Russia-Ukraine war: river crossing operations in Donbas likely to determine course of the war, UK MoD says – live | Ukraine

River crossing operations likely to determine course of war, UK MoD says

Over the coming months, river crossing operations are likely to be amongst the most important determining factors in the course of the war, the UK Ministry of Defence has said in its latest report.

The key, 90km long central sector of Russia’s frontline in the Donbas lies to the west of the Siverskyy Donets River and in order to achieve success in the current operational phase of its Donbas offensive, Russia is “either going to have to complete ambitious flanking actions, or conduct assault river crossings”.

Ukrainian forces have often managed to demolish bridges before they withdraw, while Russia has struggled to put in place the complex coordination necessary to conduct successful, large scale river crossings under fire, the report added.

Philip Oltermann

Philip Oltermann

Russia earned 93bn euros in revenue from fossil fuel exports in the first 100 days of the war, according to new research by Finland’s Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA).

With 61% of these exports, worth 56bn euros, going to the member states of the European Union, the bloc of countries remains Russia’s largest export market.

After China, Germany remains its largest customer, with exports between 14 February and 3 June amounting to 12.1 bn euros.

Other large importers of Russian fossil fuels are Italy (7.8bn euros), the Netherlands (7.8bn euros), Turkey (6.7bn euros) and Poland (4.4bn euros).

While the volume of exports fell by around 15% in May, the increase in fossil demand has also created a windfall for the country: Russia’s average export prices were on average 60% higher than last year.

A student poses for a high school graduation photoshoot, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Chernihiv, Ukraine.
A student poses for a high school graduation photoshoot, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Chernihiv, Ukraine. Photograph: INSTAGRAM/@SENYKSTAS/Reuters
Students pose at a damaged building for a high school graduation photoshoot in Chernihiv, Ukraine.
Students pose at a damaged building for a high school graduation photoshoot in Chernihiv, Ukraine. Photograph: INSTAGRAM/@SENYKSTAS/Reuters
Photographer creates graduation album with Chernihiv ruins as backdrop.
Photographer creates graduation album with Chernihiv ruins as backdrop. Photograph: INSTAGRAM/@SENYKSTAS/Reuters

Russia’s defence ministry said its missiles had destroyed a large quantity of weapons and military equipment in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, including some that were sent from the US and Europe.

It said high-precision air-based missiles had struck near the Udachne railway station, hitting equipment that had been delivered to Ukrainian forces.

It has not been possible to independently verify this claim.

Hello everyone. It’s Léonie Chao-Fong here, taking over the live blog from Jamie Grierson to bring you all the latest developments in Ukraine. Feel free to drop me a message if you have anything to flag, you can reach me on Twitter or via email.

Peter Beaumont

Peter Beaumont

The world’s nuclear arsenal is expected to increase in the coming years for the first time since the end of cold war at a time that the risk of such weapons being used is the greatest in decades, a leading conflict and weapons thinktank has said.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and western support for Kyiv have heightened tensions among the world’s nine nuclear-armed states, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) said on Monday.

Countries increasing their stockpiles of nuclear warheads included the UK, which in 2021 announced its decision to increase the ceiling on its total warhead stockpile, in a reversal of decades of gradual disarmament.

The increase comes despite a statement from the UN’s five permanent members of the security council in 2021 – the US, Russia, China, the UK and France – stating that “nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought”. All P5 members continue to expand or modernise their nuclear arsenals.

The launching of the Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile at Plesetsk testing field, Russia.
The launching of the Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile at Plesetsk testing field, Russia. Photograph: Russian Defence Ministry/AFP/Getty Images

The UK currently has about 195 nuclear warheads, of which 120 are operational, according to an estimate by researchers at the Federation of American Scientists.

While the UK has criticised China and Russia for lack of nuclear transparency, the UK also announced that it would no longer publicly disclose figures for the country’s operational nuclear weapon stockpile, deployed warheads or deployed missiles.

In early 2021, France officially launched a programme to develop a third-generation nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) while India and Pakistan appear to be expanding their nuclear arsenals, and both countries introduced and continued to develop new types of nuclear delivery system in 2021.

Israel – which does not publicly acknowledge possessing nuclear weapons – is also believed to be modernising its nuclear arsenal.

While the number of nuclear weapons fell slightly between January 2021 and January 2022, Sipri said that unless immediate action was taken by the nuclear powers, global inventories of warheads could soon begin rising for the first time in decades.

Read the full article: Global nuclear arsenal expected to grow for first time in decades

The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has described the situation in Sievierodonetsk as ‘severe’. Sievierodonetsk has become the epicentre of the battle for control of the eastern Donbas region.

Zelenskiy: ‘severe’ fighting in ‘literally every metre’ of Sievierodonetsk – video

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to the head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, has said on Twitter that to end the war his country need “heavy weapons parity”.

Being straightforward – to end the war we need heavy weapons parity:

1000 howitzers caliber 155 mm;
300 MLRS;
500 tanks;
2000 armored vehicles;
1000 drones.

Contact Group of Defense Ministers meeting is held in #Brussels on June 15. We are waiting for a decision.

— Михайло Подоляк (@Podolyak_M) June 13, 2022

Reuters have this full report on fighting in Sievierodonetsk:

Russian forces swarmed into the eastern Ukrainian city of Sievierodonetsk and pounded a zone where hundreds of civilians were sheltering, a Ukrainian official said on Monday – a scene that mirrored Moscow’s brutal capture of Mariupol last month.

Ukraine has issued increasingly urgent calls for more western weapons to help defend Sievierodonetsk, which Kyiv says could hold the key to the outcome of the battle for control of the eastern Donbas region and the future course of the war.

In a report that was not confirmed by the Ukrainian side, a Russian-backed separatist said the last bridge into the city had been destroyed on Sunday, effectively blockading its Ukrainian defenders inside.

“They have two options: either follow the example of their fellow soldiers and surrender, or die,” Russia’s RIA news agency quoted separatist spokesperson Eduard Basurin as saying. “They have no other option.”

Regional governor Serhiy Haidai said on Sunday evening the last crossing over the Siverskyi Donets River was still standing after another bridge was destroyed earlier in the day.

“The third bridge is working. But the condition of the bridge is threatening: it is half-destroyed, it is impossible for trucks to move on it,” he said.

On Monday, Haidai said fighting was raging in the city, where Ukrainian forces were defending building by building.

“The battles are so fierce that fighting for not just a street but for a single high-rise building can last for days,” he said on social media.

Russian artillery fire also rained down on the Azot chemical plant, where hundred of civilians were sheltering, Haidai, the governor of the Luhansk region which includes Sievierodonetsk, said.

Before Mariupol fell to Russia last month, hundreds of civilians and badly wounded Ukrainian soldiers were trapped for weeks in the Azovstal steelworks. Ukrainian officials say cholera is now spreading among remaining residents due to bodies buried in rubble from destroyed residential buildings.

Haidai estimated that Russian forces now controlled about 70% of Sievierodonetsk, and said they were destroying it “quarter by quarter” in one of the bloodiest assaults since the invasion was launched on 24 Febuary.

“Russians continue to storm the city, having a significant advantage in artillery they have somewhat pushed back the Ukrainian soldiers,” Haidai said on Monday.

My colleague Pjotr Sauer has interviewed Russian stage and screen director Kirill Serebrennikov, whose stage work has been produced across Europe.

Despite frequent run-ins with the authorities, the director never fled Russia. But after Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, Serebrennikov decided to leave for Berlin at the end of March. He has since become a vocal critic of the war.

“How can I not get enraged over what happens when Ukrainians are dying because of the Russian bombs? When cities get wiped off the map? When civilians get killed?” he said.

“How the hell can one not speak out. How? How can I call this murder a special military operation?”

An industrial zone where about 500 civilians are sheltering is under heavy artillery fire from Russian forces, Reuters reported the regional governor saying.

Serhiy Haidai, governor of the Luhansk region in eastern Ukraine that includes Sievierodonetsk, said on Facebook that Russian forces controlled about 70% of the city and fighting there was fierce.

Ukraine said on Monday that its forces have been pushed back from the centre of the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk, where fighting with Russia has raged for weeks, AFP reports.

“The enemy, with support of artillery, carried out assault operations in the city of Sievierodonetsk, had partial success, pushed our units away from the city centre,” the Ukrainian military said on Facebook.

The local governor, Serhiy Haidai, said “the Russians were partially successful at night” in the city.

They “pushed our troops from the centre and continue to destroy our city,” he said on Facebook.

Haidai said Moscow’s forces were “gathering more and more equipment” to “encircle” Sievierodonetsk and nearby Lysychansk.

He added that three civilians were killed by shelling in Lysychansk, across a river from Sievierodonetsk, in the last 24 hours, including a six-year-old boy.

Mikhail Kasyanov, Russia’s prime minister from 2000 to 2004, has told the news agency AFP that he expect the war in Ukraine could last up to two years but is convinced Russia could return to a democratic path.

The 64-year-old, who championed close ties with the west while prime minister, added that he felt that Vladimir Putin was already not thinking properly.

“I just know these people and by looking at them I saw that Putin is already out of it. Not in a medical sense but in political terms,” he said. “I knew a different Putin.”

After being sacked by Putin, Kasyanov joined Russia’s opposition and became one of the Kremlin’s most vocal critics. He is now the leader of the opposition People’s Freedom party, or Parnas.

He estimated the war could last for up to two years and said it was imperative that Ukraine win.

“If Ukraine falls, the Baltic states will be next,” he said.

Kasyanov said he believed Putin would eventually be replaced by a “quasi-successor” controlled by the security services.

But a successor would not be able to control the system for long and eventually Russia would stage free and fair elections, the former prime minister added.

“I am certain that Russia will return to the path of building a democratic state,” he said.

Before I hand you over to my colleague, Jamie Grierson, here are a few images to come out of Kyiv today.

The region around Ukraine’s capital continues to recover from Russia’s aborted assault on the city, which turned many communities into battlefields.

Over the weekend, scenes of eerie normality could be seen.

A couple walks along the Dnipro river embankment on June 12 in Kyiv, Ukraine.
A couple walks along the Dnipro river embankment on June 12 in Kyiv, Ukraine. Photograph: Alexey Furman/Getty Images
A couple sits on the Dnipro river embankment on June 12, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine.
A couple sits on the Dnipro river embankment on June 12, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine. Photograph: Alexey Furman/Getty Images
A woman talks on the phone as she stands by a baby stroller on the Dnipro river embankment on 12 June 12, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine.
A woman talks on the phone as she stands by a baby stroller on the Dnipro river embankment on 12 June 12, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine. Photograph: Alexey Furman/Getty Images
People sit on the beach near Kyiv, Ukraine.
People sit on the beach near Kyiv, Ukraine. Photograph: Alexey Furman/Getty Images
A boy rides a bike next to the Petro Sahaidachnyi monument covered with sand bags in Kyiv, Ukraine.
A boy rides a bike next to the Petro Sahaidachnyi monument covered with sand bags in Kyiv, Ukraine. Photograph: Alexey Furman/Getty Images

River crossing operations likely to determine course of war, UK MoD says

Over the coming months, river crossing operations are likely to be amongst the most important determining factors in the course of the war, the UK Ministry of Defence has said in its latest report.

The key, 90km long central sector of Russia’s frontline in the Donbas lies to the west of the Siverskyy Donets River and in order to achieve success in the current operational phase of its Donbas offensive, Russia is “either going to have to complete ambitious flanking actions, or conduct assault river crossings”.

Ukrainian forces have often managed to demolish bridges before they withdraw, while Russia has struggled to put in place the complex coordination necessary to conduct successful, large scale river crossings under fire, the report added.

A Canadian official has been condemned for attending Russia Day celebrations at the country’s embassy in Canada.

Foreign affairs minister Melanie Joly said it was “unacceptable” for deputy protocol chief in Canada’s global affairs department, Yasemin Heinbecker, to have attended Friday’s event, first reported by Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper.

No Canadian representative should have attended the event hosted at the Russian embassy and no Canadian representative will attend this kind of event again,” Joly said.

Joly also reiterated Canada’s support for Ukraine against Russia’s invasion.

This is unacceptable. No Canadian representative should have attended the event hosted at the Russian embassy & no Canadian representative will attend this kind of event again.
🇨🇦 continues to stand with 🇺🇦 as it fights against Russia’s egregious invasion. https://t.co/azkvbhupiv pic.twitter.com/iZ2zRn1gJj

— Mélanie Joly (@melaniejoly) June 12, 2022

Russian forces destroy bridge out of Sievierodonetsk

Russian forces destroyed a bridge connecting the embattled city of Sievierodonetsk to its twin city of Lysychansk, cutting off a possible evacuation route for civilians, according to local officials.

Serhiy Haidai, the governor of Luhansk province, said on Sunday that the Russian military destroyed a bridge over the Siverskyi River that linked the two cities, leaving just one of three bridges still standing.

He added that Russian shelling in Lysychansk has killed one woman and destroyed four houses and a shopping centre.

If after new shelling the bridge collapses, the city will truly be cut off. There will be no way of leaving Sievierodonetsk in a vehicle,” Gaidai said, noting the lack of a cease-fire agreement and no agreed evacuation corridors.

Officials added that approximately a third of the city remains under the control of Ukrainian forces and about two-thirds are in Russian hands.

A Ukrainian serviceman stands in front of a burning vehicle during an artillery duel between Ukrainian and Russian troops in the city of Lysychansk, eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas.
A Ukrainian serviceman stands in front of a burning vehicle during an artillery duel between Ukrainian and Russian troops in the city of Lysychansk, eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas. Photograph: Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images

Russia earned €93bn ($98bn) from fossil fuel exports during the first 100 days of its war in Ukraine, with most sent to the European Union and at an average export price about 60% higher than last year, according to new research.

The report from the independent, Finland-based Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) showed the EU took 61% of Russia’s fossil fuel exports during the war’s first 100 days, worth about €57bn ($60bn).

The top importers were China at €12.6bn, Germany (12.1bn) and Italy (7.8bn) according to the report, as seen by Agence France-Presse.

Russia’s fossil fuel revenues come first from the sale of crude oil (46bn), followed by pipeline gas, oil products, liquefied natural gas (LNG) and coal.

Even as Russia’s exports plummeted in May, with countries and companies shunning its supplies over the Ukraine invasion, the global rise in fossil fuel prices continued to fill the Kremlin’s coffers, with export revenues reaching record highs.

Russia’s average export prices were about 60% higher than last year, according to CREA.

Some countries have upped their purchases from Moscow, including China, India, the United Arab Emirates and France, the report added.

CREA analyst Lauri Myllyvirta said:

As the EU is considering stricter sanctions against Russia, France has increased its imports to become the largest buyer of LNG in the world.

Since most of these are spot purchases rather than long-term contracts, France is consciously deciding to use Russian energy in the wake of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, Myllyvirta added.

Amnesty accuses Russia of war crimes in Kharkiv

Amnesty International has accused Russia of war crimes in Ukraine, saying attacks on Kharkiv – many using banned cluster bombs – had killed hundreds of civilians.

The rights group said in a report on Ukraine’s second biggest city published on Monday:

The repeated bombardments of residential neighbourhoods in Kharkiv are indiscriminate attacks which killed and injured hundreds of civilians, and as such constitute war crimes.

This is true both for the strikes carried out using cluster (munitions) as well as those conducted using other types of unguided rockets and unguided artillery shells.

The continued use of such inaccurate explosive weapons in populated civilian areas, in the knowledge that they are repeatedly causing large numbers of civilian casualties, may even amount to directing attacks against the civilian population.”

Amnesty said it had uncovered proof in Kharkiv of the repeated use by Russian forces of 9N210 and 9N235 cluster bombs and scatterable land mines, all of which are banned under international conventions.

Cluster bombs release dozens of bomblets or grenades in mid-air, scattering them indiscriminately over hundreds of square metres (yards).

Scatterable land mines combine “the worst possible attributes of cluster munitions and antipersonnel land mines”, Amnesty said.

Unguided artillery shells have a margin of error of over 100m.

Olexiy Pshenychnykh, 85, rests in his war-damaged home to the east of Kharkiv in Vilkhivka, Ukraine.
Olexiy Pshenychnykh, 85, rests in his war-damaged home to the east of Kharkiv in Vilkhivka, Ukraine. Photograph: John Moore/Getty Images

The report, entitled ‘Anyone Can Die At Any Time’, details how Russian forces began targeting civilian areas of Kharkiv on the first day of the invasion on 24 February.

The “relentless” shelling continued for two months, wreaking “wholesale destruction” on the city of 1.5 million.

People have been killed in their homes and in the streets, in playgrounds and in cemeteries, while queueing for humanitarian aid, or shopping for food and medicine,” said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Response Adviser.

“The repeated use of widely banned cluster munitions is shocking, and a further indication of utter disregard for civilian lives.

“The Russian forces responsible for these horrific attacks must be held accountable.”

Kharkiv’s Military Administration told Amnesty 606 civilians had been killed and 1,248 wounded in the region since the conflict began.

Russia and Ukraine are not parties to the international conventions banning cluster munitions and anti-personnel mines.

But, Amnesty stressed, “international humanitarian law prohibits indiscriminate attacks and the use of weapons that are indiscriminate by nature.

Launching indiscriminate attacks resulting in death or injury to civilians, or damage to civilian objects, constitutes war crimes.”

Kharkiv resident Tatiana, who has been living in an underground metro station for more than two months, packs her belongings to move home.
Kharkiv resident Tatiana, who has been living in an underground metro station for more than two months, packs her belongings to move home. Photograph: John Moore/Getty Images

Summary and welcome

Hello it’s Samantha Lock back with you on the Guardian’s live blog as we cover all the latest developments from Ukraine.

Ukrainian defenders are fighting fiercely for “every metre” of Sievierodonetsk – a key eastern city that has become the epicentre of the wider battle for control over Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region – President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said.

Overnight, Russian forces destroyed a bridge to another city across the river, leaving stranded civilians with just one way out.

If you’re just waking up, or dropping in to find the latest information, here’s a summary of the main points you might have missed:

  • Russian forces have taken most of Sievierodonetsk, where fierce street fighting continues after a fire broke out at the Azot chemical plant, where hundreds of civilians are sheltering. “The key tactical goal of the occupiers has not changed: they are pressing in Sievierodonetsk, severe fighting is ongoing there – literally for every metre,” Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address, adding that Russia’s military was trying to deploy reserve forces to the Donbas region. Ukrainian troops reportedly remain in control of an industrial area.
  • Russia’s defence ministry said its cruise missiles destroyed a large depot containing US and European weapons in Ternopil in western Ukraine on Sunday. The strike destroyed a “large depot of anti-tank missile systems, portable air defence systems and shells provided to the Kyiv regime by the US and European countries”, the ministry said, a claim disputed by Ukrainian officials who said no weapons were stored there. Ternopil’s regional governor said the attack destroyed a number of residential buildings and injured 22 people, including seven women and a 12-year-old.
  • Russian forces destroyed a bridge connecting the embattled eastern city of Sievierodonetsk to its twin city of Lysychansk, cutting off a possible evacuation route for civilians, according to local officials. Serhiy Haidai, the governor of Luhansk province, said on Sunday that the Russian military had destroyed a bridge over the Siverskyi River that linked the two cities.
  • Amnesty International has accused Russia of war crimes in Ukraine’s second largest city of Kharkiv. Hundreds of civilians have been killed by indiscriminate Russian shelling using widely banned cluster munitions and inherently inaccurate rockets, the agency said in a new report published on Monday. “Russian forces launched a relentless campaign of indiscriminate bombardments against Kharkiv. They shelled residential neighbourhoods almost daily, killing and injuring hundreds of civilians and causing wholesale destruction, often using widely banned cluster munitions.”
  • Security concerns raised by Turkey in its opposition to Finland’s and Sweden’s Nato membership applications are legitimate, Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said. “These are legitimate concerns. This is about terrorism, it’s about weapons exports,” Stoltenberg told a news conference in Finland on Sunday.
  • The bodies of many Ukrainian fighters killed during the siege of the Azovstal steelworks in the southern city of Mariupol are still awaiting retrieval, the former commander of Ukraine’s Azov National Guard regiment said on Sunday.
  • A former British soldier has died fighting Russian forces in Sievierodonetsk. The British Foreign Office confirmed Jordan Gatley was shot and killed in Ukraine. He left the British army in March “to continue his career as a soldier in other areas” and had been helping Ukrainian troops defend their country against Russia, his father, Dean, wrote in a statement posted on Facebook.
  • Friends and family of Brahim Saadoun – the 21-year-old Moroccan sentenced to death alongside two Britons last week – have called for his freedom, telling the Guardian he was an active-duty marine and not a mercenary, as claimed by Russian media and pro-Russia officials in eastern Ukraine who announced the sentence.
  • Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced on Sunday the possibility of new talks with Russian president Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy. “Perhaps in the next week, we will talk about what steps we will take, by holding talks with both Mr Putin and Zelenskiy,” he said in regards to solutions for impeded exports as a result of the war.
  • The global nuclear arsenal is expected to grow in the coming years for the first time since the cold war, and the risk of such weapons being used is the greatest in decades, a leading conflict and armaments thinktank said. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and western support for Kyiv has heightened tensions among the world’s nine nuclear-armed states, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
  • Ukraine has established two routes through Poland and Romania to export grain and avert a global food crisis, although bottlenecks have slowed the supply chain, Kyiv’s deputy foreign minister said on Sunday.
  • Global trade ministers gathered to tackle food security threatened by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at a World Trade Organization meeting on Sunday. Ministers are expected to agree on a joint declaration on strengthening food security in which they will “commit to take concrete steps to facilitate trade and improve the functioning and longterm resilience of global markets for food and agriculture”.
  • European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen called for the need to strengthen anti-corruption laws in Ukraine. After meeting with Zelenskiy, von der Leyen said: “There still needs to be reforms implemented, to fight corruption for example, or to modernise the administration, which will also help attract investors.”
  • The British defence company QinetiQ will supply Ukraine with 10 Talon sapper robots for de-mining purposes, Ukrainian authorities announced on Sunday. The first deputy head of Ukraine’s patrol police, Oleksiy Biloshitsky, said: “Talon will be deployed to de-mine Ukraine. This is a sapper robot that not only locates ‘gifts’ but also neutralises them. Before the war we had already had more than a dozen of them, now QinetiQ will deliver 10 more.”
  • McDonald’s restaurants opened their doors in Moscow under new Russian ownership and a new name, Vkusno & Tochka, which translates to “Tasty and that’s it”. The reopenings took place on Russia Day, a holiday celebrating national pride.
A Ukrainian soldier covers himself in his bunker during shelling between the Russian and Ukrainian forces in the frontline of Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine.
A Ukrainian soldier covers himself in his bunker during shelling between the Russian and Ukrainian forces in the frontline of Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine. Photograph: Celestino Arce Lavin/ZUMA Press Wire/REX/Shutterstock

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