Ukraine news – live: Russia says EU sanctions that prompted transit ban ‘unacceptable’

Actor Ben Stiller seen in Lviv whilst working with UNHCR to support Ukrainian refugees

Moscow described the EU sanctions that led Lithuania to block the transit of some goods from mainland Russia to the exclave of Kaliningrad as “absolutely unacceptable” on Wednesday.

Lithuania has shut the route to steel and other ferrous metals, which it says it is required to do after Brussels green-lit further punitive action against Russia that took effect on Saturday.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov branded the sanctions “illegal” and said that countermeasures were being prepared by Russia.

Meanwhile, a suspected “kamikaze” drone started a fire at a Russian oil refinery near the Ukrainian border on Wednesday, local officials have said.

Vasily Golubev, the governor of Russia’s Rostov region, confirmed that a blaze had broken out at the Novoshakhtinsk site, which is located 5 miles from Ukraine. The refinery’s operations were suspended on Wednesday as a result.

In other developments, the latest British military intelligence report suggest that Russia is suffering “extraordinary” losses in eastern Ukraine.

The Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), the Kremlin’s proxy, said 2128 of its soldiers had been killed and another 8897 injured this year. This equates to more than 50 per cent of its original force, according to the British Ministry of Defence.

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Mexican scientist turned Russian spy sentenced to four years

A Mexican scientist has been sentenced to four years and one day in prison after becoming a Russian spy.

Hector Cabrera Fuentes, 37, pleaded guilty to acting as an unregistered foreign agent in February and was sentenced in Miami on Tuesday. He has already served more than two years.

Cabrera was detained on 16 February 2020 by FBI agents at Miami International Airport while he was on his way back to Mexico.

Two days previously, Cabrera had been seen attempting to conduct surveillance on an FBI informant alongside his wife.

Gustaf Kilander reports.

Joe Middleton22 June 2022 22:02

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Russia’s long-feared invasion of Ukraine continues to rage following Vladimir Putin’s announcement of his “special military operation” against the country in the early hours of 24 February, the Russian leader declaring, groundlessly, a need to “demilitarise and de-Nazify” the neighbouring state after eight years of fighting in the Donbas.

As Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky leads by example from the streets of Kyiv, tirelessly rallying the international community for support, his people mount an impressive resistence, holding back Russia’s armed forces as best they can.

The aggressor meanwhile continues to employ brutal siege warfare tactics, surrounding the country’s cities and subjecting them to intense shelling campaigns, a strategy previously seen in Chechnya and Syria.

But what are the key issues behind the conflict, where did it all begin and how might the crisis unfold?

Joe Middleton22 June 2022 21:30

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ICYMI: Ukraine visa scheme ‘problematic’, says engineer who fled war-torn nation to UK

Ukraine visa scheme ‘problematic’, says engineer who fled war-torn nation to UK

Joe Middleton22 June 2022 21:00

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ICYMI: Europe warned to prepare for ‘total shutdown’ of Russian gas exports before winter

European countries should prepare for a “total shutdown” on Russian gas supplies ahead of winter, the International Energy Agency has warned.

The agency said governments should take preparatory action, including keeping aging nuclear power stations online.

“Europe should be ready in case Russian gas is completely cut off,” said the IEA’s executive director Fatih Birol.

Harry Cockburn reports.

Joe Middleton22 June 2022 20:24

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Conflict in Ukraine has ‘sounded an alarm for humanity’, says Xi Jinping

The conflict in Ukraine has “sounded an alarm for humanity”, Chinese leader Xi Jinping said as China continues to assume a position of neutrality while backing its ally Russia.

China has refused to criticise Russia’s war in Ukraine or even to refer to it as an invasion in deference to Moscow, while also condemning US-led sanctions against Russia and accusing the West of provoking Moscow.

“The Ukraine crisis has again sounded the alarm for humanity. Countries will surely end up in security hardships if they place blind faith in their positions of strength, expand military alliances, and seek their own safety at the expense of others,” the official Xinhua News Agency quoted Mr Xi as saying.

Mr Xi, who did not propose any solutions, was speaking at the opening of a virtual business forum of the “BRICS” countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.

In other comments, Mr Xi said imposing sanctions could act as a “boomerang” and a “double-edged sword”, and that the global community would suffer from “politicising, mechanising and weaponising” global economic trends and financial flows.

Joe Middleton22 June 2022 19:53

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EU candidacy status for Ukraine will set example, says Belarus opposition leader

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya has said that the European Union “must” grant candidate status to Moldova and Ukraine.

In an interview with Euronews, Ms Tsikhanouskaya stated that the historic decision could set an “example” for Belarus as well as other European countries.

“Who deserves it more than Ukraine? They are paying with their lives for Europe”, said the nation’s exiled opposition leader.

“We want to have such a perspective for the future… Belarus was, is, and will be part of Europe.”

EU candidacy status for Ukraine will set example, says Belarus opposition leader

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya has said that the European Union “must” grant candidate status to Moldova and Ukraine.In an interview with Euronews, Ms Tsikhanouskaya stated that the historic decision could set an “example” for Belarus as well as other European countries.”Who deserves it more than Ukraine? They are paying with their lives for Europe”, said the nation’s exiled opposition leader.”We want to have such a perspective for the future… Belarus was, is, and will be part of Europe.”Click here to read our free newsletter

Joe Middleton22 June 2022 19:25

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My role models are ordinary Ukrainian citizens, says Zelensky

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Wednesday his role models were ordinary Ukrainians who resisted invading Russian forces and he compared Russia to the fictional arch-villain Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter books.

Zelenskiy, dressed in a military uniform, was answering questions via videolink from students at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto.

Asked by one student who his role models were, Zelenskiy said: “The people of Ukraine… and there are very many of them.”

“An ordinary Ukrainian farmer who could take his tractor and close off a road to Russian tanks, an ordinary woman who would go out and stop armoured vehicles with her bare hands… Those are the people I look up to,” he said via an interpreter.

The student noted that Zelenskiy has been compared by his supporters to former British prime minister Winston Churchill and to Harry Potter, the fictional boy wizard who finally defeats Lord Voldemort.

“Thank you for these kind of comparisons. Harry Potter is better than Voldemort, and we know who is Voldemort in this war, and who is Harry Potter, so we know how the war will end,” Zelenskiy said, smiling.

Joe Middleton22 June 2022 19:00

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Ukrainian journalist ‘executed and possibly tortured by Russian soldiers’, report says

A veteran Ukrainian journalist was “executed in cold blood” by Russian soldiers after possibly being tortured, according to a new investigation.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said Maks Levin, an experienced freelancer who frequently contributed to the news agency Reuters, went missing on 13 March with his friend Ukrainian soldier Oleksiy Chernyshov, around a forest north of the capital Kyiv.

Russian forces were occupying part of the area at the time.

After searching the location where the two bodies were discovered, the press freedom group said investigators found material evidence that an execution had taken place – possibly after interrogation and torture.

Bel Trew reports.

Joe Middleton22 June 2022 18:43

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US should play more active role in confronting Russian propaganda, says EU official

The United States should play a more active role in combating Russian propaganda and online disinformation because of the threat to democracy, European Commission Vice President Vera Jourova will say on Wednesday.

Ms Jourova said information manipulation was a grossly underestimated weapon.

“Most of the time, it is quieter. It rarely makes a blast. And it is potentially even more dangerous, especially for democracies,” she will say in a speech to be delivered at the Atlantic Council in Washington.

Ms Jourova said she wants to extend a hand to the United States to cooperate with Europe, according to the text of the speech seen by Reuters.

“I think that for the United States, as a cradle for both democracy 200 years ago and for the ‘dot com’ or tech revolution some 20 years ago, the time for no action is over,” Jourova will say.

“In the past, people said democracy dies in silence. Today, democracies may die in noise and cacophony.”

She will add that the US and Europe should co-create a response to Russia’s propaganda, going beyond their cooperation in the G7 and the Trade and Technology Council, a newly set-up forum initially seen as a transatlantic counterweight to China, but now also focused on Russia.

Joe Middleton22 June 2022 18:21

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Taoiseach Micheal Martin to consider invite to visit Ukraine

Taoiseach Micheal Martin has not ruled out visiting Ukraine after President Volodymyr Zelensky invited him to travel to the war-torn country.

Mr Martin said he will keep the invitation, in what would be the first State visit from Ireland, under review.

Mr Zelensky invited the Fianna Fail leader to the eastern European country during a phone call between the two leaders on Tuesday.

The Ukrainian president also thanked the Taoiseach for Ireland’s support to Ukraine.

Joe Middleton22 June 2022 17:59

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