At least three drones headed for Moscow were intercepted in the skies over the Russian capital region this morning, emergency services said.

One drone was also intercepted in the neighbouring Kaluga region.

“According to preliminary information, three drones were heading towards Moscow at different times,” TASS cited a source with the services as saying.

Officials at Moscow’s Vnukovo airport diverted several flights and the schedules for both take-offs and landings were restricted, according to Russian news agencies.

No reason was provided for the re-routings and there was no immediate confirmation that this was linked to the reports of drone activity.

The drones were shot down near the village of Valuevo, located 30 kilometres (19 miles) southwest of the Kremlin.

No immediate casualties or damage have been reported.

It comes as Ukraine marked progress on the battlefield following a week of heavy fighting, saying its troops have gained ground near Bakhmut.

The Ukrainian military took back 37.4 square kilometres (14.4 square miles) of territory in heavy fighting in the past week, deputy defence minister Hanna Malyar said.

Key Points

  • Moscow intercepts drones, one in neighbouring Kaluga region

  • Putin’s forces ‘suffer losses during heavy fighting near Bakhmut’

  • Ukraine writer Victoria Amelina dies after Kramatorsk restaurant attack

  • Several hundred Russians killed over weekend, says Ukrainian general

  • Ukraine war having ‘corrosive’ effect on Vladimir Putin’s leadership, CIA director

  • CIA director called Kremlin to say that US had no role in Wagner mutiny

Moscow intercepts two drones, one in neighbouring Kaluga region

04:49 , Arpan Rai

Two drones were intercepted in the skies over the Moscow region and one in the neighbouring Kaluga region, emergency services in the capital city said, reported Russia’s TASS state news agency.

“According to preliminary information, three drones were heading towards Moscow at different times,” TASS cited a source with the services as saying.

While the first two drones were intercepted in the Novaya Moskva district of the Moscow region, a third one was intercepted in the Kaluga region, just southwest of the Moscow region.

The drones were shot down near the village of Valuevo, located 30 kilometres (19 miles) southwest of the Kremlin.

No immediate casualties or damage have been reported.

Moscow’s mayor blames Ukraine for drone attack

06:35 , Arpan Rai

The mayor of Moscow has blamed Ukraine for launching a drone attack on the Russian capital and its region, and said that all drones have been destroyed.

“At this moment, the attacks have been repelled by air defence forces,” mayor Sergei Sobhyanin said on Telegram.

He called it another attempt from Ukraine to attack Moscow with drones.

“All detected drones have been eliminated,” he said, adding that no casualties or injuries have been reported.

Several flights scheduled to land in Moscow diverted – Russian agencies

05:58 , Arpan Rai

Several flights scheduled to land at Moscow’s Vnukovo airport this morning were sent to other airports, Russian agencies reported.

No immediate reason given for the changes.

It was not immediately known whether the changes were related to a number of drones being intercepted early on Tuesday near Moscow.

Putin, Xi to attend virtual SCO summit hosted by Modi

05:25 , Arpan Rai

Russian leader Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping will participate in the virtual Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit with India’s Narendra Modi starting today.

This will be Mr Putin’s first appearance at an international event after he was challenged by a brief and aborted mutiny by his private Wagner mercenary group in late June.

The Russian president spoke to Mr Modi in a call last week to discuss the aftermath of the quashed mercenary mutiny. During the discussion Mr Modi reiterated a call for dialogue and diplomacy regarding the war in Ukraine.

SCO member nations are expected to discuss Afghanistan, terrorism, regional security, climate change and digital inclusion, among other topics.

Dozens of German Leopard tanks set to reach Ukraine soon, says minister

04:29 , Arpan Rai

Ukraine will soon receive “dozens” of Leopard 1 tanks from Germany and Denmark, German defence minister Boris Pistorius said.

“Dozens of Leopard-1A5 battle tanks provided by Germany and Denmark will arrive in Ukraine in the upcoming weeks,” the minister said in an interview to Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita.

The first batch of German Leopard 2 battle tanks were sent to Ukraine earlier this year in March, with some of them seen to have suffered in Russian attacks on the battlefield.

Mr Pistorius added that Germany currently ranks second in providing military equipment support to Ukraine among Western allies.

Russians and Belarusians back at Wimbledon as war in Ukraine continues

04:00 , Martha Mchardy

When Victoria Azarenka walked into Court 15 on Monday morning for her first Wimbledon match in two years, she was greeted by polite clapping. When the two-time Grand Slam champion from Belarus finished off a three-set victory more than 2 1/2 hours later, Azarenka shook her racket with her right hand and pumped her left fist, then offered a wave to the spectators who were applauding warmly.

Unlike her opponent, Yuan Yue, whose nationality was noted on the scoreboard alongside her name, Azarenka had no country listed there. That’s because players from Russia and Belarus are back competing at Wimbledon a year after they were barred by the All England Club because of the invasion of Ukraine — and, in a sort of half-measure adopted by some other sports, are deemed “neutral” athletes who officially do not represent any nation.

The war that began in February 2022 when Russia invaded Ukraine with help from Belarus continues, but Wimbledon’s organizers announced in March they would lift their ban — about which Azarenka said in an interview that, in the big picture, “I’m not sure that it made any difference.”

Howard Fendrich reports:

Russians and Belarusians back at Wimbledon as war in Ukraine continues

Russian tank explodes after driving over mine in Bakhmut

03:54 , Arpan Rai

Drone footage appears to show a Russian T-62 tank exploding after driving over a mine in Bakhmut.

The Ukrainian military claimed the tank drove right into the line of anti-tank mines that Russian forces had themselves placed in an area north of Bakhmut.

The claim could not be independently verified.

A group of what appears to be Russian soldiers flee from the damaged tank after the explosion.

Preparations are underway for further counterattacks as Ukraine’s forces have gained ground near Bakhmut amid “heavy fighting,” officials said yesterday.

Russian tank explodes after driving over mine in Bakhmut

International center opens to help hold Russian leadership accountable for aggression in Ukraine

03:00 , Martha Mchardy

An international center opened Monday in The Hague to support nations already building cases against senior Russian leaders for the crime of aggression resulting from the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

The International Center for the Prosecution of the Crime of Aggression against Ukraine is the latest step in concerted worldwide efforts to hold the Russian leadership criminally responsible for its war against Ukraine last year, triggering Europe’s deadliest conflict since World War II.

The center is based at the headquarters of the European Union’s judicial cooperation agency, Eurojust. It will not issue indictments or arrest warrants for suspects. Instead, it will support investigations already underway in Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.

International center opens to help hold Russian leadership accountable for aggression in Ukraine

Today in pictures

02:00 , Martha Mchardy

A woman takes out the debris from a house damaged by Russian shelling in Kushuhum, near Zaporizhia (AP)

A woman takes out the debris from a house damaged by Russian shelling in Kushuhum, near Zaporizhia (AP)

A crater is seen next to houses damages by Russian shelling in Kushuhum, near Zaporizhia (AP)

A crater is seen next to houses damages by Russian shelling in Kushuhum, near Zaporizhia (AP)

A man cycles past a building damaged by strikes in the town of Shebekino, near the Ukrainian border in the Belgorod region (AFP via Getty Images)

A man cycles past a building damaged by strikes in the town of Shebekino, near the Ukrainian border in the Belgorod region (AFP via Getty Images)

A woman walks in front of a building damaged by strikes in the town of Shebekino, near the Ukrainian border in the Belgorod region (AFP via Getty Images)

A woman walks in front of a building damaged by strikes in the town of Shebekino, near the Ukrainian border in the Belgorod region (AFP via Getty Images)

Firefighters work at a site of a residential building hit by a suicide drone, which local authorities consider to be Iranian made unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) Shahed-131/136, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Sumy (via REUTERS)

Firefighters work at a site of a residential building hit by a suicide drone, which local authorities consider to be Iranian made unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) Shahed-131/136, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Sumy (via REUTERS)

How significant are the reported territorial advances made by Ukrainian forces so far?

01:00 , Martha Mchardy

Ukraine has reported regaining further ground from invading Russian forces along the eastern and southern fronts as its counteroffensive continues, following on from the liberation of a number of frontline villages in June.

The Ukrainian military took back 14.4 square miles of territory in heavy fighting in the final week of the month, according to deputy defence minister Hanna Maliar, as its soldiers made advances near Bakhmut and in the Lyman, Avdiivka and Mariinka directions of Donetsk in the Donbas.

Of that total, 3.5 square miles were made up in the east of the country, success Ms Mailar attributed to the Ukrainian side “improving the operational [tactical] position and aligning the frontline”.

Joe Sommerlad reports:

How significant are the reported territorial advances made by Ukraine so far?

Watch: Ukrainian resident uses war debris to reconstruct home after liberation

Tuesday 4 July 2023 00:00 , Martha Mchardy

Saudi Arabia and Russia are cutting oil supply again in bid to boost prices

Monday 3 July 2023 23:00 , Martha Mchardy

Saudi Arabia and Russia are extending cuts to the amount of oil they pump to the world in a bid to prop up prices, showing how two of the world’s largest oil producers are scrambling to boost income from the fossil fuel even as demand has weakened with the economy.

The decision gave a slight boost to oil prices Monday and comes after the Saudis announced a large cut in output for July at the latest meeting of the OPEC+ coalition of oil producers — raising concerns that gasoline prices for U.S. drivers could start ticking up.

The Saudi Energy Ministry said it would extend July’s cut of 1 million barrels per day through August to support “the stability and balance of oil markets.” That will keep the Gulf nation’s output at 9 million barrels per day.

Read the full story:

Saudi Arabia and Russia are cutting oil supply again in bid to boost prices

Watch: Russian tank explodes after driving over mine in Bakhmut

Monday 3 July 2023 22:00 , Martha Mchardy

Latest pictures from Donetsk front line

Monday 3 July 2023 21:30 , Martha Mchardy

Members of Ukraine's 59th Separate Motorized Infantry Brigade (EPA)

Members of Ukraine’s 59th Separate Motorized Infantry Brigade (EPA)

Members of Ukraine's 59th Separate Motorized Infantry Brigade named after Yakiv Handziuk during repair work on a tank near a frontline in the Donetsk direction (EPA)

Members of Ukraine’s 59th Separate Motorized Infantry Brigade named after Yakiv Handziuk during repair work on a tank near a frontline in the Donetsk direction (EPA)

A member of Ukraine's 59th Separate Motorized Infantry Brigade named after Yakiv Handziuk during repair work on a tank near a frontline (EPA)

A member of Ukraine’s 59th Separate Motorized Infantry Brigade named after Yakiv Handziuk during repair work on a tank near a frontline (EPA)

A flower resting on the mouth of a tank's gun (EPA)

A flower resting on the mouth of a tank’s gun (EPA)

In pictures: Russia drone strike on Ukrainian city of Sumy kills at least two

Monday 3 July 2023 21:00 , Martha Mchardy

Damages on a car and an apartment building are seen after a Russian attack at a residential area in Sumy (AP)

Damages on a car and an apartment building are seen after a Russian attack at a residential area in Sumy (AP)

Damages of a car and an apartment building are seen after Russian attack at a residential area in Sumy (AP)

Damages of a car and an apartment building are seen after Russian attack at a residential area in Sumy (AP)

Rescuers put out a fire in a five-storey residential building after drones attacks killed two and wounded 19 in eastern Ukrainian city of Sumy (AFP via Getty Images)

Rescuers put out a fire in a five-storey residential building after drones attacks killed two and wounded 19 in eastern Ukrainian city of Sumy (AFP via Getty Images)

Firefighters work at the scene of an apartment building damaged by a Russian attack in Sumy (AP)

Firefighters work at the scene of an apartment building damaged by a Russian attack in Sumy (AP)

A rescuer helps a local resident to carry his belongings out from a five-storey residential building partially destroyed after drones attacks killed two and wounded 19 (AFP via Getty Images)

A rescuer helps a local resident to carry his belongings out from a five-storey residential building partially destroyed after drones attacks killed two and wounded 19 (AFP via Getty Images)

A five-storey residential building partially destroyed after drones attacks killed two and wounded 19 (AFP via Getty Images)

A five-storey residential building partially destroyed after drones attacks killed two and wounded 19 (AFP via Getty Images)

Ukraine ‘does not have enough high-quality air defence systems,’ Zelensky says

Monday 3 July 2023 20:30 , Martha Mchardy

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has claimed that his country does not have a “sufficient number of high-quality air defence systems” to protect itself.

“Unfortunately, our country does not yet have a sufficient number of high-quality air defence systems to protect our entire territory and shoot down all enemy targets,” Zelensky said in his nightly video address.

“We will do everything possible and impossible to make our air defences the strongest.”

Ukraine, he said, needed to protect its own territory and “in future become the basis of a European air shield. This is absolutely necessary and absolutely possible.”

He said Ukrainian air defences had downed more than 3,000 targets of various types over the 16 months of war.

It comes after a Russian drone attack killed at least two people and injured 19 in the northern Ukrainian city of Sumy on Monday, prompting president Zelensky to call for a major upgrade of anti-aircraft defences.

Ukrainian government accuses Unilever of ‘sponsoring war’

Monday 3 July 2023 20:00 , Martha Mchardy

The Ukrainian government has accused food multinational Unilever of sponsoring war.

The company has been named as “an international sponsor of war” by the Ukrainian government as it continues to sell food and hygiene products in Russia.

Unilever has also been accused by Ukrainian veterans of “contributing hundreds of millions in tax revenues to a state which is killing civilians”.

The company is subject to a Russian law requiring all large companies to contribute directly to Russia’s war effort.

It is thought that a new law in Russia could lead to the conscription of Unilever’s 3,000-strong workforce.

It comes after Unilever last year said it would review its operations in Russia in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine.

In March, the company said it would cease all imports and exports in and out of Russia and would not be profiting from its presence in the country. However, the company said it would continue to supply “everyday essential food and hygiene products” made in Russia.

Meanwhile, activists claim that other international companies have left the country successfully.

Unilever declined to comment.

Mapped: The damage caused by Ukraine’s devastated dam

Monday 3 July 2023 19:30 , Martha Mchardy

War-torn Ukraine is still reeling from the collapse of the Nova Kakhovka dam on Tuesday 6 June, which caused its reservoir to burst and brought chaos for miles around.

The catastrophe forced thousands of residents of nearby towns and villages to evacuate their homes as the floodwater barrelled towards them and left some climbing onto rooftops or into trees to escape the raging torrents.

Hundreds of thousands more were left without access to clean drinking water in the region as a result of the eco-disaster on the Dnipro River, prompting relief workers to rush fresh supplies to the area while struggling with the problems of mass resettlement.

Joe Sommerlad reports:

Mapped: The damage caused by Ukraine’s devastated dam

Russian court spurns emotional appeal from man whose daughter drew anti-war picture

Monday 3 July 2023 19:00 , Martha Mchardy

A Russian man who was investigated by police after his daughter drew an anti-war picture at school told a court in the regional capital of Tula on Monday that he would rather face capital punishment than be separated from her.

Alexei Moskalyov was sentenced in March to two years in a penal colony for discrediting the Russian army. He fled house arrest in the town of Yefremov, in the Tula region south of Moscow, and escaped to Belarus, but was quickly rearrested and returned to Russia.

At an appeal hearing on Monday, Moskalyov delivered an emotional speech in which he said “my heart bleeds every day” at the separation from his teenage daughter Masha, and said he would prefer the death penalty.

The court upheld the two-year sentence and additionally imposed a two-year ban on Moskalyov using the internet, his lawyer Vladimir Biliyenko told Reuters.

“He was speaking from the heart … He’s been without his daughter for a very long time, he said the child is his reason for living,” Biliyenko said. “He was trying to appeal to the court’s humanity, but it didn’t work.”

Moskalyov was convicted over comments he himself was alleged to have posted online about Russia’s war in Ukraine. But the investigation started after Masha, then 12, drew a picture last year showing Russian missiles raining down on a Ukrainian mother and child, prompting the head of her school to call the police.

The case drew world attention as Masha was removed from her father and placed in a children’s home before his trial. She is now living with her mother, who is estranged from Moskalyov, but father and daughter can still write to each other.

A family support group said some people in the courtroom cried when Moskalyov read out a letter from Masha in which she called him the world’s best father and told him: “We will be together, whatever happens.”

Biliyenko said Moskalyov could now be transferred from investigative detention to a penal colony at any time, but he would continue to appeal the case through two higher courts. “We will fight to the end,” he said.

NATO readies military plans to defend against bruised but unbowed Russia

Monday 3 July 2023 18:30 , Martha Mchardy

Russia’s armed forces are bruised but by no means beaten in the war in Ukraine, a top NATO military officer said Monday, as he laid out the biggest revamp to the organization’s military plans since the Cold War should Moscow dare to widen the conflict.

“They might not be 11 feet tall, but they are certainly not 2 feet tall,” the Chair of the NATO Military Committee, Admiral Rob Bauer, told reporters. “So, we should never underestimate the Russians and their ability to bounce back.”

U.S. President Joe Biden and his NATO counterparts are set to endorse a major shakeup of the alliance’s planning system at a summit in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius next week.

Lorne Cook reports:

NATO readies military plans to defend against bruised but unbowed Russia

After the flood: The nightmare is just beginning for those left to rebuild after the Ukraine dam explosion

Monday 3 July 2023 18:00 , Martha Mchardy

Bel Trew travels the Dnipro River speaking to some of those who have been left with nothing as the flood waters wrecked their homes. As well as officials warning of the extreme long-term consequences that could be felt by the rest of the world.

The unfolding nightmare for those left to rebuild after the Ukraine dam explosion

Ukraine’s Zelensky and Germany’s Scholz call for extension of grain export deal

Monday 3 July 2023 17:42 , Martha Mchardy

Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky and German chancellor Olaf Scholz called on Monday for the extension of a deal allowing the safe export of grain and fertilizers from three Ukrainian Black Sea ports, an official said.

The two made the call during a phone conversation, Scholz’s spokesperson said.

Latest pictures from the Zaporizhzhia region frontline

Monday 3 July 2023 17:30 , Martha Mchardy

Ukrainian soldiers pet a kitten in a shelter under the Russian shelling on the frontline in the Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine (AP)

Ukrainian soldiers pet a kitten in a shelter under the Russian shelling on the frontline in the Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine (AP)

krainian soldiers cover their ears to protect from the Russian tank shelling in a shelter on the frontline in the Zaporizhzhia region (AP)

krainian soldiers cover their ears to protect from the Russian tank shelling in a shelter on the frontline in the Zaporizhzhia region (AP)

Ukrainian soldier pets a kitten in a shelter under the Russian shelling on the frontline (AP)

Ukrainian soldier pets a kitten in a shelter under the Russian shelling on the frontline (AP)

A Ukrainian soldier observes the surrounding from a shelter on the frontline in the Zaporizhzhia region (AP)

A Ukrainian soldier observes the surrounding from a shelter on the frontline in the Zaporizhzhia region (AP)

US envoy to Russia meets with detained journalist Gershkovich -WSJ

Monday 3 July 2023 17:00 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

The U.S. ambassador to Russia was granted access on Monday to jailed Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, the newspaper reported, the second such visit since his pre-trial detention in March on espionage charges he denies.

A judge on June 22 rejected an application for Gershkovich, 31, to be released from a Moscow prison while awaiting trial. Ambassador Lynne Tracy has accused Russia of conducting “hostage diplomacy.”

Russia has said Gershkovich was caught trying to obtain military secrets while on a trip to the Russian city of Yekaterinburg, but has provided no detail supporting that assertion. The Wall Street Journal denies the allegations.

The newspaper did not provide details about Tracy’s meeting with Gershkovich. The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Tracy last met with Gershkovich in April, after his March 29 arrest.

Russia has agreed in the past to high-profile prisoner exchanges with the United States, most recently last year when basketball star Brittney Griner, sentenced on a drugs charge, was traded for convicted Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout.

Moscow has said no exchange could take place in Gershkovich’s case until a verdict has been reached. No date has so far been set for his trial.

Relations between Russia and the United States are the lowest for more than 60 years because of Russia‘s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

Death toll rises to 2 after Russian drone strike on northern Ukrainian city

Monday 3 July 2023 16:49 , Martha Mchardy

At least two people have died and 19 were wounded after a Russian drone attack on the northern Ukrainian city of Sumy on Monday, local authorities said.

An official building and two residential buildings were damaged in an attack carried out with four drones, the Sumy regional administration said on the messaging app Telegram.

Images from the scene posted by Ukraine’s state emergency service showed mangled buildings and courtyards scattered with debris as rescue workers tackled a fire.

Another air-raid alert was declared in the Sumy region several hours after the morning strike, with the Ukrainian air force warning that more drones could be on the way.

Kyiv’s military had earlier on Monday reported shooting down 13 of 17 Iranian-made Shahed drones launched by Moscow overnight in a separate attack on several parts of the country.

Russia, which launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, has stepped up air strikes against Ukraine in recent weeks, and Ukraine has launched a counteroffensive to try to retake occupied territory.

Russian shelling injures 3 in Kherson Oblast

Monday 3 July 2023 16:40 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Russian troops shelled a village near Stanislav in Kherson Oblast, wounding three civilians, the regional prosecutor’s office reported on July 3.

Why are Russian and Belarusian players allowed back at Wimbledon?

Monday 3 July 2023 16:20 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Russian and Belarusian players will return to Wimbledon as neutrals this year after the All England Club lifted its ban on players from both countries competing in the Championships.

Wimbledon was the only one of the four grand slam tournaments to ban players from Russia and Belarus following the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, but was criticised by the men’s and women’s professional tours for doing so.

In response, Wimbledon was stripped of its ranking points and the Lawn Tennis Association was hit by a fine after the ban on Russian and Belarusian players was extended to the summer’s other grass-court events in Britain.

But in March this year, the All England Club announced it had reversed its decision ahead of this year’s Wimbledon to allow Russian and Belarusian players to compete, as long as they agreed to several strict conditions.

Here’s everything you need to know.

Why are Russian and Belarusian players allowed back at Wimbledon?

International center opens to help hold Russian leadership accountable for aggression in Ukraine

Monday 3 July 2023 15:44 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

An international center opened Monday in The Hague to support nations already building cases against senior Russian leaders for the crime of aggression resulting from the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

The International Center for the Prosecution of the Crime of Aggression against Ukraine is the latest step in concerted worldwide efforts to hold the Russian leadership criminally responsible for its war against Ukraine last year, triggering Europe’s deadliest conflict since World War II.

The center is based at the headquarters of the European Union’s judicial cooperation agency, Eurojust. It will not issue indictments or arrest warrants for suspects. Instead, it will support investigations already underway in Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.

International center opens to help hold Russian leadership accountable for aggression in Ukraine

Elections in Russian-controlled Ukraine could be cancelled, official says

Monday 3 July 2023 15:30 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Russia‘s top election official said on Monday that if the situation worsened in four Russian-controlled parts of Ukraine, local elections scheduled there for September would be cancelled.

Russia controls just under one-fifth of Ukraine, including Crimea, which it annexed in 2014, and parts of four other regions that Russian troops have taken control of since the current war began in February 2022.

President Vladimir Putin says the regions – Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson – are now part of Russia, after Moscow unilaterally annexed them last year.

Ukraine says the annexation is illegal and void, and that it will not rest until every last Russian soldier is ejected from its internationally recognised territory. The front line of the conflict – which Moscow calls a “special military operation” – runs through all four regions.

“Since the situation is really difficult, anything can happen,” Ella Panfilova, who chairs Russia‘s Central Election Commission, told Putin at a meeting in the Kremlin.

“If unforeseen circumstances arise – in some areas the situation may deteriorate dramatically – and we see that there is a serious danger to the life and health of residents, then we have the right to postpone these elections,” she said.

“We will certainly use this right if there are serious reasons for it.”

Putin replied: “Understood.”

Russia holds regional and municipal elections on Sept. 10, including elections of 21 regional leaders and 20 regional legislatures, Panfilova said. There are also four by-elections for seats in the federal parliament.

 (AP)

(AP)

Moldova investigates security at main airport after fatal shootout

Monday 3 July 2023 15:12 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Moldova has opened a criminal investigation into security at the country’s main international airport after a deadly shootout in which two people were killed, the prosecutor general’s office said on Monday.

A 43-year-old man is accused of grabbing a gun, shooting dead two security officers and wounding a civilian after being denied entry to Moldova following his arrival at Chisinau airport from Istanbul on Friday.

The prosecutor general’s office said the suspect remained unconscious and under armed guard after being wounded in the shootout, and that he had been placed under arrest for 30 days.

It announced an investigation into “the failure or improper performance of duties by persons involved in ensuring the security of the airport”.

President Maia Sandu has declared Tuesday a day of mourning for the victims of the shootout and awarded posthumous medals to those who were killed.

Acting Chief Prosecutor Ion Musteata said on Saturday the suspect would be tried in Moldova and face an aggravated murder charge if he survives.

Normal operations have resumed at the airport, which is now used frequently by passengers from neighbouring Ukraine following Russia‘s invasion of their country.

Russia says it thwarted Ukrainian plot to kill Moscow-backed head of Crimea

Monday 3 July 2023 14:37 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Russia‘s FSB security service said on Monday it had thwarted a Ukrainian attempt to assassinate Sergei Aksyonov, the Russian-backed head of Crimea, arresting an agent before he could blow up Aksyonov’s car.

There was no immediate comment from Ukraine.

Russian media have reported that security has been stepped up in Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula that Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014, and that additional checks are being made on crossings from Russia‘s southern Krasnodar region into Crimea.

The FSB said it had arrested a Russian national recruited by Ukraine‘s SBU intelligence agency who had undergone explosives, reconnaissance and sabotage training in Ukraine.

His plan, it said, had been to blow up Aksyonov’s car, but he had been detained as he tried to retrieve an explosive device from a hiding place.

Footage broadcast on state TV showed masked FSB operatives detaining a man in a tracksuit as he walked into a wooded area. A green sack was shown containing what were described as elements of an explosive device.

The detainee was then shown with his face blurred out confessing that he was a Ukrainian agent and had planned to place the explosives in a car parked on the route used by Aksyonov’s cortege in the city of Simferopol.

It was unclear whether the man was speaking under duress, and Reuters was unable to verify the footage.

The FSB did not name the man, who it said was in his mid-30s and had entered Crimea in June.

Aksyonov thanked the FSB and said he was sure the individuals who ordered the assassination would be found and punished.

The FSB said in May it had arrested seven people connected with Ukrainian intelligence on suspicion of plotting attacks against Aksyonov and other Russian-backed officials.

Ukraine has pledged to retake full control of Crimea, the base of Russia‘s Black Sea Fleet, as well as large areas of eastern and southern Ukraine that Russia has captured since launching what it calls its “special military operation” last year. Kyiv and the West call it a brutal war of conquest.

Russia‘s Izvestia newspaper reported on Monday that a 13 km (eight mile) traffic jam had formed in the Krasnodar region at the entrance to the bridge to Crimea. It said officials had increased the number of checkpoints around the bridge on Sunday.

Cleverly to hail UK-EU ties in Brussels speech

Monday 3 July 2023 14:05 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

The Foreign Secretary will hail the “close and friendly” co-operation between London and Brussels in a speech to EU parliamentarians.

James Cleverly is expected to meet top EU figures on Monday, with his speech likely to look ahead to better and more “mature” post-Brexit relations.

“This is a new chapter in the UK-EU relationship.

“We stand together in our support of Ukraine, and we want to maximise the opportunities of our trade deal,” he said ahead of his trip to Brussels.

Cleverly to hail UK-EU ties in Brussels speech

NATO readies military plans to defend against bruised but unbowed Russia

Monday 3 July 2023 13:45 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Russia’s armed forces are bruised but by no means beaten in the war in Ukraine, a top NATO military officer said Monday, as he laid out the biggest revamp to the organization’s military plans since the Cold War should Moscow dare to widen the conflict.

“They might not be 11 feet tall, but they are certainly not 2 feet tall,” the Chair of the NATO Military Committee, Admiral Rob Bauer, told reporters. “So, we should never underestimate the Russians and their ability to bounce back.”

U.S. President Joe Biden and his NATO counterparts are set to endorse a major shakeup of the alliance’s planning system at a summit in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius next week.

NATO readies military plans to defend against bruised but unbowed Russia

Head of Russian navy meets Chinese defence minister – TASS

Monday 3 July 2023 13:17 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

The head of Russia‘s navy, Nikolai Yevmenov, met Chinese Defence Minister Li Shangfu in Beijing on Monday, the TASS news agency cited the ministry as saying.

The two men discussed strengthening cooperation in the Pacific, TASS reported.

One killed in Russian drone strike on northern Ukrainian city, Kyiv says

Monday 3 July 2023 12:52 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

At least one person was killed in the northern Ukrainian city of Sumy on Monday when a Russian drone crashed into a residential building, a senior Ukrainian official said.

Andriy Yermak, head of Ukraine‘s presidential staff, said on the Telegram messaging app that the drone had hit a five-storey building.

Kyiv’s air force had earlier reported shooting down 13 of 17 Iranian-made Shahed drones launched by Moscow overnight in a separate attack.

Russia, which launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, has stepped up air strikes against Ukraine in recent weeks, and Ukraine has launched a counteroffensive to try to retake occupied territory.

A week after an armed rebellion rattled Russia, key details about it are still shrouded in mystery

Monday 3 July 2023 12:35 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Did mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin have inside help from the military and political elite in his armed rebellion that rattled Russia?

A week after the mutiny raised the most daunting challenge to President Vladimir Putin’s rule in over two decades, key details about the uprising are still unknown.

Uncertainty also swirls around the fate of Prigozhin and his Wagner private military forces, along with the deal they got from the Kremlin, and what the future holds for the Russian defense minister they tried to oust.

Finally, and perhaps the biggest unknown: Can Putin shore up the weaknesses revealed by the events of last weekend?

A week after an armed rebellion rattled Russia, key details about it are still shrouded in mystery

Russian army deserter sentenced to seven years in prison

Monday 3 July 2023 12:16 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

A Russian soldier has been sentenced to seven years in prison for twice escaping from his army unit, a military court in the Siberian city of Tomsk said on Monday.

According to the court, which identified the man by the initial K., the soldier was called up for service last September during what the Russian government described as a “partial” mobilisation of 300,000 reservists.

It said K. absconded from his unit in mid-December and was caught on March 3. Later that month, he deserted again, only to be found in early April.

Siberia.Realities, a local project of U.S. government-funded news outlet Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, identified the soldier as Ivan Klester.

Last month a military court in Russia’s Far East sentenced a soldier to nine years for deserting three times. The man pleaded guilty, saying that he had to care for his sick wife, Russian newspaper Kommersant reported.

President Vladimir Putin signed a law last September to toughen punishments for a host of crimes such as desertion, damage to military property and insubordination if they are committed during military mobilisation or combat situations.

There is little data on how many have been convicted under the codes, although cases of soldiers refusing to fight have also surfaced.

Russia’s combat preparedness is under heightened scrutiny as Ukraine’s long-awaited counteroffensive takes shape, and following a mutiny late last month by the Wagner mercenary group that had fought some of Russia‘s bloodiest battles against Ukrainian forces.

TASS news agency quoted a Russian lawmaker, Colonel General Andrei Kartapolov, as saying on Monday that “no new wave of mobilisation will be required”, despite Wagner’s departure from the battlefield.

Ukraine right to be cautious with counter-offensive, top NATO official says

Monday 3 July 2023 11:54 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Ukraine‘s counter-offensive against Russian forces is proving difficult due to landmines and other obstacles but Ukrainian forces are right to proceed cautiously, NATO’s top military official said on Monday.

“The counter offensive, it is difficult,” said Admiral Rob Bauer, a Dutch military officer who is the chair of NATO’s military committee.

“People should never think that this is an easy walkover. It will never be,” he told reporters at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

Ukrainian forces face defensive obstacles sometimes up to 30 kilometres deep as they attempt to break through Russian lines, Bauer said, drawing on a historic comparison to make his point.

“We saw in Normandy in the Second World War that it took seven, eight, nine weeks for the allies to actually break through the defensive lines of the Germans. And so, it is not a surprise that it is not going fast,” he added.

Satellite images reviewed by Reuters in April showed Russia had built extensive fortifications, trenches, anti-vehicle barriers and other obstacles to slow any Ukrainian advance.

Bauer’s comments echoed remarks by General Mark Milley, the top U.S. military officer, who said on Friday the counter-offensive would be very difficult, very long and “very, very bloody”.

Bauer said Ukrainian forces were right to be cautious to avoid high casualties as they probed for possible breakthroughs.

“It is extremely difficult, this type of operation and I think the way they do it is commendable,” he said.

He said Ukrainian forces should not face pressure or criticism for not moving more quickly.

“This is a very, very difficult time for them,” Bauer said.

Ukraine’s Zelensky says situation at front ‘difficult’ but army ‘making progress’

Monday 3 July 2023 11:33 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

President Volodymyr Zelensky said Ukraine‘s military was making progress in its counteroffensive to retake Russian-occupied territory despite facing difficulties.

“Last week was difficult on the front line. But we are making progress,” he wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

“We are moving forward, step by step! I thank everyone who is defending Ukraine, everyone who is leading this war to Ukraine‘s victory!”

 (Handout/Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/AFP via Getty Images)

(Handout/Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/AFP via Getty Images)

Russian defence minister says Ukraine operation unaffected by mutiny

Monday 3 July 2023 11:13 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

The brief mutiny by the Wagner mercenary group last month did not affect Russia‘s “special military operation” in Ukraine, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Monday.

In his first comments about the mutiny, whose leader Yevgeny Prigozhin wanted the minister dismissed, Shoigu said that plans to destabilise Russia had failed because of troops’ loyalty.

 (AP)

(AP)

Moscow says 700,000 children from Ukraine conflict zones now in Russia

Monday 3 July 2023 10:34 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Russia has brought some 700,000 children from the conflict zones in Ukraine into Russian territory, Grigory Karasin, head of the international committee in the Federation Council, Russia‘s upper house of parliament, said late on Sunday.

“In recent years, 700,000 children have found refuge with us, fleeing the bombing and shelling from the conflict areas in Ukraine,” Karasin wrote on his Telegram messaging channel.

Russia launched a full-scale invasion on its western neighbour Ukraine in February 2022. Moscow says its progranme of bring children from Ukraine into Russian territory is to protect orphans and children abandoned in the conflict zone.

However, Ukraine says many children have been illegally deported and the United States says thousands of children have been forcibly removed from their homes.

Most of the movement of people and children occurred in the first few months of the war and before Ukraine started its major counter offensive to regain occupied territories in the east and south in late August.

In July 2022, the United States estimated that Russia “forcibly deported” 260,000 children, while Ukraine‘s Ministry of Integration of Occupied Territories, says 19,492 Ukrainian children are currently considered illegally deported.

One quarter of Ukrainians remain forced from their homes

Monday 3 July 2023 10:27 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

The UK ministry of defence said in today’s update:

“On 29 June 2023, Ukrainian authorities reported that, under emergency legislation, 139,000 citizens have been evacuated from the combat zones in the Ukrainian controlled areas of the Donetsk, Kharkiv and Kherson regions since July 2022.

“This is just one part of Ukraine’s ongoing broader crisis of displacement. The UN estimates 6.3 million Ukrainians remain refugees, and over five million internally displaced.

“With a pre-war population of 44 million, a quarter of Ukrainians remain forced from their homes as a result of Russia’s invasion.”

Putin’s comment on funding Wagner shows link to Ukraine -prosecutor

Monday 3 July 2023 10:24 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent comments about payments to the Wagner group was “like direct evidence” that Wagner’s mercenaries were an illegal arm of the Russian army in the war, Ukraine‘s top prosecutor told Reuters this week.

Putin said last week that Wagner and its founder, Yevgeny Prigozhin, had received almost $2 billion from Russia in the past year.

Ukrainian Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin made the comments in The Hague where he was attending the opening of the International Centre for the Prosecution of the Crime of Aggression on Monday.

Kostin said his office had identified Prigozhin as a suspect during investigations this year and that Wagner fighters were responsible for some of the most serious war crimes since the Feb. 24, 2022 invasion.

While Russia attempts to distinguish between Wagner forces and its military, Putin’s comments last week about state budget spending on Wagner was “like direct evidence that they are not only de facto, but probably, illegally, also are part of the Russian army.” The use of mercenaries by states in armed conflict is banned under the Geneva Conventions.

Among more than 93,000 incidents of potential war crimes Kostin’s office was investigating were many atrocities Wagner forces committed, Kostin said.

They are “among the most severe crimes against our civilians and our prisoners of war,” Kostin said.

The Wagner Group poses a threat not only to Ukraine, but to peace and security in many countries, including in Latin America, Africa and the Middle East, he said.

Kostin appealed to allies, including the U.S. and Britain, to classify Wagner as a terrorist organisation so it can be prosecuted and its assets frozen.

“Prigozhin is already a suspect in criminal proceedings in Ukraine, but the main thing is to stop the activity of such groups,” he said.

Russia’s Medvedev says standoff with West to last decades

Monday 3 July 2023 09:52 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Dmitry Medvedev, Russia‘s former president, has warned that Moscow’s confrontation with the West will last decades and that its conflict with Ukraine could become permanent.

Medvedev, once seen in the West as a liberal moderniser, has emerged as one of Russia‘s most outspoken hawks since Moscow launched what it called a “special military operation” in Ukraine last year.

Now deputy head of the Security Council, his views reflect some of the thinking at the Kremlin’s top level, according to Russian officials.

In an article for the government’s Rossiiskaya Gazeta newspaper, he said tensions between Russia and the West were “much worse” than during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis when the world teetered on the edge of a nuclear conflagration.

A nuclear war was “quite probable” but was unlikely to have any winners, said Medvedev, who has repeatedly said Western support for Ukraine increases the chances of nuclear conflict.

He cited sharp differences over Ukraine, the direction of humankind, and the way the world order was structured.

“One thing that politicians of all stripes do not like to admit: such an Apocalypse is not only possible, but also quite probable,” wrote Medvedev.

 (AP)

(AP)

Why are Russian and Belarusian players allowed back at Wimbledon?

Monday 3 July 2023 09:45 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Russian and Belarusian players will return to Wimbledon as neutrals this year after the All England Club lifted its ban on players from both countries competing in the Championships.

Wimbledon was the only one of the four grand slam tournaments to ban players from Russia and Belarus following the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, but was criticised by the men’s and women’s professional tours for doing so.

In response, Wimbledon was stripped of its ranking points and the Lawn Tennis Association was hit by a fine after the ban on Russian and Belarusian players was extended to the summer’s other grass-court events in Britain.

But in March this year, the All England Club announced it had reversed its decision ahead of this year’s Wimbledon to allow Russian and Belarusian players to compete, as long as they agreed to several strict conditions.

Here’s everything you need to know:

Why are Russian and Belarusian players allowed back at Wimbledon?

Putin to meet Xi Jinping and Narendra Modi in first virtual summit since Wagner mutiny

Monday 3 July 2023 09:30 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

President Vladimir Putin will participate this week in his first multilateral summit since an armed rebellion rattled Russia, as part of a rare international grouping in which his country still enjoys support.

Leaders will convene virtually on Tuesday for a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a security grouping founded by Russia and China to counter Western alliances from East Asia to the Indian Ocean.

This year’s event is hosted by India, which became a member in 2017. It’s the latest avenue for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to showcase the country’s growing global clout.

Putin to meet Xi Jinping and Narendra Modi in first summit since Wagner mutiny

Centre to prosecute Ukraine invasion to open in The Hague

Monday 3 July 2023 09:10 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Law enforcement officials on Monday open an international centre for the prosecution of the crime of aggression, the first step toward building cases against individuals behind Russia‘s 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

Ukrainian authorities are reviewing more than 93,000 reports of war crimes and have indicted 207 suspects via domestic courts. High-level perpetrators are expected to be tried at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.

The new International Centre for the Prosecution of the Crime of Aggression (ICPA), also in The Hague, will work alongside the ICC, the world’s permanent war crimes court, and will fill a legal gap for that specific crime.

The ICC, which in March issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin, has the jurisdiction to prosecute alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Ukraine, but due to legal constraints not the crime of aggression.

The new centre will collect evidence for possible cases against Russian military and political leaders responsible for the war, Ukraine‘s top prosecutor, Andriy Kostin, said in an interview ahead of the opening.

“The aim is, of course, to build the case … for future suspects in this tribunal,” Kostin told Reuters. “We need experts, we need forensics, we need additional information, including intelligence information, in order for this case to be strong, because we all know that the crime of aggression is the leadership crime.”

Russia says it thwarted attempt on life of Moscow-backed Crimea head

Monday 3 July 2023 08:51 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Russia‘s FSB security service said on Monday it had thwarted an assassination attempt on Sergei Aksyonov, the Russian-backed head of Crimea, the Interfax news agency reported.

The FSB said it had detained a Russian man who had been hired and trained by Ukraine‘s security services to kill Aksyonov by blowing up his car.

There was no immediate comment from Ukraine.

Russia annexed Crimea, where it bases its Black Sea Fleet, from Ukraine in 2014.

Ukrainian resident uses war debris to reconstruct home after liberation

Monday 3 July 2023 08:13 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

A Ukrainian resident is reconstructing his home using war debris after it was destroyed.

Igor Knyazev is from Dovhenke, a village around 20km (12 miles) from Izium where mass graves were found after Russian forces withdrew last year.

The father-of-three fled after Russia’s invasion, but has now returned to try and rebuild his life after Kharkiv was de-occupied in September 2022.

Not a single building has remained intact following the fighting.

Knyazev, with his father and friends, have been using leftover crates from “Grad” rockets to build the walls of his house.

Ukrainian resident uses war debris to reconstruct home after liberation

EU considers Russian bank concession to safeguard Black Sea grain deal – FT

Monday 3 July 2023 07:46 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

The European Union is considering a proposal to allow a Russian bank under sanctions to carve-out a subsidiary that would reconnect to the global financial network, as a sop to Moscow, the Financial Times reported on Monday.

This will be aimed at safeguarding the Black Sea grain deal that allows Ukraine to export food to global markets, FT said.

The plan, which was proposed by Moscow through negotiations brokered by the UN, would allow the bank to create a subsidiary to handle payments related to grain exports, FT said, citing people with knowledge of the matter.

The new entity would be permitted to use the global Swift financial messaging system, which was closed to the largest Russian banks following the Ukraine invasion last year. (

 (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

(Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Second world war British fighter jets discovered in Ukraine

Monday 3 July 2023 07:33 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Officials in Ukraine have unearthed the remains of eight British Hurricane fighter planes which can be traced back to the second world war.

Oleks Shtan, a former airline pilot who is leading the excavation, told the BBC: “It is very rare to find this aircraft in Ukraine.

“It’s very important for our aviation history because no lend-lease aircraft have been found here before.”

The aircraft was found in a forest south of Kyiv and was sent to the Soviet Union by Britain during the Second World War in 1941.

Ukraine seeing Russian attacks in east but progress in south: ‘Things are hot’

Monday 3 July 2023 04:39 , Arpan Rai

The fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces is mostly flaring in Ukraine’s east and south, where the deputy defence minister reported fierce clashes.

“Everywhere things are hot” in the east, with Russian forces advancing near the beleaguered cities of Avdiivka and Maryinka in Donetsk region, deputy defence minister Hanna Maliar said.

“In addition, the enemy has started an attack in the Svatove area,” she said, referring to a region of northeastern Ukraine where Russian forces have been active.

“Fierce fighting is taking place…The situation is quite complicated.”

The minister reported “partial success” south of Bakhmut, taken in late May by Russian forces after many months of battles.

On the southern front, where Ukrainian forces have recaptured several villages, the minister said there had been “gradual advances” in two areas.

“Our troops are facing intense enemy resistance, remote mining and the redeployment of enemy reserves, but are tirelessly creating the conditions for the fastest possible advance,” she wrote on Telegram.

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