Live blog: Shelling of Ukraine's Sievierodonetsk plant causes powerful fire
Russian shelling of the Azot chemical plant in Ukraine's frontline city of Sievierodonetsk caused a powerful fire to break out after a leak of tonnes of oil, regional governor of Serhiy Gaidai said. Speaking on national television, Gaidai did not say if the fire at the plant, where hundreds of civilians are sheltering, had been extinguished. He said there was non-stop fighting in Sievierodonetsk, a small city in the Luhansk region that has become the focus of Russia's advance in eastern Ukraine. Germany's Scholz to travel to Kiev with Macron and Draghi before G7 German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will travel to Kiev with his counterparts from France and Italy before the Group of Seven summit at the end of June, the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag reported. A German government spokesperson told Reuters news agency: "We are not able to confirm this. EU chief to give signal on Ukraine's hopes next week The European Commission will provide a clear signal next week on Ukraine's EU candidate status bid, its chief Ursula von der Leyen said, as fighting raged in the east and south of the country. Making a surprise visit to Kiev, von der Leyen said talks she held with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy "will enable us to finalise our assessment by the end of next week" – the first time the bloc has publicly given a timing. Zelenskyy has been pressing for rapid admission into the European Union as a way of reducing Ukraine's geopolitical vulnerability, which was brutally exposed by Russia's operation. Huge smoke cloud seen after blast in Ukraine city with chemical plant A huge cloud of smoke could be seen rising into the air after an explosion in the southeastern Ukrainian city of Avdiivka, which houses a chemical plant, the Russian news agency RIA quoted one of its reporters as saying. A Ukrainian social media site reporting on the conflict posted a video of a large cloud of smoke rising from what it said was the city. Up to 300,000 tonnes of grain may have been stored in warehouses that Kiev says were destroyed by Russian shelling last weekend, deputy agriculture minister Taras Vysotskyi said. Speaking on national television, Vysotskyi said, according to records, at the start of Russian operation the warehouses at one of Ukraine's largest agricultural commodities terminals in the Black Sea port of Mykolaiv held 250,000-300,000 tonnes of grain, mainly wheat and corn. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has urged international pressure to end a Russian naval blockade of Black Sea ports that has choked off his country's grain exports, threatening a global food crisis. "The world will face an acute and severe food crisis and famine, in many countries of Asia and Africa," Zelenskyy said in a video address to the Shangri-La Dialogue security summit in Singapore. "The shortage of foodstuffs will inexorably lead to political chaos, which can result in the (collapse) of many governments and the ousting of many politicians," he told delegates, including Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin and China's defence minister. EU to finalise advice 'next week' on Ukraine hopes to join European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said her executive will "by the end of next week" finalise its opinion on whether Ukraine should be a candidate country to join the EU. "The discussions today will enable us to finalise our assessment by the end of next week," she told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kiev during a surprise visit. Ukraine's state nuclear firm Energoatom said it had helped restore an internet connection between the International Atomic Energy Agency and the servers of Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which is controlled by Russian forces. In a statement, Energoatom said the connection to the plant's servers was lost on May 30 but had been restored as of June 10, allowing the IAEA to resume monitoring data on the control of nuclear material at the plant. Family of British man facing the death penalty in Donbass call for his release
The family of British man Shaun Pinner who has been sentenced to death by a court by Russian proxy authorities in Donbass have spoken of their devastation at the news and requested he is exchanged or released. Two Britons, Pinner and Aiden Aslin, were convicted of mercenary activities by a court on Thursday in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, which is not recognised internationally. Pinner's family said the proceedings were an "illegal show- trial" and said he needed access to independent legal advice. European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy meet in Kiev and discuss Ukraine's reconstruction and its bid to join EU pic. Ukraine remains in control of the Azot chemical plant in Sievierodonetsk where hundreds of civilians are sheltering, the region's governor has said, after a Russia-backed separatist claimed 300-400 Ukrainian fighters were also trapped there. "The information about the blockade of the Azot plant is a lie," Serhiy Gaidai, governor of the Luhansk region partially controlled by pro-Russian separatists, said on the Telegram messaging app. Sievierodonetsk, a small city in the region, has become the focus of Russia's advance in eastern Ukraine and one of the bloodiest flashpoints in a conflict now into its fourth month. Authorities in the Russian-controlled city of Kherson in southern Ukraine have handed out Russian passports to local residents for the first time, news agencies have reported. Russia's TASS agency said at a Saturday ceremony, 23 Kherson residents received a Russian passport as a result of a "simplified procedure" facilitated by a decree signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in May. Ukraine is doing everything possible to save three foreign nationals who were sentenced to death by proxy authorities in Donbass for fighting for Ukraine, a lawmaker in Ukraine's parliamentary security and defence committee has said. After being captured, two Britons and a Moroccan were convicted of "mercenary activities" on Thursday by a court in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR), whose separatist leaders are backed by Moscow. "Both the Defence Ministry and the Main Directorate of Intelligence, which deals with the exchange of prisoners, are taking all necessary measures to ensure these citizens of foreign states. Ukraine defence minister says he had productive talk with UK counterpart Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov says he had a productive meeting with British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace in Kiev. A Czech man has died in the eastern Ukrainian Donbass region controlled by Russia, Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky has said. "The embassy in Kiev is dealing with the situation, we are trying to contact the family," Lipavsky told reporters. Czech journalist Lenka Klicperova, who broke the news of the death on Facebook, said the man, a volunteer soldier identified as Michal J, was killed on Friday. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, speaking remotely at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, has said the outcome of the conflict in his country affected not just Ukraine, but the future of international order. Noting the support so far from the West and its Asian allies, Zelenskyy — addressing the event via video link from an undisclosed location in Ukraine’s capital, Kiev — said it was crucial that the nations sending aid do not let up. The Russian Defence Ministry says its air defence forces have shot down three Ukrainian war planes. The Russian military shot down two MIG-29 planes in the Mikolayiv region and one Su-25 fighter jet in the Kharkiv region, the ministry said in a statement. EU chief visits Ukraine to discuss its bid to join bloc EU chief Ursula von der Leyen has visited Ukraine to discuss with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy his country's bid to get candidacy status to join the European Union. The office of Ukraine's prosecutor general says it has learned about the deaths of 24 more children in Mariupol, the southeastern port that was besieged for weeks before Russian forces captured it in mid-May.
In total, the office said that at least 287 children have died since the start of the Russian offensive of Ukraine on February 24. "During the recording of criminal offences, it has become known that 24 more children died in Mariupol, Donetsk region, as a result of the indiscriminate shelling by the Russian military," the office said on the Telegram messaging app. Russian bombers have likely been launching 1960s-era heavy, anti-ship missiles meant to destroy aircraft carriers with nuclear warheads against land targets in Ukraine, a British military intelligence report has said. Russia is likely using such weapons because it is running short of more precise modern missiles, it said in a daily update. Russia's response to NATO build-up in Poland will be 'proportionate' Russia's foreign ministry has said Moscow's response to a build-up of NATO forces in Poland will be proportionate, Interfax news agency reported citing a Russian diplomat. "A response, as always, will be proportionate and appropriate, intended to neutralise potential threats to the security of the Russian Federation," Interfax quoted Oleg Tyapkin, the head of a foreign ministry department in charge of Russian relations with Europe, as saying. Fierce fighting in east Ukraine as Zelenskyy says world must not look away Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said his country's forces are "doing everything" to stop the Russian offensive, with fierce battles in the east and the south. Zelenskyy said on Friday "very difficult battles" were ongoing, including in the eastern Donbass region, especially around the eastern industrial city of Sievierodonetsk. Meanwhile, Britain's Defence Ministry said intense fighting was under way with both sides likely suffering high casualties. French experts collect evidence of possible 'war crimes' in Ukraine's Chernihiv Weapons experts from France are helping their Ukrainian counterparts collect evidence of what Kiev and its Western allies describe as Russian "war crimes" in the northern region of Chernihiv, Ukraine's prosecutor general has said. The French Gendarmerie's experts, including specialists in drone modelling, ballistics and weapons of mass destruction, have been collecting evidence at sites of destruction from Russian shelling. "It will soon be two months since (French experts) have been with us 'on the ground'," Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova wrote on her Facebook account. They work in the Chernihiv region and conduct research at sites destroyed by shelling. Zelenskyy didn't want to hear US over Russia's attack - Biden President Joe Biden, speaking to donors at a Democratic fundraiser, said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy “didn’t want to hear it” when US intelligence gathered information that Russia was preparing to attack. The remarks came as Biden was talking about his work to rally and solidify support for Ukraine as the conflict continues into its fourth month. Mostly women, children and elderly residents left on a special evacuation train that departed from eastern Ukraine's city of Pokrovsk in the Donetsk region and headed west. “We live on the front line now,” said Svitlana Kaplun, whose family fled as shelling reached their neighborhood in the city of Krasnohorivka. “The kids are worried all the time, they are afraid to sleep at night, so we decided to take them out.
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