces” and the military operation was continuing.
- The military situation for Ukraine’s defenders in the eastern Donbas is “extremely difficult”, officials have said. There are 568 civilians thought to be holed up in Sievierodonetsk’s Azot chemical plant, as Russian attacks intensify in an effort to capture the city and neighbouring Lysychansk. Serhiy Haidai, the governor of the Luhansk region, said Lysychansk was getting shelled “en masse”.
- Russian forces have captured several settlements near Lysychansk and Sievierodonetsk. The head of the Sievierodonetsk district military administration, Roman Vlasenko, said the frontline village of Toshkivka had not been under Ukrainian control since Monday. Russian forces also reportedly captured Pidlisne and Mala Dolyna, located south-west of Sievierodonetsk, and also had success near the Hirske settlement in Luhansk.
- Moscow’s response to Lithuania’s ban on the transit of goods sanctioned by the EU to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad will not be exclusively diplomatic but practical in nature, the foreign ministry press secretary Maria Zakharova has said.
- Vitaliy Kim, the governor of Mykolaiv, has said the city was struck by seven missiles this morning.
- Casualties to the forces of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), one of Russias proxies in eastern Ukraine, may have amounted to about 55% of the original strength, British intelligence has claimed.
- One of the leaders of the authorities imposed in occupied Ukraine has described the border between Russia and Ukraine as “worse than the Berlin Wall for the Germans”. “Our reunification with Russia is inevitable, there should be no borders between us,” Vladimir Rogov is quoted as saying.
- Vladimir Putin is set to mark the day when Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union on 22 June, 1941. The date is significant in Russia and remembered as the Day of Remembrance and Sorrow. Putin will reportedly lay flowers to honour the dead.
- A Ukrainian photojournalist and a soldier who was accompanying him were “coldly executed” when they were killed in the first weeks of Russia’s invasion, according to a recently published investigation from Reporters Without Borders. The pair were reportedly searching Russian-occupied woodlands for the photographer’s missing image-taking drone, the agency said, citing its findings from an investigation into their deaths.
- Granting Ukraine candidate status to join the EU would be a historic decision signalling to Russia it can no longer claim a sphere of influence over its eastern neighbour, Kyiv’s ambassador to Brussels has said. Vsevolod Chentsov, the head of Ukraine’s mission to the EU, said Russia’s war had united Kyiv with the bloc, while ending what he called a “mistake” about whether his country could belong to the union.
- Members of the Russian delegation to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) have been denied British visas to attend the next session, according to Vladimir Dzhabarov, the first deputy head of Russian upper house’s international affairs committee.
- The US attorney general, Merrick Garland, visited Ukraine on Tuesday to discuss Russia’s war crimes, a justice department official said. Garland met with Ukraine’s prosecutor general, Iryna Venediktova, and announced a war crimes accountability team to identify and prosecute perpetrators. “There is no hiding place for war criminals,” Garland said.
The military authorities in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic has issued its daily operational briefing. It says it controls 239 settlements in occupied Donetsk, and it claimed that 13 settlements in the region have been shelled by Ukrainian forces. It says one person was killed and 14 people were injured in the last 24 hours. The claims have not been independently verified.
Vitaliy Kim, governor of Mykolaiv, has just posted to Telegram to say that the city has been struck with seven missiles.
Moscow’s response to Lithuania’s ban on the transit of goods sanctioned by the EU to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad will not be exclusively diplomatic but practical in nature, Maria Zakharova has said.
“One of the main questions has been about whether the response would be exclusively diplomatic. The answer: no,” the foreign ministry press secretary said at her weekly briefing. “The response will not be diplomatic but practical.”
Reuters reports that Zakharova would not elaborate on the nature of the practical measures Russia planned to take against Lithuania.
Yesterday while hosting a meeting in the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of Russia’s security council, said: “Russia will certainly respond to such hostile actions. Their consequences will have a serious negative impact on the population of Lithuania.”
From 17 June an EU prohibition on Russian steel and iron ore came into force, and the Lithuanian state railway said it would consequently no longer allow these goods to be carried on its tracks and imported into Kaliningrad.
Granting Ukraine candidate status to join the EU would be a historic decision signalling to Russia it can no longer claim a sphere of influence over its eastern neighbour, Kyiv’s ambassador to Brussels has said.
Vsevolod Chentsov, the head of Ukraine’s mission to the EU, said Russia’s war had united Kyiv with the bloc, while ending what he called a “mistake” about whether his country could belong to the union.
Speaking to the Guardian ahead of an EU summit on Thursday, he said for many years Ukraine had been seen as a bridge or a buffer state rather than a potential member.
A decision on candidate status would “kill finally, this ambiguity, what is Ukraine for the EU: whether we are building a common house or not … I think now finally there is clarity.”
EU leaders will decide on Thursday whether to grant Ukraine candidate status after positive recommendation from the European Commission last Friday. Expectations for a yes have grown since four EU leaders, including France and Germany, which had been perceived as among the most lukewarm, visited Kyiv last week in a show of support.
Read more of Jennifer Rankin’s report from Brussels: Kyiv’s EU envoy says Ukraine candidate status would send clear signal to Russia
There is a quick snap from Reuters reporting that members of the Russian delegation to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) have been denied British visas to attend the next session, according to Vladimir Dzhabarov, the first deputy head of Russian upper ho