Ukraine: Russia returns 210 lifeless Mariupol defenders
What’s happening in Ukraine today and how are countries around the world responding? Read live updates on Vladimir Putin and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s military intelligence agency says Russia has so far turned over the bodies of 210 Ukrainian fighters killed in the battle for Mariupol. It says most of them were among the last holdouts in the Azovstal steelworks.
The agency did not specify Tuesday how many more bodies are believed to remain in the rubble of the plant.
Russia now controls the destroyed port city. It began turning over bodies last week. Ukraine said Saturday that the two sides had exchanged 320 bodies, with each getting back 160. It is unclear whether any more bodies have been given to Russia.
The Ukrainian fighters defended the steelworks for nearly three months before surrendering in May under relentless Russian attacks from the ground, sea and air.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says his government is working to raise money to fund the army and rebuild cities and towns destroyed in the fighting.
He said in his nightly address Tuesday that work is already underway to restore electricity, gas, running water and phone service in places from which Russian forces have been pushed out. He says much also needs to be done to re-equip hospitals and remove landmines.
Zelenskyy says one of the ways money is being gathered is through the government fundraising platform UNITED24, which in its first month brought in more than US$50 million.
He says Ukrainian tennis player Elina Svitolina on Tuesday joined former Ukrainian soccer player Andriy Shevchenko in becoming an ambassador for the fundraising platform.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says Russian forces have made no significant advances in the eastern Donbas region over the past day.
In his nightly video address, Zelenskyy said late Tuesday that “the absolutely heroic defence of the Donbas continues.”
Zelenskyy says the Russians clearly did not expect to meet so much resistance and are now trying to bring in additional troops and equipment. He says the same is true in the southern Kherson region, which Russian troops occupied early in the war.
Zelenskyy slso says that Ukraine plans to release a special “Book of Executioners” next week with confirmed information about war crimes committed by the Russian army. He says those named will include not only those who carried out war crimes but their commanders.
JERUSALEM — Ukraine’s ambassador is urging Israel to sell its Iron Dome rocket interception system and provide anti-tank missiles to defend civilians against Russia’s invasion.
Yevgen Korniychuk on Tuesday stopped short of accusing Israel of blocking the sale of the missile defence system. But he wants the Israeli government to back up its verbal support for Ukraine with military assistance. At a news conference in Tel Aviv, he said Ukraine wants to buy the Iron Dome system, contending that the United States would not oppose such a sale.
The United States has been financially supporting Israel’s Iron Dome for about a decade, providing about US$1.6 billion for its production and maintenance, according to the Congressional Research Service. The system is designed to intercept and destroy short-range rockets fired into Israel.
Korniychuk also said Israel last week declined a U.S. request for Germany to deliver Israeli-licensed “Spike” anti-tank missiles to Ukraine.
Israel has limited its support for Ukraine to humanitarian aid and was the only country operating a field hospital inside the country earlier in the year. Israel fears helping Ukraine militarily would inflame Russia, which has a military presence in neighbouring Syria. Israel, which carries out frequent strikes on enemy targets in Syria, relies on Russia for security coordination.
The Israeli Defence Ministry had no comment.
WASHINGTON — The U.S. military has begun training Ukrainian forces on the sophisticated rocket systems that the Biden administration agreed last week to provide, but that Russia has said could trigger wider airstrikes in Ukraine.
Marine Lt. Col. Anton Semelroth, Pentagon spokesman, said Ukrainian troops are training on the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, at Grafenwoehr training base in Germany and elsewhere in Europe.
The U.S. agreed to send four of the medium-range, precision rocket systems to Ukraine as part of a US$700 million package approved last week, and officials said it would take about three weeks of training before they could go to the battlefront.
Russian President Vladimir Putin warned on Sunday that any western deliveries of longer-range rocket systems would prompt Moscow to hit “objects that we haven’t yet struck.”
About 900 Ukrainian service members have received training on a variety of weapons by the U.S. so far, including on howitzers which are being delivered to the front lines.
The HIMARS is mounted on a truck and can carry a container with six rockets, which can each travel about 45 miles (70 kilometres).
MILAN — Italian right-wing leader Matteo Salvini says Italians are prepared to continue to make economic sacrifices “to support the defence of Ukraine and reach a ceasefire.”
Inflation in Italy last month was 7% as prices at the gas pump, grocery store and in energy bills skyrocketed, due in part on sanctions on Russian energy and raw materials shortages.
Salvini, speaking to foreign reporters on Tuesday in Rome, said his League party backs the sanctions that the European Union imposed on Russia. But he emphasized they must be a means to a ceasefire and not be something that continues into the fall.
“We need to see if they work or not,” said Salvini, whose party is part of Italy’s wide-ranging governing coalition. “In April of this year, the value of Russian exports to Italy rose by 18%, while the value of Italian exports to Russia decreased by 48%. The bottom line is that Russia is accumulating a ton of rubles, euros, dollars and who knows what, while European countries are choking.”
Added Salvini: “Sanctions are an absolutely useful instrument as long as they damage those sanctioned. If, at the end of the day, they damage those that impose them, then something is not working”
MOSCOW — The Russian parliament has passed a set of laws allowing Moscow not to comply with the top European human rights court’s rulings.
The move on Tuesday formalized the broken ties between Russia and the Council of Europe, the continent’s foremost human rights body.
In accordance with the new laws passed by the State Duma, Russia’s lower parliament house, Russian authorities are no longer obligated to comply with rulings of the European Court of Human Rights issued after March 15.
On that date, Russia announced it was withdrawing from the Council of Europe — only to be officially expelled the next day over what the Kremlin calls a special military operation in Ukraine.
Thousands of Russians in recent years have turned to the court as a last resort, after failing to win in Russian courts, on human rights issues ranging from political persecution to domestic violence.
State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin on Telegram on Monday described the court as a “tool of a political battle against our country in the hands of western politicians,” adding that “some of its rulings went directly against Russia’s Constitution, our values, our traditions.”
Volodin cited a ruling demanding that Russia recognize same-sex marriage, which was outlawed two years ago in a set of constitutional amendments.
KYIV, Ukraine — The Ukrainian authorities have refused to allow the head of the UN nuclear watchdog to visit a nuclear plant in southern Ukraine under the Russian control.
The International Atomic Energy Agency director Rafael Mariano Grossi said that he intends to visit the Zaporizhzhia plant, the largest in Europe, to help maintain its safety and security.
Grossi spoke Monday to the IAEA board about the dire situation at the plant, taken by the Russian troops in early March. He noted the pressure on the plant’s Ukrainian staff and voiced concern that some spare parts were not getting to the plant due to supply chain interruptions.
He reiterated his determination to lead an expert mission to the plant, saying that “we must find a solution to the hurdles preventing progress.”
Grossi contended that Ukraine’s government had called on him to lead such a mission, but Energoatom, the Ukrainian state company overseeing the country’s nuclear power plants, said in a blunt statement Tuesday that he wasn’t welcome.
Energoatom said it hadn’t invited Grossi to visit the plant and described his intention to tour it as “yet another attempt to legitimize the occupier’s presence there and effectively approve their action.” The company contended that Grossi’s previous visits to Ukraine were useless. It alleged that he was acting in collusion with Russia, claiming that the Russians hold a quarter of senior managerial positions at the IAEA.
MOSCOW — Using unusually crude language, a top associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin has castigated Moscow’s opponents, reflecting heightening tensions between Russia and the West amid the fighting in Ukraine.
Dmitry Medvedev, the former Russian president who now serves as the deputy head of Russia’s Security Council, explained his harsh criticism of Russia’s foes on his messaging app channel by saying: “I hate them. They are bastards and scum.”
He went on, saying that “they want that Russia and all of us die” and adding that “as long as I’m alive, I will do everything to make them disappear.”
Medvedev served as Russia’s president in 2008-2012 when Putin had to shift into the prime minister’s post due to term limits. He had been seen in the West as a liberal, but to western disappointment, he stepped down after one term to let his mentor reclaim the presidency. He then served as his prime minister for eight years until Putin named him his No. 2 at Russia’s Security Council.
Medvedev has been increasingly critical of the West.
KYIV, Ukraine — A Ukrainian presidential adviser has vowed that Kyiv will retake all the lands currently under Russian control and urged Ukrainians to be patient.
“Don’t let the news that we’ve ceded something scare you,” Mykhailo Podolyak said in a short video address on Tuesday. “It is clear that tactical manoeuvres are ongoing. We cede something, we take something back. Russians outnumber (Ukrainian troops), they have more equipment.
The adviser added: “But we need to make sure that every village we temporarily cede and then take back costs Russians a lot of blood” and make them exhaust “reserves and resources,.”
Podolyak stressed that Ukraine is still waiting for more weapons from its allies.
MOSCOW — Russia’s defence minister says that the Russian troops have taken control of large swaths of eastern Ukraine.
Sergei Shoigu said Tuesday that the Russian forces have fully “liberated” the residential quarters of Sievierodonetsk and are fighting to take control of an industrial zone on its outskirts and the nearby towns.
That city, the administrative centre of the Luhansk region, has recently been the focus of the Russian offensive.
Shoigu added that the Russian troops were pressing their offensive toward the town of Popasna, with a pre-war population of 20,000, and lying some 30 kilometres (20 miles) south of Sievierodonetsk. He noted that they have taken control of Lyman and Sviatohirsk and 15 other towns in the region. He claimed that 97% of the Luhansk region has already been “liberated.”
VILNIUS, Lithuania — German Chancellor Olaf Scholz says his country is ready to increase its military presence in the Baltic region to meet new challenges to regional security.
“We have agreed to strengthen the eastern flank of NATO by creating a new strong brigade here,” Scholz said during a visit on Tuesday to Lithuania. The Baltic country borders Kaliningrad, a Russian region where the country’s Baltic Sea fleet is based. A brigade would be 3,000 to 5,000 soldiers
Scholz also pledged to continue supplies of necessary weapons and troops’ training to Ukraine. He dismissed claims that Germany was hesitating with heavy weaponry supplies, including most modern howitzers, to Ukraine.
Lithuania President Gitanas Nauseda welcomed the German plans to deploy more troops in the country. The Russian military threat “will remain a major source of threat to regional security,” she said. “Baltic states are in an especially vulnerable position here on the front line of NATO external borders.”
MOSCOW — The Russian military says it has destroyed several artillery systems provided by the West in the latest series of strikes on Ukrainian targets.
Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Tuesday that the Russian artillery hit a howitzer supplied by Norway and two other artillery systems given to Ukraine by the United States. He said that the Russian artillery barrage destroyed other Ukrainian equipment in the country’s east while the Russian air force hit Ukrainian troops and equipment concentrations and artillery positions.
Konashenkov’s claims couldn’t be independently confirmed.
LVIV, Ukraine — A Ukrainian official says Russia has deployed additional troops to eastern Ukraine to help capture a key city.
Luhansk governor Serhiy Haidai told The Associated Press that the Russian forces control industrial outskirts of Sievierodonetsk, one of two cities in the Luhansk region left to be seized by Russia. The Russian forces have so far failed to take over all of it and have been forced to deploy additional troops, he said.
“Toughest street battles continue, with varying degrees of success, the situation constantly changes, but the Ukrainians are repelling attacks,” Haidai said.
The neighbouring Lysychansk — the second city still not taken in the region, 95% of which is under Russian control — is being barraged by artillery. Haidai said. He said the Russian troops shelled a local market, a school and a college building, destroying the latter. Three people with wounds were sent to hospitals elsewhere Ukraine.
“A total destruction of the city is underway, Russian shelling has intensified significantly over the past 24 hours. Russians are using the scorched earth tactics,” Haidai said.
In all, the Ukrainian forces have repelled 10 Russian attacks over the past 24 hours, according to the Luhansk governor.
KYIV, Ukraine — In a latest sign of Ukrainian resilience, a theatre in Ukraine’s capital reopened for the first time since Russian forces invaded the country on Feb. 24, and tickets sold out for Sunday’s performance.
Cinemas and the National Opera opened their doors at the end of May in Kyiv.
“We were wondering how it would be, whether spectators would come during the war, whether they think at all about theatre, whether it’s of any interest,” said one of the actors, Yuriy Felipenko. “And we were happy that the first three plays were sold out.”
Actor Kostya Tomlyak says he had hesitated to perform in wartime. But the influx of people returning to Kyiv since hostilities there have lessened persuaded him that it’s necessary to go on.
Said Tomlyak: “You continue living, although you don’t forget that there is the war. The main question is how actors can be helpful.”
MOSCOW — Russia’s Foreign Ministry announced Monday that is levying sanctions on 61 U.S. nationals,.
It said the move was being taken “in response to the ever-expanding U.S. sanctions against Russian political and public figures, as well as representatives of domestic business.”
The list includes U.S. officials and former and current top managers of large American companies, such as Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, White House communications director Kate Bedingfield and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings.
UNITED NATIONS — European Council President Charles Michel accused Russia of using food supplies as “a stealth missile against developing countries” and blamed the Kremlin for the looming global food crisis, prompting Moscow’s UN ambassador to walk out of a Security Council meeting.
Michel addressed Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia directly at a council meeting Monday, saying he saw millions of tons of grain and wheat stuck in containers and ships at the Ukrainian port of Odessa a few weeks ago “because of Russian warships in the Black Sea.” He said Moscow’s attacks on Ukraine’s transport infrastructure and grain storage facilities, and its tanks, airstrikes and mines are preventing Ukraine from planting and harvesting.
“This is driving up food prices, pushing people into poverty and destabilizing entire regions,” Michel said. “Russia is solely responsible for this looming food crisis. Russia alone.”
Michel accused Russian forces of stealing grain from areas in Ukraine that it has occupied “while shifting the blame of others,” calling this “cowardly” and “propaganda, pure and simple.”
Nebenzia walked out, giving Russia’s seat to another diplomat. Russia’s deputy UN ambassador Dmitry Polyansky tweeted later on Telegram’s Russian channel that Michel’s comments were “so rude” that the Russian ambassador left the Security Council chamber.
KYIV, Ukraine — Russia has begun turning over the bodies of Ukrainian fighters killed at the Azovstal steelworks, the fortress-like plant in the destroyed city of Mariupol where their last-ditch stand became a symbol of resistance against Moscow’s invasion.
Dozens of the dead taken from the bombed-out mill’s now Russian-occupied ruins have been transferred to the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, where DNA testing is underway to identify the remains, according to both a military leader and a spokeswoman for the Azov Regiment.
The Azov Regiment was among the Ukrainian units that defended the steelworks for nearly three months before surrendering in May under relentless Russian attacks from the ground, sea and air.
It was unclear how many bodies might remain at the plant.
Meanwhile, Russian forces continued to fight for control of Sievierodonetsk, an eastern Ukrainian city that is key to Moscow’s goal of completing the capture of the industrial Donbas region.
NEW YORK — U.S. authorities moved Monday to seize two luxury jets — a $60 million Gulfstream and a $350 million aircraft believed to be one of the world’s most expensive private airplanes — after linking both to Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich.
A federal magistrate judge signed a warrant authorizing the seizure of the Gulfstream and a Boeing jet that authorities said was worth less than $100 million before a lavish customization.
The action takes place just days after the United States announced new sanctions and penalties on Russian oligarchs and elites, Kremlin officials, businessmen linked to President Vladimir Putin and their yachts, aircraft and firms that manage them.
President Joe Biden promised after Russia’s February invasion of Ukraine to pursue Russian elites’ “ill-gotten gains.”
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said Monday that his office was using every legal tool available to respond to “Russian’s illegal war in Ukraine.”
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s president is asking for a secure corridor for Ukrainian vessels to be able to ship out grain and prevent food shortages in Africa and Asia.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy told a news conference on Monday that Kyiv is in talks with countries like Turkey and the U.K. about security guaranties for Ukrainian ships.
Zelenskyy adds that “if now we have 22-25 million tons blocked there, in the fall we might have 75 (million tons).”
“What are we going to do? he asked. “That’s why we can’t do without the ports.”
The issue of blocked grain will be on the agenda on Wednesday during Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s visit to Turkey. Ankara is involved in efforts by the United Nations to reach an agreement for the shipment of Ukrainian grain amid an escalating food crisis.
Zelenskyy says Kyiv hasn’t been invited, possibly because Turkey wants to get security guarantees from Russia for its own ships first.
UNITED NATIONS — The UN envoy on sexual violence in conflict says sexual violence in Ukraine especially against women and girls remains prevalent and underreported, and the humanitarian crisis in the war-torn country is turning into “a human trafficking crisis.”
Pramila Patten told the UN Security Council Monday that there is a gap between its resolutions aimed at preventing rape and other sexual attacks during conflicts and the reality on the ground for the most vulnerable — women and children.
As of June 3, she said, the UN human rights office had received 124 allegations of conflict-related sexual violence — 97 against women and girls, 19 against men, 7 against boys and 1 gender unknown. Verification of these cases is on-going, she said.
Patten said Ukraine’s prosecutor general informed her during a visit in May that a national hot line reported the following forms of conflict-related sexual violence between Feb. 24, when Russian troops invaded the country, and April 12: “rape, gang rape, pregnancy following rape, attempted rape, threats of rape, coercion to watch an act of sexual violence committed against a partner or a child, and forced nudity.”
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